McLaren 650S Spider: 8th Year Update

The McLaren 650S Spider has been with us for over 8 years now.   Our ownership experience has been remarkably drama free.  The annual services (McLaren Maintenance History) have been routine and our 650S Spider has been poster child for reliability, outstanding build quality, and performance.  Simply put, its been a wonderful car to own and drive.


The 650S Spider spent its first five years as my daily driver and still would be if that roll existed in a post COVID video conference driven world.  Basically, it gets driven everywhere regardless of the weather of distance.  While no longer technically a daily driver, the 650S still gets used 4-5 times a week.  During its lifetime, it has spent plenty of time in the boiling Texas summer sun, been driven through snow in Massachusetts, handled ice, and survived plenty of thunderstorms without ever putting a foot wrong.  For the majority of its life, it’s been subject to short drives, lots of traffic and some pretty crappy roads.  It’s really only in the past couple of years that the 650S Spider had a chance to stretch its legs regularly on longer drives.  The McLaren supercar has done a major road trip from Texas to Massachusetts, multiple trips into Boston, from Massachusetts to New York City, and more recently when we took it on a road trip out to the Hamptons.


The 650S Spider continues to show just how far supercars have come in terms of both build quality and usability.  In the searing triple digit mid-summer Texas heat, the temperature gauge never rose above normal and in the subzero New England winters it warms up quickly.  During our 2019 cross-country road trip, we ran into a major traffic jam five hours into the drive outside of Nashville (Supercar Road Trip Part 2).  Despite going from hours of running at high speed to a dead stop, the 650S Spider sat for over an hour idling on a muggy August day far more calmly than the driver.  Winter mode works well and driving on frozen roads is no more taxing than it is in any other rear wheel drive car. 


In terms of my expectations for any car, reliability is job #1.  Here the McLaren 650S Spider has been perfect.  It has never left me stranded and has been devoid of random warning lights that excel at driving blood pressure up unnecessarily.  The only times it has seen the McLaren service center is for its annual services.  I’ve never had to add either oil or coolant between services but do check the levels on a semi regular basis.  The wheels hold air pressure well and only need a small top up once a quarter.  For a supercar, it’s not hard on the tires and this year we had its third set of new rubber fitted.  There have been a couple of recalls, but all have been performed when the car was in for its annual service and none where for items I ever noticed. 


There is a perception that supercars are fragile machines that need special pampering constantly to stay in good condition.  While this was very much the case a couple of decades ago, it certainly hasn’t been my experience with any of the McLarens we have owned.  In our eight years together, the 650S Spider gets valeted once a year when it goes in for service, is washed when it looks more grey than black, and the interior is vacuumed out every couple of months.  This is no different from how any of our SUVs get treated.  Despite the lack of excessive pampering, the interior actually looks better than the GLS 450 which is half its age.  In fact, I have had a few people comment on just how good it looks for its age.  We are still on our first lithium battery, and it seems to be in good health.  I always keep the 650S Spider on a battery conditioner when it’s in the garage which I believe has been key to the battery’s longevity.  The paint work has also held up extremely well and a close inspection found only a couple of small stone chips on the front nose.  We opted not to have paint protection film applied when we bought.  It’s the one thing I would change if I could go back and do it over.  However, at the time I thought we would probably only be keeping the 650S Spider for a couple of years before trading it in on what became the 720S.  The only other battle scars the 650S Spider picked up a couple of curbed wheels thanks to the crater encrusted roads of Dallas, and a parallel parking misadventure.  The only quirk I have run across are related to Iris, the infotainment system.  Iris seems to have a massive distaste for large capacity USB drives.  If you insert a 64GB or larger drive, Iris crashes. 


In terms of performance, the 650S Spider is just 0.1 of a second slower 0-62 mph than the generation newer Ferrari F8 Tributo despite being 70 bhp down on the Ferrari.  The hydraulic steering is nicely weighted and has great feel.  It makes placing the 650S on the road easy.  The front end never runs out of bite on turn in which helps build an enormous amount of trust and confidence in the car.  The magical McLaren suspension soaks up imperfections in the road surface better than anything else in its class in comfort mode and firms up nicely when you switch the handling to track .  The gearbox is quick and seamless, shifts are near instantaneous with each pull of a paddle.  For a twin turbo supercar, acceleration is quite linear, and I have never had the feeling that the car was suddenly taking off on me.  Even though the 650S has the ability to pile on speed at an eye watering rate.  On a back country road, the 650S Spider comes into its own when you to push it a bit.  Visibility is outstanding with the exception of the rear three quarters where the buttresses do get in the way.  Boot space is decent with enough luggage space for two people on a weeklong road trip.  Storage space in the cabin is rather limited.


One option on the 650S Spider that I would strongly recommend is the front nose lift.  On top of saving the front splitter from numerous scrapes, it also makes the 650S much more usable.  On the recent road trip out to the Hamptons, we took a ferry over from Connecticut to Long Island.  Without the nose lift I don’t think we would have been able to get the 650S Spider onto the ferry given the angle of the ramps.  It also makes navigating post winter potholed roads much easier. 

Out of our several McLaren’s, the 650S Spider is Mrs. SSO’s favorite to drive.  When I’ve asked her why, it basically comes down to the 650S Spider being the most polished of our McLarens.  A lot of what I love about driving the LT’s, she finds a bit intimidating.  When it comes to the 650S Spider, while it’s got a huge amount of performance, she feels it’s both accessible and highly predictable.  Two attributes always mentioned are the beautifully weighted steering and the carbon ceramic brakes.  Mrs. SSO is also a big fan of the convertible roof which drops in less than half the time of her old Jaguar XKR Cabrio. 

While not quite a daily driver anymore, the McLaren 650S Spider still continues to be the best “regular” driver, I have ever had.  I can’t see paritng with it anytime soon for two reasons.  First it is Mrs. SSO’s favorite McLaren to drive.  Second, this 650S Spider is a really great car.  Build quality is excellent, it has been completely reliable and problem free.  When you are lucky enough to get a car like that, you hold on to it.

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September 2023


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5 Thoughts on McLaren 650S Spider: 8th Year Update
    Steve Hewett
    30 Sep 2023

    The 650S is my favorite McLaren without doubt.

    A subtle improvement over the 12C.

    If you have any car that is reliable and does what you expect of it why change.

    Mark smith
    1 Oct 2023

    Great to read the long term ownership you have enjoyed . Have you ever considered stretching your cars down at the Big Bend Road Event in Texas ? We were down that way earlier this year , and despite driving a hire car we could certainly see the attraction of the wonderful open road to Sanderson.
    Thanks again .

    23 Oct 2023

    What is the mileage on the car now? How much per year on average? Thanks.


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