Proving Grounds: McLaren 650S vs. Ferrari 458 Speciale… or fish n chips vs. spaghetti?
Every few years car makers are putting out their flagship models, in hopes to compete with the super powers. Britain, Italy, America, Japan and Germany all go head to head to see who can do it better(usually it’s Germany, but that’s another discussion).
Well today, we are going to put the spotlight on Britain and Italy. McLaren and Ferrari have taken their fight from the F1 circuit to the road; The 650S is one of McLaren Technology Centers latest offerings, and the 458 Speciale is a juiced up version of the already bonkers Italia. Both the 650S and Speciale have a V8 heart, and a Rear-Wheel Drive platform. As well, each have a carbon fiber structure and a 7-speed gearbox, which allows them both to sprint from 0-60mph in 3 seconds flat.
The 650S’s 3.8 twin-trubo V8 creates a whopping 641bhp, and top speed of 207mph top. Though the 650S is 75% MP4, it has new pistons and cylinder heads which allow more boost pressure for the twin turbo system. That 641 horsepower helps the 650S get from 0-100mph in only 5.7 seconds; which is .7 seconds less than the mighty P1.
The 650S has a gnarly cylinder cut system, which makes the exhaust louder on sport mode. On the road she is fairly stable at high speed. The 650S has a few borrowed parts from the P1 project, these include; a P1 front end, new dampers that allows stiffer tires to be fitted and front/rear springs that have achieve reasonably comfortable driving. Of course the interior is draped in Alcantara(Yes!). You do also have the option of carbon bucket racing seats. Although, the 650S is not easy or very comfortable to get in and out of.
Now for the fun part, Aerodynamics! The air blades on the bottom of the doors funnel air into the side vents for greater stability and down force. A standard set of sticky Pirelli P-Zero tires also help with being planted to the road. Also included is a carbon fiber bumper and massive carbon ceramic brakes. At only 3,020lbs, the 650S is the same weight as VW Golf. To drive this car, as well as the Speciale, it requires a certain level of respect. These are not something you can just in and drive like Hell. They’re not easy to drive unlike the Nissan GTR(sorry Jimmy).
We are all very familiar with the 458 Italia, but this new Speciale has something fresh to bring to the table. Crammed with F1 technology, the Speciale’s upgraded V8 bumps the horsepower rating from 506-597. The geniusus at Maranello have tweaked heavily with the cars aerodynamics to improve handling.
To boost downforce and increase drag they have fitted movable aero pieces on the front grill, in addition to bigger vents on the hood and fender wing to increase cooling to the engine, winglets on the sides and turning vents on the front wheel arch. Further upgrades include a larger rear wing, and the best part; three active aero flaps on the diffuser which are computer controlled to account for speed, drag, lateral acceleration.
These aero flaps open and close to boost downforce and increase drag and to balance aero pressure on the car. Ferrari has stripped a total of 90kgs off of the Italia; 20kgs of which is from the interior. On the inside you should expect louder engine noise, and more wind noise at higher speeds. The Speciale’s gear change is flawless. Watch out Porsche they’re coming for the PDK!
To summarize, on the road there is very little between the two. Both the 650S and the Speciale are top of the range in terms of a modern super car. Which one would I have? Probably the 650S. What do you think?
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