2013 McLaren 12C Spider

There are car companies with racing programs and then there are racing programs with car companies, such as McLaren.  And to celebrate their 50th anniversary they’re dropping the top on their all-new, track-ready and race-inspired 12C Spider.

Having test-driven just about everything on 4 wheels over the past 15-plus years, it’s not every day I get to experience a car from a manufacturer in which I’ve never had any seat time.  But such is the case today as I can now cross McLaren off of my bucket list.

This convertible version of the 12C Coupe is born of the same credo as every car this English company builds – to be a racing car at heart.  And that’s no easy task considering the typical metamorphosis of a convertible.  But in this case, the 12C Spider uses the same carbon fiber MonoCell which required no extra strengthening to preserve the 12C’s supercar levels of performance and handling.  In other words, you lose virtually nothing other than the added $26,000 required for ownership.  The power retractable hard top, which also retains the purity of coupe styling, is fabricated from a lightweight composite material and lowers in less than 17-seconds at speeds up to 19mph.

This rear-drive, mid-engine, roadster, weighing a mere 3,033 pounds dry, is a track car tuned to be just as friendly going to get the groceries.  Using the same exact suspension as in the 12C, the Spider puts McLaren’s ProActive Chassis to work in one of 3 settings; normal, sport or track.  Likewise the 7-speed dual clutch transmission can be dialed into the same 3 modes.  But at the heart of the matter, is a McLaren built 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8, using a racing engine setup of dry sump lubrication and a flat plane crankshaft.  It’s light and sits low with dual exhaust outlets perched unusually high on the rear fascia.  It sees a power boost this year to 616 horsepower along with other revisions to the Intake Sound Generator, varying engine sounds inside the cabin, growing fiercer with each climb up the powertrain mode.  An optional sports exhaust system is even louder.  But don’t fret if you’ve already purchased last year’s 12C as McLaren is offering those customers all of the 2013 upgrades at no charge.  Mileage remains the same at 18mpg combined.

With a panel of world class drivers on hand and 7 Spiders of every color, McLaren provided expert instruction on Monticello Motor Club’s technically challenging 4 mile course.  From experiencing the face pulling g-force of the car’s launch control which will run to 60mph in an astounding 3.1-secondsa and through the ¼ mile in 10.8, to auctocross, hot laps and experimenting with the unique Brake Steer and Airbrake systems, there was no doubt in my mind that the 12C Spider was the most capable road car on a race track that I had ever driven.  I also drove examples with the optional Ceramic Composite brakes which kill speed with physics-defying ease.  Top speed is 204mph.  If you’ve ever questioned the importance of weight savings before I promise you the 12C Spider will change your mind.  Easily controllable with high-revving action, turn on a dime agility and everyday driving comfort – minus the awkwardness of the dihedral doors – the 12C Spider is a supercar that puts its money where its mouth is…in the case about $300,000.  With 10 U.S. retailers, McLaren is ready to service the elite with a need for absolute performance.

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