McLaren MP4-12C Spider

The McLaren Spider gives our reviewer the ride of a lifetime

Price: £195,000
Engine: 3,799cc, V8 cylinders, 32 valves, 625bhp at 7,500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed double-clutch sequential gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 207mph, 0-62 in 3.1 seconds, 24.2mpg, CO2 279g/km

Forgive me if, for a moment, I sound like a spoilt motoring journalist. So-called supercars, sleek and loud machines which occupy the fantasy garages of otherwise sane people, don't automatically "do it" for me. I can't see the point of these unusably fast and entirely impractical machines, which are ridiculously over-specified for a quick spin along Britain's backroads.

Just occasionally, though, an ultra-car comes along which shakes even cynical old me out of my what's-the-point stagnation. You're looking at one now.

This new McLaren MP4-12C Spider is the most thrilling muncher-up of real roads, the most viscerally astounding conqueror of corners and annihilator of straights, that I have experienced in all the years I have been writing about cars.

Given the road space and a suitable guardian angel, this McLaren will do things I have never quite dared to make a car do before. Even better, you can feel and hear much of the magnificence even without going ridiculously fast.

It's not just that it will scorch round corners, it's the way it does so, helping you all the way, always predictable and friendly. This is where the McLaren differs from, say, the Ferrari 458, which is its most obvious rival. The Ferrari offers full aural theatrics, ultra-quick responses and superlative agility, but there's a slightly artificial feel to its drama and a sensation that you have to take some of its abilities on trust.

By comparison, the McLaren feels almost super-real even though it, too, uses electronics to keep it stable and some aural-effect manipulation in its engine. The difference in these enhancements is the key. McLaren's "brake steer", as used in Formula One, nudges individual brakes as required to help point the car where required. Combined with active hydraulic suspension, which gives an astonishingly supple ride while keeping the McLaren near-level in corners, the result is a car which almost melts into the road.

This model, you will notice, can expose its passengers to the elements. The MP4-12C was launched as a coupé a year ago, but a Spider was always promised. This is it, with an automatically retractable roof which, when closed, makes available a secondary boot space, which might be useful for a long weekend in the rain.

The exhaust system, meanwhile, has been honed for aural effect over the already improved coupé system, because with the roof open you're in a particularly good position to hear the result.

Yet it is not a total success. There's a lot of wind-buffeting at speed, and the view in the interior mirror is restricted. Also, the Spider costs £19,000 more than the coupé. That said, it uses the same ultra-stiff carbonfibre structure and feels just as solid, with none of an open car's typical shudder over bumps.

As for the engine, one small criticism of the MP4-12C as launched a year ago was that it sounded a touch too "clinical" and its response to the accelerator was not quite as natural as it should be. This is now fixed, along with changes to the double-clutch, paddleshift gearbox, which now shifts with breathtaking immediacy; in combination with the engine's explosiveness, it triggers a whole new kind of excitement.

So, would I have the Spider over the coupé? This is a car to thrill beyond all others, and with its sonic delights, the Spider thrills even more. Wind in the hair it is, then.

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?