10 Things to Know About Driving a 2015 McLaren 650S Spider

A week spent playing with a British exotic.

The first thing that happens when a mantis green 2015 McLaren 650S Spider shows up in the AUTOMOBILE parking lot is a frantic debate over who gets to drive the car, and when. Unlike preschoolers, we managed to share and spent time blasting the 650S along freeways, cruising Woodward Avenue, and using it as an eye-searing ride to lunch. Here's what happens when you spend a week driving a 2015 McLaren 650S Spider.

1. Everybody takes your photo

Make sure your hair is combed and your shirt is clean, because you'll be starring in lots of smartphone photos. Whether parked or in traffic, it seemed as if we couldn't turn our heads without somebody taking a photo of the wild-looking 2015 McLaren 650S Spider. The scariest part of that, though, is when other drivers lean out of their windows to snap a picture. When you're driving $341,390 of carbon fiber and aluminum, the last thing you want is a distracted dolt plowing into your lane.

2. Some of the amateur photographers ask first

Are they being polite? Perhaps; most likely they think you actually own the car, which means they worry you're rich, powerful, and thus could crush them if they run an unflattering photo on Instagram. (Some of us don't carry a comb.) They'd rather have a photo of the car without you, anyway. Best to park it along Woodward and invite people to sit in it and take selfies. Parents will love you if you let their kids try it, and they'll be too reverent and grateful to do anything that might soil the interior.

3. It's easy to use, but your back will hurt

The 2015 McLaren 650S Spider doesn't beat you up over broken pavement. Its touchscreen infotainment system is as simple to use as an iPhone. The dual-clutch transmission never lurches or clunks in traffic. In fact, the only mildly unpleasant thing about driving the 650S is its unyielding seats. With tight bolsters that pinch our thighs and a stiff backrest with little lower-back padding, the $7,110 racing bucket seats are meant for performance driving rather than long-distance trips.

4. The suspension only needs two settings, not three

Hustling the car around our favorite cloverleaf (the only "road" that passes for a sports car road in metro Detroit) in Comfort mode, there was just a slight bit of compliance, which made it easier to maintain the arc. Major imperfections on the on- and off-ramps, typical for the region, didn't upset the chassis, although it must be noted we dared not get close to 10/10ths in search of the mid-engine car's polar moment of inertia. The Sport setting stiffens it a bit, but really, there's no need for more than two settings rather than three -- how about calling them "track" and "not-track"?

5. The backup camera is essentially useless

While it certainly wouldn't prevent us from buying this incredible supercar, the backup camera (part of the $9,950 Technology package) wouldn't pass muster in a Mitsubishi Mirage. The small, grainy display is little help when reversing in or out of parking spaces. Adjust your mirrors carefully.

6. Around here, it's about straight-line performance

Plant your right foot and the 650S speeds to 60 mph in a claimed 2.9 seconds. You won't want to turn off the traction or stability controls, but even with them engaged, the rear tires will still break loose a bit. McLaren has not tuned the electronics for poseurs. Oh, and we didn't bother testing the launch control.

7. You spend a lot of time at the gas pump

Between full-throttle blasts and stop-and-go Woodward traffic, we burned through a lot of 93-octane fuel. Though the EPA says the 2015 McLaren 650S Spider can average 16/22 mpg (city/highway), the trip computer reported just 8 mpg during our loan (including lots of Woodward Dream Cruise stop-and-go). It's a green car in terms of color only.

8. Ignore Woodward Dream Cruise demands for burnouts

We're not sure burnouts are even possible, given the car's rich banquet of electronic nannies. Err, torque-braking a McLaren? Lift off the brake pedal after attempting such an exercise and you'll probably take out the 10 or 15 cars ahead of you. "Rev it up" is another matter. This requires an awkward twist of the right elbow to "shift" to neutral and blip the throttle pedal. Don't forget to switch the transmission from automatic to manual mode; otherwise you'll be limited to a sonically unimpressive 4,000 rpm in neutral.

9. There's only one thing people ask you

"What's the top speed?" "How fast have you taken it?" "What does your speedometer go up to?" Never mind the fact that we'll never even approach the 204-mph terminal velocity or the fact that this car's 10.6-second quarter-mile run is a far more impressive stat, strangers mostly only ask about top speed. Few even want to know how much horsepower it makes or what kind of engine's under the small glass cover.

10. Two things, actually

Price. This question comes either from those who have figured out that you're not the owner or from those who think you're the owner and don't care. Both these groups are the same people who take your photo without asking first.

2015 McLaren 650S Spider Specifications

  • On Sale: Now
  • Price: $288,600/$341,390 (base/as-tested)
  • Engine: 3.8-liter twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/641 hp @ 7,250 rpm, 500 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Layout: 2-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD convertible
  • EPA Mileage: 16/22 mpg (city/hwy)
  • Suspension F/R: Control arms, coil springs/control arms, coil springs
  • Brakes: Carbon-ceramic discs
  • Tires F/R: 235/35R-19 / 305/40R-30 Pirelli Trofeo R
  • L x W x H: 177.6 x 82.4 x 47.4 in
  • Wheelbase: 105.1 in
  • Headroom: 37.6-38.4 in
  • Legroom: 44.2 in
  • Shoulder Room: 53.0 in
  • Cargo Room (front): 5.0 cu ft
  • Weight: 3,250 lb
  • Weight Dist. F/R: 42/58
  • 0-60 mph:

    • 2.9 sec
  • 1/4-Mile: 10.6 sec @ 138 mph
  • Top Speed: 204 mph

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