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The McLaren 650S Is the Bargain Exotic Car

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author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2017

I recently had the opportunity to drive a 2015 McLaren 650S Spider, which is a high-performance exotic sports car that costs around $215,000. This is an enormous amount of money, and you will probably think it's crazy that anyone out there has this much money to spend on an automobile. I agree. I also think it's a bargain.

Before I explain why, I should mention that I borrowed the 650S from Aston Martin of Washington, D.C., which, as you might imagine, is the Aston Martin dealer in the Washington, D.C., area. It's actually located in Northern Virginia, and they always have a unique inventory of cool and exciting cars, including the 650S. So I took it out for a while, and I decided that it is, indeed, a bargain.

Here's what I mean: the 2015 McLaren 650S Spider I drove is listed for $214,888, which is about the going rate for an average 650S Spider, according to Autotrader. The 650S Spider also has 641 horsepower, and it'll do zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds. Meanwhile, the average asking price for a 2015 Ferrari 458 Spider (570 horsepower; zero to 60 in 3.3 seconds) is $265,000, while the averaging asking price for a first-year 2016 Lamborghini Hurcan Spyder (602 horsepower; zero to 60 in 3.0 seconds) is $250,000. That means the 650S is faster than its rivals, more powerful and less expensive. And thus, the bargain thing starts to make some sense.

And when you get it out on the road, the 650S delivers just like you'd expect. It is monstrously, raucously fast; faster than the fastest thrill ride you'll ever go on. And not just from a stop, but from 30 miles per hour, or even 70 mph, it'll snap you back in your seat the moment you smash the throttle. Of course, handling is also tremendous: It's not quite as precise or as sharp as a Huracan, but it's very close, allowing you to move the steering wheel and predictably yank the car in any direction, seemingly at every speed. As I mentioned in my video, this is why so many of these cars end up crashed: Because they make you feel like you're Superman on the road, like you can do absolutely anything, until … you can't.

All the cool features are present in the 650S, too. The doors don't open like normal doors, like in your terrible plebeian cars (such as, to name two, the Huracan and the Ferrari 458). Instead, they open upwards, so just climbing in the car gives a sense of occasion. The exhaust comes out the middle of the rear end, above the license plate, not in the normal place. The roof retracts quickly, giving you open-air driving thrills. The climate controls are mounted on the door, which is a novel little idea that gives the interior more of a "special" feeling -- right up there with the driving modes, which require "activation" before you're allowed to use them. The entire thing is as cool as you'd expect from an exotic supercar.

So, basically, the 650S has all the cool -- and all the performance -- of its rivals. So why is it such a bargain?

I've got three theories on exactly what is driving down the price of these things. One is obvious: reliability. For all we know, McLaren may make ultra-reliable cars -- they may be the Toyota of the supercar world -- but they haven't been building cars long enough for us to know. They only started regular production of road cars in 2011, with the MP4-12C, and let's be honest here, folks: the British don't exactly have the best reputation in this arena. So ownership costs are undoubtedly scaring off some shoppers.

And then there are two more theoretical ideas I have about why the 650S is cheaper than its rivals. One is the naming, where McLaren seems to be all over the map. The first model was "MP4-12C," which sounds like the name of an off-brand DVD player, and things didn't get much more logical from there: Then they came out with the 650S, and then the "entry-level" 570S, which was actually larger than the 650S, and then there was the performance version of the 650S, which is inexplicably called the 675LT, and then they debuted the supercar, which broke all the rules as it's named "P1." The end result is it's kind of confusing for people who'd rather buy into established brands like Lamborghini and Ferrari.

And then there's the styling and the powertrains: All McLaren models look about the same, and all McLaren models use the same engine. Sure, the styling has various differences here and there -- and sure, the engines change a bit in terms of performance, power and tune. But basically, they all look pretty similar, and they all have roughly the same powertrain. That's a far cry from Ferrari and Lamborghini, where each model usually gets its own unique engine that'll never be used in anything else.

But regardless of the reason, the 650S is cheaper than its rivals -- and while McLaren's similar styling may annoy you, and the identical powertrains may upset you, and the naming may confuse you, and the reliability may worry you, the simple truth is this: out on the road, the 650S drives just as well as any car from any rival. And if that's all you care about, then the 650S really is a bargain.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Used 2015 McLaren 650S Coupe
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The McLaren 650S Is the Bargain Exotic Car - Autotrader