I called it utterly audacious and not at all plebeian when I first drove the McLaren 650S last fall. It was, and still is, the most expensive car I’ve driven, and it is the stuff that dreams are made of. For many, dreams are the closest they will come to experiencing a car like this.
I thought it would be fun to change that for a lucky few. So, instead of a long drive in the country, this time I went for a relatively short drive around my neighbourhood and other affluent parts of Oakville to gauge people’s reactions to it. The replica FINA racing livery drew stares from everywhere, and it’s virtually impossible to look at this car and not smile. The proof is in the pudding, as the vast majority of people I came across while driving the 650S were completely taken aback by it.
There were, of course, the camera-happy people, the curious onlookers, the unabashed complimenters and the totally amazed. The kids on my street all came over to take photos of the car and selfies with it, and there was a small group of kids on another street running behind it and trying to catch up for an up-close look. I did even better, and let them all sit in the passenger seat while they snapped photos with their GoPro camera. One of them seemed so excited that he nearly had an asthma attack right there in the seat next to me.
During my short time with the McLaren, I was lucky to have nice weather that allowed the electric hard top to be stowed away for the ultimate motoring experience. Blessed with 641 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque, it’s never short on power, and the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox is lightning-quick, whether in automatic mode or when using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Of course, nothing is perfect and the 650S has a few shortcomings worth mentioning. First, while there is a small trunk underneath the front bonnet, the interior barely has enough storage for a Playboy Playmate. This includes a teeny weeny centre console between the seats, and a small void beneath the angled panel where the Iris infotainment system is located. There is also nowhere to put a cup of coffee, and the Iris itself is plagued by a small, vertically-oriented screen that is prone to glare. And, while I didn’t track my own fuel economy during this stint, the last 5,888 kilometres of driving saw a combined figure of 19.6 L/100 km. With premium fuel, of course.
The performance figures and “seat-of-the-pants feel” of the 650S is truly mind-bending though. My best friend claims the experience was “better than sex” after I showed him a very small portion of this car’s performance envelope following an “eight-minute test drive.” He likened the ride to a roller coaster, which is a great, PG-rated description. To make the drive even more memorable, we ended up passing former Toronto Maple Leaf Mike Palmateer driving his vanity-plated BMW in the blink of an eye. Talk about a fluke.
Interestingly, combine the 250 kilometres I put on this car this summer along with the near 650 klicks I put on it last fall, and I’ve driven almost 10 percent of this car’s total mileage. Watching the odometer roll over from 9,999.9 to 10,000 was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, too. So much so that, during my stint behind the wheel of this particular 650S, I figure I’ve managed to depreciate this car’s value by a significant amount. The exact figure is unknown to me, but McLaren brand ambassador and Pfa Motorsports driver Chris Green told me he would sell this car for closer to $350,000 today. That said, McLaren Toronto isn’t likely to sell this car anytime soon as it is being used for its intended purpose. That is, driving and making people smile. And it is truly magnificent at both.