Last week the transporter from McLaren Boston trundled up our driveway to drop the McLaren 650S Spider off from its 5th annual service. If you follow a number of YouTube and social media influences you would probably expect that the 650S Spider would have caught fire at least a dozen times by now, trapped me in the car for weeks on end, and spent the vast majority of its life, when it wasn’t spontaneously combusting or incarcerating its owner, in the shop for a host of other mysterious issues. In my case though, the situation could not have been more the opposite, it’s been just outright boring. The annual services (details: McLaren Maintenance History) have all been routine and our 650S Spider has been poster child for reliability and outstanding build quality. In fact, we have had more issues with both Mercedes SUVs and the Porsche Cayenne S during this period.
It has now been five years since the McLaren 650S Spider became my daily driver. The 650S Spider has now lasted in the daily driver role two years longer than its nearest competitor. It gets used almost every day regardless of the weather. It’s 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 in the past year that the 650S Spider had a chance to stretch its legs on some longer drives, including the recent trip from Texas to Massachusetts (Supercar Road Trip).
In terms of my expectations for any daily driver; 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 and put into question the cars suitability for daily usage. The only times it has seen the McLaren service center is for its five 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 they last a decent amount of time. We are now on our second full set plus one due to a nail that recently decided to embed itself in the front right tire. 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.
The only quirks I have run across are related to Iris, the infotainment system, and the remote key fob. Iris seems to have a massive distaste for large capacity USB drives. If you insert a 64GB or larger drive, Iris crashes. Replace the USB drive with a smaller capacity one, and Iris reverts to normal. On the remote key fob, on rare occasions if it is buried in your pocket, the car will not recognize the key fob being present and therefore will not start. This is easily solved by putting the key fob in the small pocket on the front of the driver’s seat. Also, one word of advice, don’t leave a 650S Spider car parked in the scorching Texas sun for an extended period. The glue under the dash headliner vaporizes and leaves a nasty, very difficult to remove, film on the windscreen.
In terms of living with the 650S Spider on a day in day out basis, getting in and out of the car is a learned skill and not too taxing once you have mastered it. The sill is wide, and you are quite low to the ground, so strong knees and good balance are a plus. Getting in is probably slightly easier than getting out of the 650S Spider as you have gravity on your side. The magical McLaren suspension soaks up imperfections in the road surface better than anything else in its class. The steering is nicely weighted and has great feel. In fact, I believe steering feel is a major McLaren strong point across the range. On a windy back country road, the 650S Spider comes into its own when conditions allow 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 room and shallows easily enough luggage for two people for a weeklong road trip or a week’s worth of groceries.
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.
There is a perception in some corners that supercars are fragile machines that need special pampering constantly to stay in good condition. This is anything but the case with the 650S Spider. In our five years together, it gets valeted once a year, washed when it looks more grey than black, and the interior is vacuumed out about every 6-8 weeks. This is no different from how Mrs. SSO’s Maserati Granturismo or the Mercedes GLS 450 get treated. Despite the lack of excessive pampering, the interior looks as good as it did the day I picked up the car at McLaren Dallas (Day 1 McLaren P1 & 650S Spider) The paint work has also held up extremely well and a close inspection found only two very small stone chips on the front nose. We opted not to have paint protection film applied when we purchased the 650S Spider and in this case, on a cost vs. benefit basis, I’m glad we didn’t. The only other battle scar the 650S Spider picked up is one lightly curbed wheel a couple of years ago thanks to the crater encrusted roads of Dallas. It was about $200 to repair.
Overall though, the McLaren 650S Spider continues to be the best daily driver, and not just the best supercar daily driver, I have ever had. In a recent conversation, my brother the “Wine Collector” (Wine Collector: Senna vs. 720S Spider), asked if I was planning on trading in the 650S Spider when the 765LT Spider arrived and then using the 720S Spider as my daily driver. I told him no for a few reasons. First of all, the 650S Spider now sits on the gentle part of the depreciation curve and the all-in cost (maintenance + fuel + insurance + depreciation) of running it each year going forward is quite modest for a supercar. Second, this 650S Spider is a really good car. It’s been completely reliable and problem free. When you are lucky enough to get a car like that, you hold on to it. Finally, I just really like it and it works extremely well for me as a daily driver. While I’m sure the 720S Spider could also be a great daily driver, it has a bit more of an edge to it that makes it better suited for weekends and road trips. Hence the plan is to continue using the 650S Spider in this capacity for at least the next several years.
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I have had mine for 5 years, never missed a beat, 17k miles and no major costs, on the second set of tyres and one replaced due to a lot hole.
Warranty work has not resulted in any time off the road and apart from the Iris being a joke it never fails to deliver unlike the ownership experience from the dealers which has consistently failed to deliver….
Very good article! Great that you use your cars.
You’re right about depreciation curve. It would be interesting to calculate total running costs if you ever sell it. I drove my Testarossa 155K miles over 14 years. Total running cost were $2.50 per mile.
Thanks for sharing! Love this kind of real-world long-term information!!
My 12c Spyder still used daily and similarly has never let me down (I’m looking at you Porsche Boxster S). I Still pay warranty 7kAUD annual.