Here’s what you need to know. The 650S is not the long-rumoured “baby McLaren”, the car codenamed “P13” set to do battle with the Porsche 911, but rather an upgraded 12C that’ll sit above that car – but of course below the epic P1 – in McLaren’s range.
Confused? Let’s try to explain. The 650S is a more powerful, harder version of the 12C, described by McLaren as “its fastest, most engaging, best equipped and most beautiful series-production supercar yet”.
It uses an uprated version of the 12C’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, with power boosted from 616bhp to 641bhp (that’s 650 metric horsepower, hence the name). Torque is up by around 10%.
You want performance figures? How about zero to 62mph in three seconds and a top speed of 207mph? Small improvements on the 12C’s stats (3.1 seconds and 204mph) they may be, but small improvements that keep the 650S just ahead of the Ferrari 458 Italia.
You’ll notice the new front end, which obviously draws heavily on the P1. The lights are now LED affairs, while there are larger air intakes both in the nose and in front of the rear wheels, which not only aid cooling but also contribute to the 650S’s improved aero.
Impressively, the 650S boasts the same drag coefficient as the 12C, but produces 24% more downforce at 150mph.
The 650S uses the same adaptive damping system as the 12C. Though the spring rates have been increased to “improve driver engagement”, McLaren says there’s no loss of comfort, promising the ride of an “executive saloon”. We’re also told that steering feedback and brake feel are improved over the not-at-all-shoddy 12C.
More kit, too: there are new five-spoke alloys, bespoke Pirelli tyres, more electronic infotainment cleverness and the option of carbon race seats.
So far, so mid-life facelift. But here’s the confusing bit. The 650S doesn’t replace the 12C, but rather sits above it. How far above? We’re told around £20,000 atop the 12C’s £176,000 asking price.
Which, when you consider the extra standard kit (especially considering the 650S gets carbon ceramic brakes as standard, a £10k option on the 12C), makes you wonder why any buyer would opt for the 12C when they could have the 650S – a car apparently improved by five per cent in every department – for much the same money.
All shall become clear when the 650S Coupe and Spider make their official debut at the Geneva show in early March.