What is it?
It’s brilliant, that’s what. Oh, are we getting a bit ahead of ourselves? Well, this is the convertible version of McLaren’s MP4 12C coupe, complete with a folding hard top that tucks itself away in 17 seconds at up to 19mph. So far, so standard.
What makes the McLaren stand out from other convertibles (including Ferrari’s drop-top 458) is that, thanks to the toughness of its carbon tub, it needed no additional strengthening. Which means it’s every bit as stiff and rigid as the hard top and only weighs 40kg more.
What this means is that the Spider drives identically to the coupe. Identically. There is not a trace of chassis shimmer, no extra steering kickback and not even a hint of extra vibration in the rear view mirror. It’s uncanny. And it handles with exactly the same confidence-inspiring accuracy as the coupe, and since it has the latest 2013 upgrades, including an extra 24bhp, you really, really don’t notice the extra 40kg.
What you do notice is a lot more noise. Arguably the Spider’s best feature isn’t the roof itself, but the electric rear window, which fulfils the role of wind deflector when the roof is down, but acts as a volume control for the V8 twin turbo with the roof up. Keep it raised and the V8 is nicely muted and cruising a breeze. Lower it and you’re exposed to epic levels of aural brutality.
What’s more, the loss of the roof seems to have made the McLaren less uptight and clinical. It’s somehow more exuberant now, more characterful and fun. It’s one of the true greats.
On the inside
As far as the cabin design goes, nothing has really changed. But then nothing needed to. The Spider feels like it’s been built and designed to F1 standards – it’s great to spend time in and the ergonomics are superb. The satnav works and it’s great, while seats, steering wheel and pedals are all perfectly placed. That wheel is a pleasure to grip, too.
Special mention for practicality here: because the roof design meant losing the rear parcel shelf, McLaren came up with something called buttress bags. These are rollup sacks that store in the buttresses, but, when packed, store in the roof void (you have to keep the roof up, naturally), adding 52 litres of capacity. Make no mistake, McLaren has thought of everything – this is a great car to live with.
And to own. Yes, the extra £19,500 over the coupe is a not-insignificant amount, but it’s well, well worth it. McLaren expects 80 per cent of buyers to opt for the convertible. And the brand has just added even more appeal: it’s now being replaced by the 650S Spider. As this 12C is already a 10 out of 10 car, they must be having kittens in Maranello right now...