2013 McLaren 12C Spider: another tough day at work

There are 10 things you should know about the new McLaren convertible, before you take one out for a drive.

1- The car is called the McLaren 12C Spider - the company wisely dropped the MP4 prefix, making the name easier to pronounce.

2- It has a base price of $287,200 and the car pictured here is worth $344,080 (before fees and taxes), so it costs more than my house.

3- It has a seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox, mated to a twin-turbocharged 3.8L V8 engine that produces 616 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, with power only going to the rear wheels.

4- It can sprint from 0-100 km/h in just 3.1 seconds. Top speed is 329 km/h.

5- Under hard braking, its rear spoiler stands up to work as an airbrake, which also helps stability.

6- It is quite small, measuring 177.5 inches (or 4,509 mm) in length.

7- Its entire tub is made from carbon fibre. Its MonoCell is so stiff, the car hardly needed any bracing to turn it into a convertible. Hence this Spider version weighs only 75 kg more than its Coupe sibling.

8- Its fully power-operated roof takes just 17 seconds to open or close, and can be done on the move at speeds up to 50 km/h.

9- It has swing-up doors, that make everyone go "Ooh" and "Ahh."

10- It is very, very low, so scraping the bottom of its front bumper is easy to do.

Now that we got the essentials covered, let me tell you what this car is actually like to drive.

WOODBRIDGE (Ontario) – Pfaff McLaren, the only distributor for these cars in Canada, gave me exclusive access to their latest toy, and actually handed me the key to their boss’ personal car, a Volcano Yellow 2013 McLaren 12C Spider.

As you can imagine, I was grinning like a lottery winner.

So I grabbed the key and jumped right in. Getting in is a bit easier with the 2013 model, since the 12C now actually has a rubber button to press on the door, rather than the old motion sensor system. The door opening is still smaller than you might imagine, but if the roof is down, it is easier to jump in and out of.

Once seated and settled, I pressed on the brake pedal and then hit the engine start button, and immediately the motor roars to life. This car makes angry snarls upon firing up, so it is not the ideal car to sneak out of the house in.

To get going, just press the button marked ‘D’ in the centre console and off you go. The car starts out in the auto mode, and in its comfort setting is as easy to drive as a subcompact.

After taking a few minutes to familiarize myself with the feel of the car, I switched it to its Sport mode and switched the transmission into Manual mode. Now I can control the gears through its paddle shifters.

Immediately, the differences started to become apparent. The car became louder and much sharper to my inputs. However, while it started to perform like a supercar, from a ride perspective, it was as comfortable as a luxury sedan. The 12C is possibly the most comfortable mid-engined car ever made. Some might even call it too comfortable, but McLaren wanted its car to be used every day, hence its cushy demeanor.

To really tighten things up, just switch on its Track mode. Now the car becomes even sharper, the steering weighs up, and the hydraulically controlled suspension dampers firm up. Oh, one more thing: it becomes even louder.

The louder exhaust noise is welcomed, as it makes you feel like you're in a race car. The noise adds drama to the driving experience and my grin was getting bigger and bigger.

During my time with the car, I drove it in city traffic, through tight and sweeping corners, on a congested highway, and then thankfully onto an open highway, and at no point did the car not feel brilliant.

Maybe it’s too brilliant. As a seasoned car guy recently told me, what car enthusiasts regard as "character" is often a dynamic flaw that the driver can make up for, which becomes rewarding. The 2013 McLaren 12C Spider is so flawless, you can accuse it of lacking character. Most supercars feel like they will punish you the instant you blink, the 12C doesn’t. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

My only suggestion to McLaren would be to develop a heads-up display system for the 12C, because the way it climbs speeds is so alarming, you don’t dare to gaze down to look at the instruments.

So to cap it all, it looks fantastic, goes like an interceptor missile, and rides like a luxury car. Plus, thanks to its new topless feature, you can enjoy the weather and its mechanical symphony even more.

Would I buy one? Yes, right after I win a sizeable lottery.



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