McLaren unveils power-packed 650S Coupe and convertible in Geneva

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 9:04am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 5:52pm

McLaren Automotive pulled a rabbit out the hat in Switzerland this week by unveiling not one, but two cars. Photos of the 650S had been teased in recent weeks, but there had been no word on the convertible variant that was unveiled alongside it at the Geneva Motor Show.

The 650S is positioned between the British company's MP4-12C supercar and the elite, limited-edition P1, and takes design cues from the latter. It has the same striking headlamps that mimic McLaren's boomerang-like logo and slope over fenders that are cut away to accommodate air intakes.

Alan Foster, the company's operations director, who was in Hong Kong last week, describes the 650S as an evolution and denies it has been created to replace the 12C. "It's all part of our 10-year business plan. The basis is a new car derivative every year, and we clearly understand the market segmentation vertically."

The 650S badge designation refers to the power output - 650PS, or 641 brake horsepower - of the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine. "S" stands for "Sport". The cars' maximum torque is 678 Newton metres.

McLaren says the performance for both the Coupe (below) and Spider models is class-leading: the zero to 100km/h sprint takes just three seconds. The Coupe's top speed is 333km/h, while the Spider reaches 329km/h.

As with the company's previous cars, the 650S models are built around a carbon-fibre chassis - in this case 75kg - inspired by Formula One. Other technologies taken from the racing division include a wishbone suspension, mid-engine architecture, brake steer for enhanced agility, carbon ceramic disc brakes and active aerodynamics.

The 650S weighs just 1,330kg, which is 6kg lighter than the 12C. But the focus on power and performance does not mean the company intends to build ever-more powerful cars. "It's not just an arms race," Foster says.

It took a year for McLaren to unveil the 12C Spider after the Coupe was launched, which is why it was a surprise to see both variants of the 650S unwrapped in Geneva. Foster offers an insight into why. "About 80 per cent of orders that come in are for convertibles," he says.

The next model from McLaren, expected in a couple of years, may see demand for its product ramped up. "There's a lower series, which is a more affordable, general sports car, circa £100,000 [HK$1.3 million). There's a couple of established players who have owned that segment for a while. We also think there's certainly one more segment, which is above where the 12C is currently, and we think there might be one below that. We're doing the research on that," Foster says.

The McLaren P1, only 375 units of which will be made, has already sold out, Foster says. A total of 102 of the cars has been sold in the region, including 10 in Hong Kong and 38 on the mainland. The first two local cars ordered have already been delivered to customers, who will not be able to drive it here because it is a left-hand drive so cannot be registered in the city.

Foster says it's too early to say whether the company will produce another limited-run car in the future, or a four-seat sports car, but it will not move towards mass-production.

"It's a high-end luxury product. We don't want it to be readily available and see thousands of them on the road in Hong Kong. But what you will see is progressive growth and entry into different segments," he says.