Earlier this week, I got to attend McLaren's "Get the know the 650S" at Monticello Motor Club in New York.
The McLaren staff and the gated private raceway was definitely worth the nearly 400 mile one way drive.
These events are happening around the US and I highly encourage anyone that gets an invite to take the opportunity and make it happen!
Upon arrival, we were greeted with many McLaren representatives, There was more McLaren staff there than invited guests, so it was very one on one feeling all day. It was extra special to see Chris Goodwin was there on hand as well.
So after a nice lunch, general introductions, McLaren 650S overview and brief instructions of the stations including track drive time, we were split into four groups of four invitees. The well planned day moved us through the different stations in an efficient way, each station getting ample time for all. Very similar to other manufactures track day events, but only having one car to get to know, the 650S.
I'll try to give a little overview of what the sections entailed with some thoughts about the cars performance in that section, or what was most recognized by me in that section.
My first experience started with the "Road Drive". Two 650S spiders for the guests and a guide car to basically lead the way. Half way through our road time we swapped passenger and driver. Roads were a good mixture of smooth, windy, back roads and rough. One was fresh tar and chip, and another getting pot holes fixed... so very real world. I had already had a chance to test drive a 650S a couple months ago with a sales rep on the road. It was in the rain however, and honestly I was left with the feeling of not seeing a major difference. But this past Monday, being in the mid 60's and mostly sunny, the car was worlds different from my '13 12C spider! Within the first 1/4 mile on the road, I felt this car had much more torque than the 12% or so they claim. You really get to feel it if you short shift into 3rd or 4th keeping the rpms low and getting into the throttle. The sound is not a lot different, and very hard to describe, but I definitely like it better now. IMO it just sounds meaner. The normal to sport ride is more pronounced as everyone else does see. The sound is better for me when in sport mode and the ignition interrupt to give it that little blip between shifts. It's not there in normal or race power settings.
The next section was the "Main Track Drive" Our group of 4 each got another 650S with instructor, I wasn't shy and claimed the Tarocco Orange Spider! Roof up of course. Our instructor showed us a couple laps and discussed the line we were to be hitting, he also pointed out the couple concern areas on the track to use a bit of extra caution. I am not a pro on track, but have a few years of track experience with a dedicated track car. ('13 Lotus V6 Exige Cup) After a few laps to find the lines, the instructors allowed us to push up to our limits. The brakes felt very predictable, feeling like my current metal rotors, with the exception that you could just keep pushing them and getting more and more until the anti lock starts to kick in. The better part of the brakes was that when you released a little, they released a little and did not simply come off the break. In sport mode, you can feel the stiffness change, and the car is allowed to move around a bit, but none of that Chris Harris sideways drifting was going on!
It was a short track, so we left it in auto mode to concentrate on the breaking and turn in points. Auto mode worked very well, with only a few times I felt it was in to low of a gear. Its great to hear your instructor say... "great corner" "great corner" and "that was just about the cars threshold limit right there". I had on my POV sunglasses and will see If I can post a video of a lap or two that is not too shaky.
The next section, "Auto Cross" Short section of track, not as fast, with cones giving us chances to see the body roll from normal to sport (they did not allow track mode for any drivers) a couple breaking sections, then a full power run into a breaking cone point with a hard turn out avoidance situation. This was good to show you and moderated speeds the ability of how easy the car turns in, and stays flat! The full power to hard break area was impressive, because thats not something a dealer is going to allow you to do or want to show you how to do.
My last section, was a walk around with a rolling chassis, and explanations of all the changes over the 12C car. Chris Goodwin was on hand to field some of the questions as well.
Afterwords, a launch control demonstration. (I do not believe there is anything new here over the 12C) Then some instructor fun, giving a couple hot laps to everyone that was there was added excitement to end out the event.
In summery... A great day and great way to get to know the performance of what this car will do. The people from Philly (Chad, Kevin, Matt, Kevin and Steve) and the team from McLaren Racing, McLaren US and McLaren UK were all first class, an absolute wealth of knowledge and just a pleasure to be around.
Thanks McLaren for investing into doing these types of events to showcase your products!