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2015 McLaren 650S Spider First Impression

Forks of the Credit Road in Caledon is arguably the best driving road in all of Southern Ontario. This 5km ribbon of tarmac offers dips, climbs, blind
off-camber turns, short straights, plus some truly stunning scenery. It is a true car guy’s paradise, a road you will most enjoy in a car that has power, grunt, and grip to serve.

I took, perhaps, the most ideal car to this road: The 2015 McLaren 650S Spider. Since Forks of the Credit Road also has an intersecting street called McLaren Road, it made the trek out there all the more special.

What is this supercar, exactly?
The 2015 McLaren 650S Spider is a two-seat, hardtop convertible supercar, which is the latest iteration of the MP4-12C model that was launched about three years ago. For supercar fans, it has all the right ingredients: like a carbon-fibre monocell chassis that provides excellent stiffness and offers three adaptive modes that allow you to adjust the car based on the kind of driving you're doing.

Mechanically, a twin-turbo 3.8L V8 motor that produces 641 horsepower at 7,250 rpm and 500 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm powers the rear wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

Apart from the increased power figures, all the above-mentioned features were available on the MP4-12C that I tested two years ago. Where the 2015 McLaren 650S differs is in some obvious, and some not-too-obvious, areas.

Is the McLaren 650S better?
An obvious difference is in its front-end styling. Inspired by the look of the McLaren P1 hypercar, the new nose on the 650S does give the car a much more menacing appearance. Aside from that, the 650S looks nearly identical to the MP4-12C.

Step inside, and you'll be hard pressed to find many changes, but there are a few. For instance, now there are some extra storage pockets, and customers can also finally opt for a backup camera -- although the image on the infotainment screen is tiny.

But, how does it drive?
OK, enough with the details, time to hit the road.

Being a bright, sunny day, the first thing I did was drop its top -- which disappears under a hard cover in just 17 seconds flat, and can be operated while on the move as long as your speed doesn't exceed 30km/hr.

On my way to my favourite road, cruising on the highway, I noticed how comfortable the McLaren 650S actually is, especially if you leave everything in Normal mode.
The ride characteristic changes noticeably when you switch to Sport mode, and really changes when you engage Track mode. Since this latter setting opens up the valves in the exhaust to make it louder, sharpens the throttle response, and turns the traction control off, I chose to drive it mostly in this setting -- just for fun.

At speed, with the roof down, there was a bit more wind buffeting than I would have liked, but still quite manageable.

It took some time to get to my favourite road, but I got there. Thankfully, it was largely empty that day, which gave me some opportunities to bury the throttle for a few short bursts. It was here that the 2015 McLaren 650S felt most at home. It relished being on a challenging tarmac; where I could enjoy the sound and power of its force-fed V8, test the grip of its now standard Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tires (235/35R19 front, 305/30R20 rear), and its carbon-ceramic brakes. The brakes have excellent stopping power, but they do work a bit like an on-off switch -- not much bite on initial application, then they grab hard -- so a firm foot is needed.

Through the tightest bends, you notice that the car exhibits almost zero body roll. McLaren opted to not give this car any anti-roll bars; instead they use a complicated interlinked hydraulic suspension system, which reacts to the road, steering angle, and the vehicles speed. It all works seamlessly and just makes you feel like a hero.

A supercar and so much more
I could go on and on about what the McLaren 650s can do -- like tell you it can cover the 0 to 100km/hr sprint in 3.0 seconds flat, and that it has a top speed of 333km/hr, and how the noise it emits will make all your hair stand on end, but I have a word count limit for this article, and I've just about exhausted it.

If you have the means to buy a supercar, you really need to take a very close look at the 2015 McLaren 650S. Pricing for the coupe model starts at $287,000, while the Spider begins at $305,500 (my very well-equipped tester was worth $383,000).

Complaints? Yes, I had to give it back.

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