Along Came A (McLaren) Spider

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
along came a mclaren spider

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: .

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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  • Tjh8402 Tjh8402 on Jul 04, 2012

    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).

  • Niky Niky on Jul 04, 2012

    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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