Now before we go any further I want to admit that I will not be accusing the 650S of being a soulless appliance from a sanctimonious burning bridge, but I do want to ask a question pertinent to motorheads. What makes a drivers car?
Yes that can of worms has just been opened.
Naturally the question is a subjective one yet appropriately germane considering the capricious nature of McLaren's "standing" with the automotive proletariat.
Let us consider for a moment each side of a driving machine. There are some who prefer the rawest snarliest experience possible, hair raising, heaven bending, fire breathing, cerebral assaulting suicidal jaunt up the north side of $200K. Then there are the vanguard few who want a drivers car to be, you know, driveable...
Its understood that for your $265K you would like to imagine you're Lauda, Hunt, Prost Fittipaldi, Senna, Scumacher, Hakkinen, Hamilton, Vettel and Kimi all stuffed into one fantastic pair of loafers, but we know that's patently untrue. So baring a reserve split second abilities built over a life time of high level automotive acrobatics McLaren (and others mind you) have offered the next best thing, electronic mitigation.
You know what, I don't think that's such a downside either. The reason gearheads love driving is the actual driving part, what part of white knuckle, constant fear of vehicular immolation or snap oversteer is enjoyable to you? The impact, or is it sliding backwards at 100 plus MPH that gets you randy?
Not that it matters. The 650S is packed with tech, lifted from Formula 1 and the overachieving McLaren P1 hypercar, that minimizes weaknesses and maximizes confidence. It helps me around the track with greater speed and aplomb than I expected—or deserved. It makes me feel like a pro.
Which is the point. Cars like the 650S are so far beyond the skillset of anyone who doesn’t wear Nomex and a helmet while driving that the visceral experience is more important than absolute performance. Such cars should make you better than you are. McLaren gets this. The goal with the 650S, says chief test driver Chris Goodwin, was to build a car that is worthy of a world champion yet makes the rest of us feel like one.
Wired isn't the only one expressing these feelings, Clarkson the purest petrolhead kicked things off years ago with the crucifixion of the 12C for being "soulless", a tag many have picked up and stuck on not only the 12C, but also the 650S. The Nissan GTR operates in the same realm of consumer "confidence" and is victim to similar hectoring.
So lets hear it, is the 650S a drivers car? I personally don't see how it cannot be a "drivers" car, all gadgetry and gizmology have been specifically designed to accentuate and enhance whatever ability or lack there of one might posses. Some men go Viagra, others go McLaren.
650S, Helpful or Hurtful?