2013 McLaren 12C Spider, faster than you think: Motoramic Drives
The McLaren 12C has a reputation for being fantastically fast, yet somewhat sterile, as well as “easy” to drive at the limit. While we can debate what’s better, Ferrari’s “passione” method or McLaren’s clinical approach, having driven the 12C Spider at Monticello Motor Club in N.Y., I can categorically confirm that if you find the 12C easy to drive fast, you simply aren’t driving fast enough.
In 1992, McLaren entered the production car fold with its infamous F1 supercar. It graced the bedroom walls of most every boy, and became the world’s first carbon-fiber road car, as well as the world's fastest. McLaren’s new P1 hypercar replaces the incandescent F1, but it was the emergence of the 12C back in 2009 that made the brand more mainstream – if you can call a $250,000 car “mainstream.” Debuting as a coupe, the 12C recently lost its roof, morphing into the 12C Spider. This modification, despite most engineers’ best efforts, usually presents a problem.
Taking the top off a car typically compromises its handling, making it soft and flexible rather than taut and stiff. For that reason, the coupe is usually the car of choice for the hardcore enthusiast who yearns every ounce of performance (or for those that sport a combover), while the convertible remains the preferred option for posers. (Or for Justin Bieber.)
The McLaren 12C Spider is different. I tested the Coupe and Spider back-to-back, and the difference is undetectable. McLaren’s on-site tester, racecar driver David Donohue, said, “those that say they can tell the difference, are lying.” What’s more impressive is that McLaren achieved this feat by effectively doing nothing. All credit goes to the hollow carbon-fiber monocoque's stiffness and strength, and the fact McLaren originally designed the 12C with the Spider in mind.
Dropping its lid entirely lightens the McLaren's aesthetics. The 12C Coupe lacked the Italian flair of a Ferrari, but with the Spider, the twin buttresses display Formula One character while emphasizing the 616 hp, 3.8-liter twin turbo V-8 that lies beneath. While most coupe to convertible makeovers look like Jocelyn Wildenstein’s botched facelift, the 12C Spider appears more Demi Moore.
From its birth, the 12C has received acclaim for being an exceptional handler. It spanks its Italian rivals when on-track during comparison tests, and handles highway driving like a GT. It truly has become a supercar you can use for your daily commute, and I know people that do. The cabin remains efficient, compact, simple and purposeful, while exuding exceptional craftsmanship. The driving position, too, is the most versatile and comfortable of any sports car I’ve driven.
Firing the V-8 is like summoning Zeus; it maintains a vague growl while emitting an enriching hum straight from the heavens. For 2013, the 7-speed dual clutch transmission’s “pre cog” feature was deemed too clunky; calibration upgrades eliminate the jolt, making gear changes via the paddle shifters as effortless as hitting the “return” button on a keyboard.
Mashing the gas, the power of the 12C is impressive. A fellow journalist said, “I knew it’d be fast, but I didn’t think it would that fast.” Turbo lag remains minimal, but once you get the revs above 2,500, the 12C rockets like a reverse bungee at a fairground.