Eight blocks north of the Javits Center, in a rented function room, English Formula 1 constructor McLaren was showing off its new 650S. A development of its outgoing MP4-12C -- the first popularly priced ($250,000 and up) McLaren road car -- the 12C was mind-blowingly capable, as I found out on a cross-country journey that took place exactly one year ago.
From its immensely strong, full carbon-fiber body tub, to its clever, electro-hydraulic suspension and insanely powerful twin-turbocharged V8, everything about the 12C exhilarated, except its sales, which missed McLaren's internal targets by more than 50 percent. Being launched in 2011, as the world began to emerge from recession may not have helped, but neither did the car's bland (for a supercar) styling and a lack of dealerships. So poor was the showing that McLaren Cars' personable chief, Antony Sheriff, got sacked by McLaren supremo Ron Dennis, and the 12C's expiration date got pulled forward in favor of what was placed before invited guests at the N.Y. International Auto show, the 650S. A stand at the show likely would not have conveyed the same exclusive feel of the reveal we experienced but, we hope it is not too crass to point out, would have cost the company considerably more.
The 650S' styling is a slightly refined version of the 12C's, and keeps it in closer step with the company's new hyper-luxury, limited edition P1, a $1.4 million hybrid with close to 1000 horsepower and especially flowing lines, being built in a single series of 375. The new name for the restyled MP4-12C, then, is 650S, which is meant to remind one of the 650 horsepower British engineers say the car has. Using good ol' American horsepower measurements, the total would be closer to 641. Yet you won't want to let those nine extra theoretical ponies be a barrier to your entry, we'd suggest, as the new model promises to reach 100 mph in 5.7 seconds, which is faster than most supercars used to reach sixty not so long ago, and even faster than the 12C. Note, too, a convertible hard top which folds effortlessly into the car's nether-regions. A worthy alternative, we'd say, for those ready to make an extremely bold statement, but not in a Ferrari.