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How much? £195,500
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 3799cc 32v twin-turbo V8, 616bhp @ 7500rpm, 443lb ft @ 3000-7000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 3.1sec 0-62mph, 204mph, 24.2mpg, 279g/km
How heavy / made of? 1474/carbonfibre tub, aluminium & plastic
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4507/1908/1199
Need to know

CAR's rating

Rated 5 out of 55

Handling

Rated 5 out of 55

Performance

Rated 5 out of 55

Usability

Rated 5 out of 55

Feelgood factor

Rated 4 out of 54

Readers' rating

Rated 3 out of 53

McLaren 12C Spider (2012) CAR review

By Georg Kacher

First Drives

23 November 2012 12:15

As ‘my’ 12C sparkles in the Spanish sunshine it’s at first difficult to establish that this is the Spider. Rivals from Lambo and Audi favour fabric roofs, but, like key competitor Ferrari, the team from Woking has opted for a folding hardtop, so the 12C can be a roadster when the roof is down and look and feel like a coupe when it’s up. But unlike the 458 Spider, the McLaren’s snugly fitting roof can be raised and lowered on the go, at speeds up to 19mph.

Ferrari will say that its 458 Spider doesn’t do the theatrics for the sake of safety, but amongst the posing posse this on-the-move exhibitionism is important. There’s no point pressing the transmission-tunnel-mounted roof button while yours truly is parked in the pitlane of the Ascari racetrack, so I wait until we trundle out of the paddock, to the mountainous roads that circle this sunbaked circuit.

Button-operated doors- at last!

We’ve got to get in first though, and much to the delight of frustrated men who spent as much time fumbling with the 12C’s touch-sensitive door pad as they did blundering about in their wife’s pants, a simple button now releases the dihedral doors on the latest cars. Slide a hand under the deliciously thick side crease and towards the gaping side intake, thumb a button, step back as the door comes up (taking a chunk of side sill with it to ease entry and keep your trousers clean) and then climb inside.

Press the starter button, hear the V8 bark into life, then cruise comfortably away, marvelling at how the ProActive chassis (hydraulically linked dampers replace regular coil springs and anti-roll bars) keeps the ride as supple as a Merc S-class. And then tug the little switch and remember to focus on the road and not on the automotive origami taking place over your head. The forward half of the rear deck hinges back to the horizontal, then the two-piece composite roof arcs up and folds in on itself, before tucking neatly away. The rear window rises up between the flying buttresses to act as a wind deflector, and the 17sec spectacle is complete.

What's the 12C Spider like on the move?

The soundtrack – initially packed in carbonfibre and cotton wool – is now with you, all around you, and although flooring the loud pedal in second gear in a tunnel will not wake the bats hanging from the ceiling in quite the same way the shrieking Ferrari 458 would, the installation of a new, lighter free-flow exhaust does underscore the emotional appeal of this understated two-seater from Woking. And if you don’t want the full Spider experience, you can independently lower the rear window, so you can keep the roof up but suck in earfuls of beautiful noise through the back door.

Give me some juicy stats

The weight penalty of the roof is just 40kg because no additional strengthening is needed thanks to the super-stiff carbon tub, which means there’s nothing between the 12C Spider and 12C: both hit 62mph – on the optional, stickier Pirelli PZero Corsas – in a McLaren F1-beating 3.1sec; there’s only two-tenths between both 12Cs at 124mph (9.0sec versus 8.8sec); and the Spider’s top speed is but 3mph slower (204mph plays 207mph). The Spider is no dirtier or thirstier than its sibling.

The rest of the 12C coupe’s ingredients remain, but are upgraded to the latest spec, so the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 now packs 616bhp instead of 592bhp, and there are faster and smoother changes from the seven-speed twin-clutch ’box. And rather than engine noise ramping up as you switch from Normal to Sport and then to Track powertrain modes, there’s a customisable Intake Sound Generator, so you can cruise through town with the cabin filled by intake roar, or take to the track in a muted environment.

The V8 is now freer revving, it produces more mid- to high-end urge and kicks harder at high speed, its throttle response is even faster, and it sounds better too. No 600bhp rear-driver can deliver its power so effortlessly to the road. And although a 911 GT2 might feel faster as it boosts, you crunch through the Porsche’s gearchange, then feel it smack you in the back again, where the Spider’s twin-clutch ’box snaps through the changes and it roars endlessly forward. A little tweaking means the delicate and slender metal paddles are now much lighter than Lewis H’s original super-stiff calibration, while the adjustable dampers now seem to cover an even wider range, too, from very compliant to very firm, the former much more cossetting than a 458’s ‘bumpy road’ mode, the latter ideal for the track.

Any other driving impressions?

When we drove the 12C coupe on moist, winding Welsh country roads last year, its trick Brake Steer system (in place of a heavy diff, McLaren uses electronics to prevent wheelspin and improve traction, similar to the method employed by a Focus ST’s front wheels) would occasionally cut in, seemingly out of the blue and without warning, tugging momentarily at the inside rear wheel, and raising the hackles of this road tester as the car did something that hadn’t been asked of it.

After a day at Ascari, however, Brake Steer can be perceived as more of a help than a hindrance, assisting in setting up the 12C Spider for a corner and, to an extent, ironing out mistakes such as braking a little too late or missing a turn-in point by a fraction. With the suspension set to Track, there’s zero roll, while the pop-up Airbrake’s stabilising effects can be clearly felt under braking. With stability control fully deactivated, Brake Steer won’t save you when you’re trying (and failing) to slide a Spider as smoothly as the pros…

Verdict

All in all, this is a brilliant car. It may not look as drop-dead gorgeous as the 458, and it still does not sound quite so thrilling as the Italian, but it is easier to drive fast: it retains its handling balance even on hot tyres, and it keeps evoking positive adjectives such as smooth, creamy, compliant and homogenous. Not a sufficiently enthusiastic verdict for a nine-tenths supercar? Perhaps not. But these are exactly the qualities you are looking for when it comes to control, confidence and commitment, and the McLaren 12C Spider offers these in rare abundance.

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McLaren 12C Spider (2012) CAR review

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wittgenfrog

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wittgenfrog says

RE: McLaren 12C Spider (2012) CAR review

@carmobster

I disagree with your suggestion that 'inequality' can somehow lead to growth \ creativity.  However, this is a 'Car' forum, not a political one, so I'll leave it there..

Just to be clear about the vandalism - I wasn't trying to justify it just explain it.   Politicians (of all types) stir-up then use feelings of hatred and envy to achieve their ends.

18 December 2012 11:59

 

carmobster

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carmobster says

RE: McLaren 12C Spider (2012) CAR review

@Wittgenfrog; Haha. I understand your comment, well I had many sportscars and the moment I heard that McLaren was to make another road car I had my chequebook ready. I was 16 when the F1 came out and it was my dreamcar. But when it did I was totally dissapointed it did not push the game on like the F1 and was certainly lacking any emotion. So I am not completely biased in the sense that a car has to rock my soul, Ferrari tried and failed me with the 612 and FF. But the 458, wow if I am trading in my 599 it would be with that.

 

And about vandalising the car; It is a strange world in which other people understand and/or sympathise with envy and so called inequality.

It is inequality which made man eager to invent, rise above himself and realised what they wanted. Inequality is just another word for contrast. And it is out of contrast we create the best things in life.

 

To be driving in a thing of art/beauty and to be spat on says something about their frustration, inability and complete lack of intelligence.

It is not bankers and politicians that created the crisis, it is us. Yes us. We wanted big screen flat screens on the wall and 3 holidays a year even though we could not afford it, so we borrowed the money. And the banks were just simply there to give it. Same with houses, we wanted to buy a house even though we knew we could not afford it.

Who is to blame the drugdealer or the druguser?

 

I am happy that my Ferrari 599 comes from creativeness put into action. I

18 December 2012 07:47

 

wittgenfrog

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wittgenfrog says

RE: McLaren 12C Spider (2012) CAR review

@carmobster - as a self-confessed Maranellophile (you bought a Ferrari!) you may not be totally objective! 

The fact that your Ferrari 'floats your boat' where the McLaren doesn't obviously reflects your subjective values, not some notionally intrinsic characteristic of the McLaren.  

 

I'm disappointed, but not totally surprised that some people react badly to your car.  It is a very tangible manifestation of inequality upon which they can vent their spleen.  The Politicians, Bankers and other parasites who have caused our current crisis are not available to be spat upon nor scratched. 

Not a coincidence methinks.

17 December 2012 15:34

 

carmobster

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carmobster says

RE: McLaren 12C Spider (2012) CAR review

I can't fault the McLaren 12C spider, it does everything it's suppose to do and more....and yet.....I saw one recently and it gave full throttle, and now amazingly my heart rate kept beating on steadily. I wasn't short of breath and there were no goose bumps on my skin. It was weird, I thought I might be getting old and supercars simply don't excite me no more, not the way the pretty 28 year old blond can like the one I met in the pub recently.

But then it happened. Last week there it was beside me at the traffic lights; A cliché red, Ferrari 458 Italia. It drove off full throttle. I felt short of breath, my heart was pumping like it did that night in the pub when the cute blond invited me over to her apartment. I touched my arm, full of goose bumps.

I was still at the lights. Smiling. Yes Ferrari's and 28 year old blonds can still excite me and make me feel more alive. I recently got my Ferrari 599 out of the moth balls again, I put it away 1,5 years ago because people were spitting and scratching it (yes the economic crisis in Europe seems to make people filled with jealousy and rage). Luckily I now realise that it makes me smile and happy as well as the kids I passed recently when they were cheering and taking pictures with their camera phones. I was even on Youtube. This is what a supercar is suppose to do and McLaren simply is not.

17 December 2012 14:56

 

wittgenfrog

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wittgenfrog says

RE: McLaren 12C Spider (2012) CAR review

I've never really got the "soul" argument, and have said so whenever asked, and often when not.

I don't have either the contacts nor resources to have driven any £200k cars recently, so I'm commenting solely on the spec, and the looks. Style-wise, the MP12 seems to me to do a pretty good job of epitomising where I think McLaren have set-out their stall. It's highly functional, interesting, but devoid of any "exciting" addenda. If it doesn't make the car work any better in its target role, it won't be there in the bodywork. You can compare this with Paganini, whose cars' looks encapsulate the ethos of a visceral "WOW!"., which I believe to be incorporated into the driving. The McLaren is optimised to allow you to exploit its outstanding performance without ostentation. If the tyres are smoking, you're (generally) driving it badly.


The "Clarkson" view of performance cars is inherently skewed towards the Pagani approach: a gilded interior, an exciting exterior and an extrovert approach to exploiting the performance. As I've tried to tease-out McLaren's approach is antithetical in almost every way. The simple fact that Clarkson doesn't like it that much suggests that they've succeeded.


The eagle-eyed will have spotted that I'm a fan. I'm a fan because despite his ability to garble even the simplest comment or statement in public, Ron Dennis is without doubt one of the greatest living Englishmen. He has done this by (thankfully) letting his achievements do most of the talking. The MP12 embodies his no-nonsense pragmatic approach which has taken McLaren to the pinnacle of Motorsport and will soon propel them to the front rank of specialist car-makers.

I rather suspect that as Ben hints, the true 'excitement' of the MP12 comes when you stop posing, and start driving....
 

29 November 2012 16:37

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