No drive is normal when you're behind the wheel of a convertible supercar.
They say the clothes make the man, but a truer statement may be that the car makes the man. I love a nice suit as much as the next guy, but no perfectly tailored jacket and pair of pants changes people’s perception of you—and as such how you move through the world—quite like being behind the wheel of the McLaren 650S Spider does. I recently spent a few days with the English supercar, and needless to say the world was a bit different than usual when I was in the driver's seat.
No. 1 – You can make a person’s day just by driving: I can’t tell you how many thumbs-up, big smiles and friendly waves I got while stuck in traffic or waiting at a stop light. The McLaren draws a crowd wherever it goes. Young kids especially love it as the 650S Spider is like a Hot Wheels car come to life. That being said I even noticed a few adults trying to slyly snap a picture while driving. Even the act of starting up the engine in a parking garage was enough to make the attendants giggle. I’m sure the constant attention gets old fast but I thoroughly enjoyed being able to brighten a person’s day simply by driving down the street.
No. 2 – Other drivers respect you more: I have a favorite road I like to take press cars on, Highway 35, which is just south of San Francisco on the peninsula. This road only has two lanes and as such passing can be really hard, although cars usually let you by if they can tell you’re there to haul ass. While I expected cars to make way for me I noticed many people go extremely out of their way. One guy almost drove off the road in an attempt to let me by, and many others quickly found the safest way to the shoulder so that I could fly by.
Even in the city I found that lane changes were easier, but that may have been because I had 641 horsepower at my disposal. I wasn’t quite Moses parting the Red Sea but I was damn close.
No. 3 – Passing (accidentally) happens at insane speeds: In some cars passing on the highway requires patience and timing. In the 650S Spider you just check your blind spots and hit the gas. After all, you don’t need expert timing when a twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8 is sending signals to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The only downside to this is that you very quickly go over the speed limit...by a lot. I won’t list exact speeds but let’s just say that a lane change that starts at 70 mph never ends that way. Same goes for trying to beat a red light at a starting speed of 25 mph.
No. 4 – You see other supercars in a new light: Usually when I see a supercar while driving I gawk at it for as long as I can. That feeling evaporated when I was driving the McLaren. With 641 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque at my disposal I was the equal of any other supercar on the road. On the highway one day I spotted a white Ferrari F12 and weaved my way through traffic until we were side by side. Unfortunately the driver was much more mature than me. He kept his eyes on the road while I tried to do the stare and drive. But I didn’t want to race him. (OK, maybe I did a little.) What I really wanted was for him to look over and acknowledge the fact that his claim for king of the road was contested by the 650S Spider.
No. 5 – Driving short distances in a straight line becomes the best part of your day: To engage launch control on the 650S Spider you press the launch button, engage the brake with your left foot and hold down the throttle with your right while the boost builds at 3000 RPM. When ready to roll, you release the brake and all hell breaks loose in the best way possible. The McLaren 650S Spider does 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds, and while I doubt I touched that I can say that my 0-60 mph runs happened in what felt like a heartbeat and sounded like a thunder storm.