The MP4-12C Spider is the hardtop convertible variant of McLaren's latest supercar. It features all of the coupe's virtues - epic power, race-car moves and a user-friendly nature - along with the wind-in-your-hair thrills only a drop-top can offer.
As the MP4-12C was designed from the start with a convertible version in mind, the Spider requires little structural reinforcement to compensate for its folding top - the only rigidity-enhancing measures are a pair of steel structures mounted in the buttresses aft of the passenger compartment. Weight is up just 88 pounds compared with the coupe, meaning the open-air experience is accompanied by only a slight performance penalty.
Power comes from the same beastly twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8 as the coupe. It can spin all the way up to 8500 rpm and produces 617 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. Peak twist is available at 2,000 revs, so flirting with the redline isn't necessary for strong acceleration.
Zero-to-60 mph flashes by in just 3.1 seconds, while completing the quarter-mile takes 10.8 ticks.
The MP4-12C's main structure is composed of carbon fiber, a step that helps hold overall weight to under 3,300 pounds. Amazingly, the floor structure of the passenger compartment Â— an integral part of the chassis Â— is crafted as a single unit and weighs just 176 pounds. The body panels are also lightweight due to aluminum and SMC plastic construction.
The suspension is composed of lightweight forged aluminum control arms at both the front and rear. A unique feature is a hydraulic system that replaces conventional anti-roll bars and provides a cushy ride in a straight line along with excellent cornering performance. An optional suspension lift mode that raises the front and rear of the car at low speeds to accommodate imperfect roads and steep driveways.
Looking the Part?
Criticized by some commentators for what they perceive to be a somewhat generic look, the MP4-12C Spider features traditional short hood, long rear-deck mid-engine supercar proportions. Defining cues include oversized side air intakes, and exhaust outlets integrated into the upper rear fascia.
Pull open the dihedral doors, which move forward and up, and you'll find a highly driver-focused environment with a flat-bottomed steering wheel, a thin "floating" center stack with a seven-inch touchscreen and excellent sightlines.
What's up with the name?
Despite what you might think, it's not an attempt to upstage Japanese cell phone makers. Rather, the numbers and letters do have a pretty understandable meaning. MP4 has been the chassis designation for all McLaren Formula 1 cars since 1981, while the "12" is a reference to the top echelon of McLaren's internal rating system. Finally, the C relates to the car's carbon fiber construction, while Spider is a time-honored supercar term for a convertible.
For those who want a car with mighty performance, a folding roof and double-take-inducing looks, alternatives to the MP4-12C include the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder, the Porsche 911 Turbo S Convertible and the Ferrari 458 Spider.