By SSO Jr. (Guest Contributor)
I’ve only had my license for about a year now, which can really only mean one thing at age 20: I’m not a good or particularly experienced driver. However, over this period, I’ve been fortunate enough to be exposed to a vast variety of high powered luxury supercars and have had the opportunity to drive a few of them. Recently, I had to opportunity to jump into my Dad’s garage, and take two of his favorites for a drive, the McLaren 650S Spider and McLaren 720S. While I may still be a bad driver, my Dad had enough confidence in my ability to be able to drive a decently luxurious car as my daily, an Audi A4 2.0T Quattro. While I love the Audi, jumping into the cockpit of a McLaren was a whole new world.
For today’s outing, my Dad started out driving the McLaren 720S as he said he wanted to get it properly warmed up and a bit of heat into the tires. Once warm, we found a pretty quiet street, and my Dad and I successfully executed a fire drill to trade seats. We drove around some of the neighborhoods, got on the highway to get some speed in, before returning home to switch it out for the 650S Spider. We took a slightly different route with the 650S Spider but made sure I was getting the same varied road experience with each.
It was slightly weird moving from a newer car to an older one. Just sitting in the drivers seat it was clear where McLaren had made improvements from one model to the next. All the controls were better placed and more intuitive to find. However, the biggest thing that stood out between the cars was visibility. In the 650S, I could not see a thing behind the seats. While the mirrors were a bit helpful, there was barely any visibility on the passenger side and back of the car. It seemed like there were constantly cars in my blind spot that I could not see at all. I didn’t seem to have this issue at all in the 720S, making it even more apparent when I hoped in the 650S. The next big difference was the power of each. It was strange to me because going into it, I knew that the 720S had more power (about 70 more bhp), and I could definitely feel it when driving, but the 650S felt more edgy. With the 650S it seemed like I was trying to hold back a dog trying to chase a squirrel, whereas the 720S couldn’t care less about the squirrel.
I could go into the differences in steering, braking, the gearbox, and suspension, but let’s face the facts, as an inexperienced, bad driver, I couldn’t notice a huge difference in the two cars. When I turned the wheel, the car moved where I wanted it to instantly. I just had to make sure not to oversteer because of how exact the steering is. It’s the same when it comes to the brakes. The way I like to describe them is sensitive with intent. The brakes understood what I was trying to do when I put my foot on the pedal. Whether I had slammed them to compensate for someone cutting me off, or simply gently slowing down for a stoplight, they never seemed to overcompensate or undercompensate, but knew exactly what I was thinking. When it comes to the gearbox, they are both super quick when you give the paddle a tug. The difference is almost indescribable, and any bad driver like myself wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The same goes for suspension. Both cars were incredibly stable and despite the embarrassment that they call roads here, I never felt like I was getting thrown around in either car by the potholes.
When it comes down to it, there are only two things that bad drivers like me would have noticed between two cars of this caliber: the visibility and the “exoticness” of the car. If you are a bad driver, you’re better off in the 720S because being able to see around you is probably more important than the sheer speed that you might feel in the 650S Spider. Either way, at my age, it was just a thrill to be able to drive either.
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