What is it?
The McLaren 12C Spider is the inevitable convertible version of the remarkable MP4-12C supercar. It costs from £195,500, a premium of £19,500 over the coupe, and more importantly it has the latest (and final) calibration for everything from the steering to suspension to the powertrain itself. Like all 2013-model 12Cs the Spider has a power hike to 616bhp. The satnav even finally works.
Like the coupe, the Spider is an incredibly sophisticated device. The basis of the structure is a carbonfibre monocell chassis that offers superb rigidity and crash protection. It weighs just 75kg and it's so strong that the Spider's ‘Proactive’ suspension system – software and hardware – is completely unchanged.
So the 12C Spider is a highly configurable car with two rotary dials that switch between Normal, Sport and Track modes – one is marked Handling and the other Drivetrain. The idea is that you can mix and match your preferred settings for any different road surface or type of driving.
The two-piece retractable hardtop closes in 17 seconds at road speeds of up to 19mph and the Spider actually has more luggage space than the coupe as the tonneau cover can be operated separately and is fitted with two tailor-made bags with a combined capacity of 52 litres. The Spider does 204mph with the roof up or 196mph when open and 0-62mph in 3.1sec. It weighs just 40kg more than the coupe. A little window/wind deflector between the buttresses can be lowered with the roof up for maximum noise.
What’s it like to drive?
Almost indistinguishable from the coupe. There’s no steering column shake, no windscreen judder, no flex or shimmy. The Spider is rock solid and the chassis feels as freakishly competent as ever. It rides beautifully in Normal mode and remains supple in Sport and the chassis just loves to change direction. The grip and traction is astonishing and body control is pretty much flawless.
Then there's the sheer performance on offer, which is almost painfully relentless. There's instant torque and then real high-rev bite as you wind up towards 8000rpm. In isolation it feels considerably faster than the 458 Spider and I can't imagine anyone complaining about a lack of grunt. It flies.
However, the Spider isn't perfect. If you opt for the carbon-ceramic brakes then you'll find a long, inconsistent brake pedal for your £10,000 investment and the new louder exhaust system has certainly got plenty of volume but isn't particularly tuneful. Then there's the bluster with the roof down, which seemed pretty considerable on an admittedly windy day and made travelling at motorway speeds with the roof stowed quite uncomfortable. And as with the coupe, the Spider rewards with stunning control and precision at really high speeds but can feel a tad clinical at more realistic road speeds.
How does it compare?
I'm not usually a convertible fan but the Spider feels like the 12C of choice. It sacrifices nothing in dynamic terms and adds just enough drama and sense of occasion to lift the overall experience beyond the fixed roof car. Does it match the 458 Spider? Certainly its carbonfibre structure gives it an obvious edge in control and outright performance, but it's probably too close to call without driving the two back-to-back. Hopefully we’ll do just that soon enough.
Anything else I need to know?
A new menu system for the Intake Sound Generator allows you to turn the exhaust noise down even when the Powertrain is in Track mode. Or, should you like to be seen, you can turn up the noise to maximum in Normal mode.