Buying the McLaren P1 & 650S Spider

I really like the memories that the #day1challenge, currently circulating on Instagram, is generating.  It has brought back a ton of recollections about the wonderful cars that we have been fortunate enough to have owned over the years.  In several cases we acquired cars in different countries in Europe and promptly drove them back across the continent.  The most memorable and insane experience was picking up the Ferrari F40 in Germany in November and driving it to Portugal (Day 1 Ferrari F40).  Prior to embarking upon that journey, I had about 10 miles of driving experience in an F40.  However, the biggest #day1 experience we have had was collecting both the McLaren P1 & 650S Spider on the same day.  It wasn’t originally planned that way, but the stars aligned, and we were schedule to pick up both together. 

For the record, McLaren does not do either BOGOFs (buy one get one free) or gifts with purchase like most UK based retailers.   While I did hint that either would be highly appreciated, I was very politely informed that McLaren trading approach is very different to Tesco’s or Sainsburys.  In fact, these two acquisitions were not related, and it was only a coincidence that the delivery timing on the cars happened to overlap.  The P1 had been in the works for quite some time and the deal on the 650S Spider came together in just a few days.  At the time I wasn’t even looking to trade the year old 12C Spider for a 650S Spider but a very persuasive McLaren Sales Manager convinced me of the significant merits to do so.  Looking back, I’m very glad I did and the 650S Spider has been a terrific daily driver for the past 4 ½ years (650S Spider Daily Driver). 

While I know some owners plan elaborate parties for the unveiling and delivery of their new supercars, we tend to prefer low key affairs normally held in the back-parking lot of the dealership or the service center.   For the 650S & P1, it was the back-parking lot of the McLaren dealership in Dallas.  The handover of the 650S Spider was short and concise, consisting of basically “here are the keys, you probably know the car as well as we do”.  The P1 was an extended educational process.  While the general layout and controls are McLaren familiar, there are a number of new buttons and settings to learn.  School on how to activate race mode, DRS, IPAS, electric mode, and activate the rear wing lasted about 30 minutes before we moved on to setting up the battery charger.  The battery charger connects to a port under a flap on the top left side of the car.  It’s massive and must weight 30+ lbs.  We nicknamed the charger the iron lung.  If the P1 isn’t driven for a few days, it will die if not on the charger and resurrection comes with a six-figure price tag.  In the end, this was a key driver on our parting with the P1 (P1 Farewell).

A world apart from the epic #day1 drives across Europe in the Ferrari F40 and F355GTS (Our Ferrari History F355-F40), our first drive in both the P1 and 650S Spider was an uninspiring 5 mile crawl across Dallas.  After much debate, it was finally decided that I would drive the P1 and Mrs. SSO followed in the 650S Spider.  I actually wanted Mrs. SSO to drive the P1 home but she insisted on spending more time in the car with me driving before she took it out on her own.  The adult in me completely understood her position given the complexity and value of the P1 but my inner 3 year old has completely baffled at the passing on a chance to play with the new, new thing.

1st Impressions

Unlikely other hypercars I have owned, the P1 was not intimidating to drive at first. It feels quite compact, the sightlines are excellent, and it is easy to place on the road. After the Koenigsegg CCR and Ferrari F40, the cacophony of noises happening right behind you feels reassuringly familiar. The P1 is hard, brutal and more race than road car, however with the push of a few buttons it manages to be far more civilized than any other car I have driven in this category. Of the relatively few miles we put on the P1, I don’t think we ever got remotely near its full capabilities.

After several years in 12Cs (Our McLaren History), becoming comfortable driving the 650S happened very quickly.  Compared to the 12C, the ride is definitely more compliant on poor surfaces, but it is the increase in torque that stood out the most.  On the 12C, if I were just cruising on the highway at roughly the speed limit, I would always do so in 6thgear as 7th left you with no power to accelerate.  In the 650S, you can cruise in 7th and the car will pick up the pace quickly with a jab of the right foot.  With the massive ceramic rotors, breaking feels slightly improved and turn in is a bit sharper.  While the 650S was designed as an evolution of the 12C, it improves in so many areas that it could easily be a completely new model. 

If you had asked me on day 1, which of the two we would still own four and a half years on, I would have replied the P1 without giving it a second thought. My plan at the time was to use the 650S Spider as my daily driver for a couple of years and then trade it in when the next McLaren model came out. While we did acquire a 720S, the 650S Spider has turned out to be so good as a daily, we decided to keep it in that role. The P1 left long ago, a casualty of its complexity.

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November 2019

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