What is it?
The MP4-12C Spider, McLaren’s unashamed attempt to provide an alternative to the Ferrari 458 Spider, and also the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder and Porsche 911 Turbo convertible. It was planned in to the engineering process from the word go by McLaren, and as such suffers zero compromise when it comes to torsional rigidity or overall stiffness compared with the coupé MP4-12C. And it costs £195,500, undercutting the Ferrari 458 Spider by a small and not especially significant £3436.
Just like the Ferrari, the 12C Spider’s roof is a folding hard-top that disappears gracefully into the rear bodywork at the press of a button. It takes 17sec to go from fully closed to fully open, and the roof can be raised or lowered at speeds of up to 25mph. All-up, the Spider weighs mere 40kg more than the coupé, with an overall kerb weight of just 1474kg, a class best according to McLaren.
Also new for the Spider is an upgraded version of McLaren’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, featuring more power (up from 592bhp to 616bhp), fractionally better economy (24.2mpg v 24.1mpg on the combined cycle) and exactly the same CO2 emissions as before (279g/km). Peak power arrives 500rpm higher than before, adding to the sense of acceleration at the top end, claims McLaren, while removing nothing from the flow of torque, which peaks as before at 442lb ft.
Key modifications to the software of the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox have further improved the speed and quality of the gear changes, says McLaren. In its most aggressive settings the shifts are faster than ever, while in auto mode they are smoother and more intuitive than before. Not that there was a whole lot wrong with the way the MP4-12C performed or shifted gear previously.
Elsewhere, the Spider 12C is identical to the coupé in its engineering. Same steering, same suspension set-up, same brakes, same everything. And in case you were wondering, all of the various engine, gearbox and ECU upgrades applied here will become available on the coupé for the 2013 model year. Owners of earlier models will also be able to get the upgrades installed for free by taking their cars to one of McLaren’s 38 worldwide dealers.