First things first, the ride: which is beautifully supple and well-controlled, just as we found when we initially tested the coupé. The McLaren 12C Spider isn’t just the best-riding supercar out there. It’s not just one of the finest riding sporting cars around. It’s simply a car with exceptional ride quality, full stop.

There are luxury cars – not all with four rings on their bonnet – that do not ride as well as this. It’s remarkable and one of the reasons, by all accounts, that McLaren owners are drawn to using their 12Cs when other supercars might stay locked away.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Editor-at-large
The McLaren struggles to be as playful as some of its rivals, like the 458

The 12C Spider also enjoys the quite superb trait of feeling – as is promised – every inch as rigid as the coupe, which drivers of the 458 and, certainly, the SLS, are unlikely to find.

But of more interest to us is whether the changes McLaren has made – primarily to the throttle response – have made a considerable difference to the handling balance. Because? Because it was that fundamental balance, in part caused a turbo lag that led to the front-end pushing on, that denied the 12C coupe the same immediacy of limit-adjustability as a Ferrari 458.

And that, as much as anything else, was what held the coupé back from its final road test half-star, rather than any deficiency in some undefined “personality” trait.

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the McLaren range

Driven this week

  • DS 7 Crossback E-Tense 2019 first drive review - hero front
    15 November 2019
    First Drive
    DS 7 Crossback gains a new flagship plug-in hybrid four-wheel-drive powertrain
  • Mazda 3 2019 road test review - hero front
    15 November 2019
    Car review
    The Japanese firm puts its new-age petrol engine in the fourth-gen family...
  • Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro
    14 November 2019
    First Drive
    Mercedes-AMG’s V8 sports car gets a hardcore chassis makeover but remains...

This time around? It’s improved, certainly. Around our dry handling circuit, the extra resistance to power-on understeer meant that, even on P Zero rather than Corsa tyres, and even on a day so cold that there still lay lumps of snow trackside, which were melting into trickles of water across the fastest corner on the circuit, the 12C Spider was just 0.3sec slower than the coupé, even with iron brakes as opposed to carbon items.

For the record, we threw on a set of Corsa tyres like the ones we tested in 2011, and the Spider went 0.5sec quicker again. No question, McLaren has made an extraordinarily fast car faster still, around the same circuit, faster again over a Ferrari 458 Italia than it was two years ago.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, though: fast isn’t everything. Despite the decrease in understeer - and despite a beautifully weighted steering system that’s the measure of any car – a 458 still gives its driver a more on-limit options, is sharper still when it comes to entering and exiting neutrality or oversteer. It is, by a fraction worth mentioning, more exciting to drive.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the McLaren range

Driven this week

  • DS 7 Crossback E-Tense 2019 first drive review - hero front
    15 November 2019
    First Drive
    DS 7 Crossback gains a new flagship plug-in hybrid four-wheel-drive powertrain
  • Mazda 3 2019 road test review - hero front
    15 November 2019
    Car review
    The Japanese firm puts its new-age petrol engine in the fourth-gen family...
  • Mercedes-AMG GT R Pro
    14 November 2019
    First Drive
    Mercedes-AMG’s V8 sports car gets a hardcore chassis makeover but remains...