Best performance car: New Car Awards 2014
The McLaren 650S is the 2014 Auto Express Performance Car of the Year, with the BMW M4 and Porsche 911 GT3 commended
It’s taken a while, but McLaren’s junior supercar has matured into one of the most thrilling driving machines on the planet. Blisteringly fast and boasting acrobatic handling, a thundering soundtrack and jaw-dropping looks, the brilliant Brit ticks all the supercar boxes.
Yet unlike its 12C predecessor, the McLaren 650S also tugs at your heartstrings just as a true thoroughbred exotic supercar should. From the moment you open the ‘swan-wing’ door, climb over the wide carbon fibre sill and lower yourself behind the wheel, you know you’re in something special. The low, straight-legged driving position is pure racing car, yet the beautiful mix of carbon, aluminium and leather trims helps give the cabin a really luxurious feel.
At the heart of the McLaren is an uprated twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6 engine that pushes out a staggering 641bhp and muscular 678Nm of torque. Performance is simply sensational, with the 650S demolishing the 0-62mph sprint in only 3.0 seconds and smashing through to 100mph in 5.7 seconds – times that eclipse McLaren’s legendary, multi-million-pound F1 supercar from the nineties. The impression of speed is enhanced by the seven-ratio twin-clutch box, which rips through the gears as fast as you can pull on the gorgeous metal steering wheel paddles.
Yet despite the McLaren’s monumental performance, it never feels intimidating to drive. Visibility is excellent, the major controls are effortless and the stopping power from the standard carbon ceramic brakes is stupendous. Better still, tweaks to the suspension mean it’s more involving to drive than ever, and every blast down a twisting back road will leave you grinning from ear to ear. Plus, there’s so much grip that you’ll run out of bravery long before the 650S starts to slide wide.
The McLaren’s party trick, however, is its ability to turn into a relaxing long-distance cruiser at the flick of a switch. With the dampers in their softest setting, the 650S soaks up bumps with uncanny smoothness, while road and wind noise are surprisingly well suppressed. And for drivers who love wind-in-the-hair thrills, there’s even a drop-top Spider. In fact, no other supercar delivers such a broad range of talents.
Sure, it’s not cheap, but the best things in life rarely are.
Commended performance cars
The old M3 Coupe was a legend, so the BMW M4 had some big boots to fill. Happily, the newcomer delivers – big time. The all-new straight-six is a masterpiece, combining scorching pace with a bombastic soundtrack, while the agile handling is sports car sharp. Better still, you can bring three friends along for the fun.
Porsche 911 GT3
When it comes to raw, undiluted driving thrills, the 911 GT3 stands way above the competition. With its wailing flat-six, laser-guided handling and stripped-out cabin, it’s essentially a racing car for the road. You’ll need commitment to live with it on a daily basis, but the rewards are worth the small sacrifices in practicality.
- 1IntroductionWe reveal the best new cars on sale today in every sector of the market, plus we name our overall 2014 Car of the Year
- 2Car of the Year 2014The British-built MINI is Auto Express' Car of the Year 2014
- 3City Car of the YearThe Skoda Citigo is the 2014 Auto Express City Car of the Year, with the Hyundai i10 and Toyota Aygo commended
- 4Supermini of the YearThe Ford Fiesta is the 2014 Auto Express Supermini of the Year, with the Dacia Sandero and Peugeot 208 commended
- 5Premium Small Car of the YearThe MINI is the 2014 Auto Express Premium Small Car of the Year, with the Audi A1 and Citroen DS3 commended
- 6Small Family Car of the Year The SEAT Leon is the 2014 Auto Express Small Family Car of the Year, with the Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf commended
- 7Family Car of the Year The Mazda 6 is the 2014 Auto Express Family Car of the Year, with the Skoda Superb and Vauxhall Insignia commended
- 8Estate Car of the Year The SEAT Leon ST is the 2014 Auto Express Estate of the Year, with the BMW 5 Series and Skoda Octavia Estate commended
- 9MPV of the Year The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is the 2014 Auto Express MPV of the Year, with the Citroen C4 Picasso and SEAT Alhambra commended
- 10Crossover of the Year The Nissan Qashqai is the 2014 Auto Express Crossover of the Year, with the Citroen C4 Cactus and Mazda CX-5 commended
- 11Compact SUV of the Year The Porsche Macan is the 2014 Auto Express small SUV of the Year, with the Dacia Duster and Range Rover Evoque commended
- 12Large SUV of the Year The Hyundai Santa Fe is the 2014 Auto Express large SUV of the Year, with the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover Sport commended
- 13Pick-Up Truck of the Year The Volkswagen Amarok is the 2014 Auto Express Pick-up of the Year, with the Ford Ranger and SsangYong Korando Sport commended
- 14Hot Hatch of the Year The SEAT Leon Cupra is the 2014 Auto Express City Car of the Year, with the Ford Fiesta ST and VW Golf GTI commended
- 15Convertible of the Year The Audi A3 Cabriolet is the 2014 Auto Express Convertible of the Year, with the BMW 4 Series Convertible and Porsche 911 Cab commended