THE throaty roar of the McLaren 650s echoed through the entrance hall of Dundas Castle as the powerful supercar growled onto the gravel drive. With the sun beating down on its metallic paintwork, the vehicle drew a series of admiring glances from drivers and non-drivers alike, marking it out as one of the most exciting performance cars on the road today.
McLaren has a racing pedigree that stretches back to 1963, when Bruce McLaren founded his eponymous team. The crew entered Formula 1 in 1966 and won its first grand prix in Belgium just two years later. Since then, McLaren has gone on to win more than 180 F1 races and clinched 20 championships, with drivers of the calibre of David Coulthard, Lewis Hamilton, James Hunt and the legendary Ayrton Senna climbing behind the wheel.
That racing heritage spilt out onto real-world roads in 1993 with the launch of the McLaren F1, an iconic road car that was built using the lessons learned on the track and the same carbon fibre technology that the team had been employing on the circuit since 1981. McLaren Automotive was launched in 2010 to develop further road cars, with the 12 and the P1 being joined last year by the enticing 650s.
The fine history of the car echoes that of Dundas Castle itself, where a keep was built in 1416 and the modern house took shape in 1818 to a design by architect William Burn. Following a career in industry with first the family’s textile firm, Coats, and later electronics giant Philips, Sir Jack Stewart-Clark – the present owner and a noted car enthusiast – inherited the castle in 1995 and set about restoring his family’s home, which now hosts events including weddings and corporate gatherings.
Such a rich history made Dundas Castle the most fitting of settings for a day out in a supercar that tips the scales at 641 brake horse power and which has a top speed of 204 miles per hour.
“You’re really seeing this McLaren at its best here in the sun at the castle.” says Norman
Stirling from McLaren Glasgow, which organised the McLaren for the test day.
So what did BQ Scotland’s driver make of it after taking the legend out for a spin? “It’s truly the most amazing car I have ever driven,” says Derek Stewart, managing partner at Uddingston-based SAM Wealth, after trying out the McLaren 650s. “I’d driven an SLR McLaren Mercedes on the Top Gear track at Dunsfold near Guildford in Surrey and there was no comparison with the McLaren – this was a super, supercar – it was unbelievable.
“It’s very comfortable to sit in, unlike a lot of sports cars. You can drive it on ordinary roads and still have some fun with it in its ‘Normal’ setting. It’s almost like being in a computer game in terms of how quickly you come up on other slow-moving vehicles and how quickly you pass them. I was surprised by how comfortable and stable it is for a car with such power. The introduction to the controls lasted for only 30 seconds because it’s not complicated.
“The rasp from the exhaust lets you know you’re in a supercar but without it being ‘thuggish’. I could have listened to it all day. It’s sex on wheels. My previous favourite car would have been the Ferrari Dino GT for its lines, but I think the lines on that McLaren are amazing. The attention to detail is just amazing.”