Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Be in no doubt, the 12C is still in the top supercar performance division, but with a colder track temperature than when we tested the coupé in 2011, and on regular P Zero rather than P Zero Corsa tyres, the Spider hit 60mph in 3.4 seconds, adrift by 0.1sec of the 2011 coupe. That is no shame, and no great surprise given the rubber at work. 

It’s still a car that can reach 100mph in a little over seven seconds and a standing km in 20.6sec, by which time it’s travelling at more than 160mph – behind the 12C coupe by a fraction you’d consider negligible, given a four percent increase in power on one side, but the three per cent increase in weight, less sticky tyres, inertia of the cast iron brakes and denser, cold air, on the other. In the same conditions, and with the same brakes and tyres, the 12C is a quicker car now than it was then.

It’s also a louder one. It idles 2dB more noisily, a margin extended to 3dB by the time it’s a flat-chat in third gear. Have the recalibrations made it a more visceral noise, though? Partly, but you can’t – and this is a theme we’ll come back to – change the fundamental nature of the 12C with minor tweaks.

The 3.8-litre, Ricardo designed engine has not been altered in character by changing its amplification. It’s still ruthlessly efficient, it still has two turbos and still, probably as a result, it sounds less thrilling than a Ferrari 458’s unit.

A Mercedes-AMG SLS too, you feel, has been subjected to greater depths of subjective sound engineering. Roof down and with a tunnel ahead, we suspect a 12C would most people’s third choice for a full throttle run.

McLaren 12C Spider 2012-2014 news

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An area where we appreciate efficiency over “character”, however, is in gearbox functionality, and the reduction in required weight to click the steering-wheel mounted paddles (originally set-up to replicate Lewis’s weekend wheels, but not so rewarding on the street in a road car). Gearchanges themselves, too, feel more satisfying now than they did – though whether that’s operation or because the paddles are an easier flick is harder to say.

Given the nature of a turbo, however, downshifts still aren’t greeted with the same crisp throttle “brap” of the Ferrari 458’s motor – though have the measure in speed of the lazier but endearing SLS’s V8 donkey.