By on July 3, 2012

The McLaren MP4-12C may be a supremely competent and accomplished sporting supercar, but only someone with a creepy, shiny-vinyl Lewis Hamilton signature Vodafone pit-crew shirt would pick one over the Ferrari 458 or Lamborgini Gallardo. It’s a bland, generic-looking wedge that was named after a secret “performance factor” number using calculations known only to McLaren. Not since Pontiac named a car the “6000STE” has nomenclature been so uninspiring, and since the Audi R8 offers twice the visual drama for about half the money it’s easy to see why the MP4-12C isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. The old SLR “McMerc” may have been a claustrophobic sauna that was frighteningly vulnerable to its much cheaper SL65 AMG sibling in a straight line and at risk from the even more prole-oriented SL55 AMG around a racetrack, but at least it looked like something interesting.

Just like the SLR, however, the MP4-12C is being top-chopped to pique a bit of consumer interest. It must absolutely grind the gears of the faceless androids working at the McLaren Technology Centre that they have to add eighty-eight pounds of folding hardtop to their marquee road car, just to make sure the average Russian gangster puts one in the garage next to his Aventador, but as the English say: “Needs must when the devil rides”.

While your humble author has never been terribly sympathetic to the English side of the never-ending Ferrari/McLaren battle, particularly after the way Fernando Alonso was treated in the team during his stint, it’s depressing just how much the company seems to misunderstand the supercar market. The MP4-12C is undeniably rapid, but that really matters about as much to the real buyers of these cars as the Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport’s stellar 0.84g skidpad figure did to the average single mother who bought one used. Supercars have to look special, and they have to be viscerally desirable. Ferrari and Lamborghini have McLaren beat six ways to Sunday on this. Sure, your Gallardo Superleggera might not be able to keep up with an MP4-12C, but which name would you rather pronounce at the valet in front of your targeted Slovakian supermodel? The McLaren seems to primarily appeal to people who play Gran Turismo, and since Nissan has already found out what the limits of that market are for an $85,000 car, it’s no wonder that the American buyer pool for a $265,000 car is shallow. Oh well.

Press release excerpts and gallery below:

McLaren Automotive announces today the launch of its second vehicle in the MP4-12C family: the new 12C Spider; a variant of the 12C. The 12C Spider is lightweight with a high powered engine which boasts 616 bhp, a unique Retractable Hard Top (RHT) folding roof system, and a carbon ‘MonoCell’ chassis identical to that of the groundbreaking 12C coupe. The 12C Spider is a luxury convertible sports car that offers a unique combination of spectacular performance with remarkable usability.

The new 12C Spider will be priced from $265,750* in the US and is now available to order from McLaren retailers across the globe. First deliveries to customers are planned for late December/early January.

Best-in-class performance
The 12C Spider’s impressive 616 bhp output from its bespoke 3.8-litre V8 twin turbo engine is transmitted to the car’s rear driven wheels through a 7 Speed SSG dual-clutch transmission, which itself provides lightning-fast gear changes through rocker-mounted shift paddles affixed to the rear of the steering wheel. A clear view of the 12C Spider’s lightweight M838T power plant is available through a glass screen positioned behind the tonneau cover.

Vehicle dynamics technology including Brake Steer, ProActive Chassis Control and the unique McLaren Airbrake combine to offer sublime comfort in all driving conditions; and yet deliver race car performance and handling on track.

Technical specification highlights
McLaren is a carbon fiber pioneer. In 1981 McLaren gave a debut to a carbon fiber monocoque chassis in Formula 1 with the launch of the MP4/1 race car, and in 1992 the legendary McLaren F1 introduced the advanced composite technology to the world of road cars. It was natural then for McLaren Automotive engineers to apply its carbon fiber expertise when developing the groundbreaking one-piece molded chassis of the 12C. Its 165 lb ‘MonoCell’ requires no additional strengthening for it to feature in the 12C Spider. The result is a sports car almost identical to its fixed roof equivalent in performance terms, and weighing only 88 lbs more with the addition of a convertible roof system.

Behind driver and passenger sits a rear windscreen which may also be electronically lowered and raised. With the roof lowered this acts as wind deflector to minimize disturbance to the 12C Spider’s occupants. With the roof raised the rear window can be lowered, allowing the exhilarating noise of the 12C Spider’s V8 twin turbo engine to flood the cabin on demand at any time.

With the roof raised the area under the tonneau can be used as an additional luggage area which provides useful storage space. Bespoke luggage (two soft bags) has been designed specifically to fit this space and is supplied as standard with every 12C Spider.

The 12C Spider also features a passive Roll Over Protection System to maximize occupant safety. Each buttress contains a steel structure designed to absorb impact energy and protect both driver and passenger.

Creating one in a million: 12C Spider personalization highlights
Launched in Volcano Red – one of 17 exterior paint finishes currently available for the 12C and 12C Spider- both 12C derivatives will also be available in optional Volcano Yellow, a striking new paint which features in the ‘Elite’ range of exterior finishes.

Inside, an exclusive new interior trim has been developed for the 2013 model year 12C and new 12C Spider. High-quality, semi-aniline perforated leather and Alcantara may be selected in a variety of combinations to suit an owner’s personal taste.

A new wheel design, and ‘Diamond Cut’ finishes for existing lightweight and super lightweight forged wheel designs may be selected for the 12C Spider. Standard Silver or Stealth finishes are offered for all wheel designs.

Vehicle Lift will be available as an option on 2013 model year vehicles. The system allows the 12C Spider to be raised front and rear for improved ground clearance.

Prospective customers and sports car fans alike are encouraged to visit the new 12C Spider online configurator, and discover a range of exciting options that may be specified in literally millions of unique combinations. The 12C Spider configurator is now live at: www.configure.mclaren.com .

US Base MSRP does not include options; federal, state or local taxes; license, titling, registration or transportation fees. Vehicle specifications and MSRP are subject to change without notice. Destination and port processing is $2,500, and is not included in the base MSRP.

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32 Comments on “Along Came A (McLaren) Spider...”


  • avatar
    The Doctor

    The MP4-blahblahblah may look “boring” when compared to some of its peers, but it’s the only one that will look half-decent in 15 years time.

    When the F1 came out people said it looked like a stickleback next to the tropical fish that were the EB110 or Diablo but it’s the only one of the 80/90s supercars that hasn’t dated as much as Don Johnson’s wardrobe (although I’m aware that some people still hold a torch for it…)

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      There are a couple of holes in this plot. You can’t compare the MP4 to the F1.

      First of all the F1 was heads and shoulders above its competition. Hell to this day I don’t think any road car beats its power to weight ratio. It even beats the Veyron in that regards. So it was truly special in a way the MP4 isn’t.

      Second of all, plenty of supercars from the 80s/90s have aged well. More importantly, I would say most Ferraris/Lamborghinis from 93-98 (i.e. when the F1 was on sale) have aged well. F355? 360? 456? 550? F512M? The only dud from Ferrari was the F50. And the Diablo was + is what Lambo is all about.

      JB is right, there seems to be a real disconnect between McLaren and the real world, and between the folks who would buy an MP4 spider and McLaren. The whole thing is kind of sad.

      • 0 avatar
        The Doctor

        I’m not comparing them mechanically, only visually. I would also argue that the only Ferraris from that era that still look contemporary are the 355 and 456. As for the Diablo, it’s quite amusing but as dated as they come.

        Back on the central point, that a supercar without a LOOK-AT-ME design is pointless, consider the R8. It certainly has a design that still turns heads and yet its main rival is not the Gallardo or the McLaren, it’s the 911. Having a design that now fades into the background has proven to be no impediment to Porsche’s sales figures.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        The 911 design screams P, not nameless wedge. It’s as recognizable a shape as the Coca-Cola bottle.

        Anyway, is the McLaren any faster in the real world than similarly priced Ferraris? The GTR at least redeeems itself by being frightfully fast, which over time will make people associate it’s peculiar design elements as go-fast ones. Just like they have learned to do with the 911’s shape. But for this, the McLaren needs to stay “the fastest”, for enough time to slowly imbue the others with the taint of all show, no go; relatively speaking at least.

  • avatar
    mjal

    That steering wheel looks like it could have come out of a Pontiac Fiero!

  • avatar
    economist

    I like the styling of the McLaren over its peers. It reminds me of the great-looking cars of the 90’s.

  • avatar
    Topher

    I don’t have the money for this category, but I can’t imagine the people that do will drive any car from this category at the limit. Top-end specs are then more about bragging rights, which were only ever important for the teenage crowd (or the adults that never left that mentality).

  • avatar

    I like its looks, but it’s the technology in this car that sells me. I would honestly probably pick it over the 458.

    -Carbon chassis
    -Twin turbo flat plane V8
    -Hydraulic active suspension
    -McLaren makes it

    And it’s all racing technology instead of shitty voice activated navigation, or mood-controlled windshield wipers or whatever.

    You could spend all day just checking out the bits under the wheel wells and bonnet. And you can drive it. I would cream myself.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    $265,000 sounds like an excessive amount of dough for “only” 616 horses (almost 3X the cost of a Vette ZR1), I thought stupidly to myself, until I read the following paragraph:

    Inside, an exclusive new interior trim has been developed for the 2013 model year 12C and new 12C Spider. High-quality, semi-aniline perforated leather and Alcantara may be selected in a variety of combinations to suit an owner’s personal taste.

    Hands down, it has a better interior than the ZR1.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand the thesis of this post at all.

    There’s a convertible version. So?

    Didn’t you own two Boxsters?

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      By downplaying the MP4-12C vs. the Gallardo Jack is trying to refute this guy’s argument that Lamborghini has lost its man card.

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/hype-and-hypertrophy-how-lamborghini-lost-its-man-card/

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      The premise should have been that the convertible is a damn sight better looking than the coupe. The whole visual argument is lost when the convertible looks, well, great. I’d still have a 348 Italia, because it is a Ferrari, and these things matter. Plus its even better looking.

  • avatar

    Also the SLR was a 5.4 and more 55 than 65.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The SLR shares so few parts with either SL it’s barely worth mentioning. The block is supposedly the same in the SL55 and SLR engines, but I’ve had a Mercedes tech tell me they don’t look the same.

      Having driven all three on the track, I can attest that the SLR is very much unlike the SLs, also. It just won’t necessarily put a hurting on an SL55 on many road courses.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    The Diablo’s styling was ruined by Chrysler, who insisted on a much more conservative look than Lambo’s original design by Marcello Gandini. Gandini hated the look.

    My guess is if the Diablo looked how Lamborghini wanted it to, it wouldn’t look nearly as dated as it does today. The Miura and the Countach are as cool looking as ever.

  • avatar

    I like the approach McLaren appears to have taken with MP4-12C… substance over style. I haven’t driven one, but everything I’ve read about it indicates that it hits a real-world supercar sweet-spot, and only comes up short on looks and “excitement factor.” But Jack’s right: nobody cares that its computerized suspension doesn’t needs roll bars and is based on a design that was banned from rallying, or that its engine (allegedly) has the highest horsepower-to-C02 emission ratio of any on the market. Those are boring achievements appreciated only by the nerds who labored tirelessly on them.

    What people do care about is that the car is less fun for jaded autojournos, who mostly just care about getting the latest supercar sideways in hopes of giving readers big glossy photos of smoky heroics. And lucky for these hard-working souls, bashing something like the Mclaren makes them sound real tough and discerning. Hence: the “it lacks character/soul,” and “it’s video-game like” memes.

    But here’s the real problem: you can’t actually exploit any car in the MP4-12C’s class on the road, and people generally take cars like this on track to play rather than try to set seriously fast times. So in a way the supercar-connoisseur-olists are right to bash a road car that’s as focused on real-world-fast as the -12C. It’s not just a valet-poseur problem, road car performance has improved to the point where it can’t be an end to itself anymore. At that point, why not just buy a badge?

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The problem with a substance over style approach with a supercar is supercars are supposed to be emotional… style over substance. All substance does is sell more magazines. Style makes the little kids drop their toys and follow a car down a street with their eyes, and give golddiggers an easy beacon to flock to. Which to me, is really what a supercar is all about.

      I mean if you have the $$$ to track an MP4, you can probably buy an outright race car or something truly demonic like an Ariel Atom V8 or something in that vein, which would run laps around the MP4, be more engaging AND cost less money.

      I am with Jack on this one. This car is just a little silly + not very honest or defined in its purpose.

      • 0 avatar
        The Doctor

        If it were only about style and emotion, Ferrari would have just stopped at the 275 GTB.

        The fact is that performance is the most easily quantifiable metric for car one-upmanship and the easiest way of justifying the increased cost of new models over old ones.

        The same goes for SUVs – the Land Rover Discovery and Toyota Landcruiser are incredibly capable off-road but will never be taken even close to their limits by most owners. The knowledge that they could is just part of the marketing appeal.

  • avatar
    rwb

    Everyone says this car looks “generic” or “boring” or lacks style in some way. I’m going to need this spelled out because it sure looks like a supercar to me. I see a more interesting, detailed shape than a Gallardo, and something far less bulbous and complicated than a 458.

    Perhaps we need a Vellum Venom on this.

  • avatar
    Vance Torino

    Yup, watch out for those people in “creepy, shiny-vinyl”!

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/ttac-track-days-with-jack-baruth-episode-1-hyundai-genesis-coupe-3-8-track/

    Love ya, Jack. Happy 4th of July!
    Nothing says America like explosions, traffic jams, and a self-mutilating union on strike!

    http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2012/07/03/timing-makes-it-hard-to-identify-with-strikers.html

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Ahem… that is awesome shiny-vinyl.

      You know the stuff i mean…. all the McLaren clothing that looks like it comes from a future where

      A) everything must be as skin tight as possible

      B) women are extinct.

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    I agree 100% with Jack. Cars in this class are like 1000cc sportbikes….totally useless on the street. Unless you’re a track addict, the only reason to buy these vehicles is to shout at the world, “Look at me and be awed by how fast I could go if I wanted to.” The McLaren is so bland it almost looks like an 80’s kit car.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    While I can’t afford either, it’s my belief that if I could I’d love to have a McLaren, but wouldn’t want the Slovak Supermodel. I personally like the look of the hard top or spider, and believe the looks may hold up as well as those of the NSX.
    Saying that lap times are irrelevant in a car class that is measured by what some theoretical competent driver could do if it ever saw a track isn’t supportable. Each supercar needs a bragging metric. Top speed, track time, skidpad G’s, whatever; it needs something to brag about. I once passed a Lambo on a winding canyon road that didn’t want to be passed in a freaking Integra. I’m not fast, he was just incompetent. That seems to be the norm with supercars I see. Bragging rights about what someone else could do in the car rule.

  • avatar
    MattMan

    Jack: Give us some detail about how you saw the “Alonso at McLaren” fiasco. I watched that whole season, and I’m still not sure what I saw.

    On the one hand, Alonso was surely hired to win WDCs. And had McLaren done some of things he asked for, he surely would have won his 3rd on the trot.

    OTOH, apparently one of the things Alonso wanted was for McLaren to hold Hamilton back. And that’s not the way McLaren does things. Or is it?

    Prost had some interesting things to say about how he was treated in his last year at McLaren(though he was mostly talking about Honda). Michael Andretti has talked about some things that he said in retrospect were “very peculiar”. And then there’s the infamous Tommy Byrne test.

    So, if you have some time, more detail por favor.

    (Man, y’all need a Truth About Motor Racing section to this site!)

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      My feeling on it was that Mr. Dennis couldn’t decide which one of his drivers he wanted to favor: the superstar or the homegrown boy. He chose the latter, but the latter wasn’t quite ready to win yet.

      As you noted, an Alonso with a well-supported second driver is currently a 3x WDC, just like Senna.

      As Dennis noted in China, “We weren’t racing Kimi, we were racing Fernando.” So Kimi won.

      McLaren lost at least one world championship out of that, and they should have lost two, since Lewis’ win came courtesy of Timo Glock being a moron.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    Not everyone buys a supercar to turn heads. Some just want exquisite engineering. This car isn’t as exciting as an Italia, but it complements spectacular ability with enough comfort to drive daily. What else qualifies for that accolade? A 911T, a ZR1, and a Veyron, perhaps. Not a lot else. Certainly not the Ferrari. It’s also the fastest in this class and far less common than the others. Were I in the market, it would be very high on my list, probably competing with Noble’s M600.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    As someone who reveres the McLaren F1, this car is a let down and there are so many things that could have been done better with it. I think that the biggest problem is that this is a car of no superlatives. The F1 was both a work of art and science, being the singular vision and dream of the greatest race car designer of his generation. It will always be Gordon Murray’s creation. In an age where cars are designed by comittee, focus groups, and accountants, there were no compromises. Murray was given more or less free reign. No expense was spared (witness the 24kt gold engine bay plating). The F1 may have had a simple alphanumeric name, but it’s a combo that conjures up everything from the fastest road racing cars on the planet to the most powerful engines man has ever created that took the Saturn V to the moon.

    It also had the performance to back it up. A car with the curbweight of a Miata but 5-6x the horsepower. A top speed record that stood for nearly a decade, and which it won by almost 20 mph. An unearthly sound from its engine. The most perfect driving position. You could drive it to the store to do your shopping, yet it’s one of the last cars that with minimal modifications could go out and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans (witness that people now buy GTR’s and convert them to street cars because they’re cheaper than the original road car).

    One of the things I love about the Ferrari 458 is that it returns Ferrari to the world of superlatives among sports cars. Highest revving engine available in a street car. Highest specific output of any normally aspirate engine currently offered. More power than any street going Ferrari except the Enzo V-12 family, including the sainted 288 GTO, F40, and F50. Fastest shifting gearbox (I think) of any car on offer. And yes a shape that looks good in pictures but is absolutely breathtaking in person and a sound you’ll never forget.

    The MP4-12C has none of these qualities (except maybe an overall specific output record but I’m too lazy to do the comparison math with a 997 GT2 RS right now). Hell, the MP4-12 Formula 1 car finished a lowly 4th in the constructors with 14 retirements and only 3 wins in the 1997 season. With as many storied, championship winning cars that McLaren has made, you would have thought they could have named it after one of those (the MP4/4 that won all but one race in 1988 would be my choice, especially since those “in the know” about racing would recognize the significance of the name, similar to the R8 for Audi).

  • avatar
    niky

    It may just be me… but lopping off that roof finally makes the MP412c’s styling work. Elevates it from bland to pretty nice.

    Still not a sexy name. They should call it the McLaren Victoria Beckham or somesuch.

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