Exclusive: McLaren could build 650S hybrid

McLaren has admitted to TopGear.com that a hybrid version of the twin-turbo V8-engined 650S supercar is ‘possible'.

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Mark Vinnels, executive director for product development at the British carmaker, says that the company's experience with the P1's hybrid powertrain has made it possible to implement it as a performance boost for other models.

"We obviously know quite a lot about hybrids from what we've done with the P1," he said, "but the biggest challenge for us is to achieve something that delivers a genuine performance benefit."

He stressed that this performance gain would not come at the expense of extra weight.

"We're not prepared to support putting 100 or 200kg in a car, unless it delivers a real genuine driver benefit," he said. "But it would be foolish to say we're never going to do that [hybrid 650S] in the future, because it's something we try and pursue as we strive to make more efficient cars.

"But we're not going to do that at the expense of performance," he added.

More 570S models to follow - including hardcore version

Performance was one of the key themes on the launch of the new ‘entry-level' McLaren 570S, which made its worldwide premiere at the New York Motor Show. It was an unveil that confused some: the 570S shares the same basic MonoCell tub and 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 - albeit in lesser tune - with the 650S. It's even slightly bigger than its big brother.

"It's always been part of the plan, the 570S," Vinnels assures TG. "So I don't think it will confuse buyers. The 650S is more focused around lap times and ultimate performance. In the Sports Series, its more about fun, engagement."

He said this baby McLaren will take the lion's share of sales - predicted at some 2,500 a year compared to the 650S's 1500 - and in just a couple of weeks at the Shanghai Motor Show, we'll see a detuned version, dubbed 540C. That car has, as expected, 540PS (533bhp).

When pushed on a stripped out, hardcore track version of this 570S, Vinnels suggested it could happen, but confirmed that two more Sports Series models will arrive in the next two to three years, including a racer, too.

"We're not sure yet whether we'll take this racing. We might. If we don't, somebody else will," he said. "So expect to see it on the track soon..."

New technology

With the 570S weighing in some £50,000 cheaper than the 650S, Vinnels conceded that making that Monocell economically viable for this entry-level car "was even more traumatic [than it was for the 650S]. There's still a lot to be done in terms of the economics of producing the MonoCell," he said. "There's also a lot more we can do in terms of future cars, using even more carbon fibre."

The V8 though, used across McLaren's range of supercars, still has life left in it. "But, from our perspective, we need to work through and decide now what to do with it," he added.

End of the road for the P1

McLaren is also considering how a successor to its deranged P1 might look - if indeed it decides to build one.

"It [the P1] is pretty exclusive, isn't it?" Vinnels says with a smile. "I think the P1 GTR takes it to the point where it can't go much further. For us, for a while, we're not going to do anything with that. Who's to say what will happen in ten years though?"

"For us to do another P1 or P2, whatever you want to call it, we need to be thinking about the nexttechnology leap," he said. "To bring something to the customer which is worthy of something in the ‘ultimate series' for us. But that's a few years off yet."

So, no more P1s, a raft of 570S models, the 650S will move to become even more exclusive, and there's even more racing in the pipeline. "We're committed to a new car every year, so we're flat out trying to deliver that," Vinnels said.

"Although we're an established brand, we've only been making cars for four years, so we're running very fast to catch up and overtake those who've been producing them for many years," he added.


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