Road Test: 2014 McLaren 12C Spider
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The only missing element was the Houston countdown as I pressed the launch button on the McLaren 12C Spider. Left foot planted on the brake pedal, right foot goosing the gas, the twin-turbocharged V-8 spooled for my imminent catapult across the asphalt. Six seconds and 200 yards later, I felt lighter, having expelled all the available air in my lungs through an irrepressibly giddy scream.
The fact that I was doing this in a convertible speaks volumes for McLaren engineering and its Formula 1 racing legacy.
Being on a track, I was, of course, driving with the roof locked in place and a helmet strapped to my noggin. But the Spider, which was designed in parallel with McLaren Automotive's fixed-roof 12C coupe, comes with almost no performance penalty. The 0-to-62-mph acceleration time is the same, lickety-split 3.1 seconds.
The greatest penalty, in fact, is the price. The Spider costs about $30,000 more than the $231,400 coupe -- but that's pennies for McLaren's rarefied buyership.
Designed as a track car that's civilized enough for the street and, now, versatile enough to allow tanning at Mach speed, the 12C Spider has been available in the United States since January. The British supercar maker produces just 1,800 units annually.
Entering the two-seater Spider through its dihedral doors requires a gymnastic level of limberness to avoid impalement from the sharp angle of the steeply raked windshield, which, once you're settled in the low-slung and cocooning cockpit, offers great visibility.
The car is powered with an upgraded 616-horsepower engine, which uses a pair of small, quick-spinning turbochargers to nullify discernible turbo lag and provide more boost at lower revs.
Stomping the brake pedal at speeds above 62 mph instantly activates the F1-derived rear wing that ordinarily nestles in the car's hindquarters and only glides into place to quicken slowdowns and to keep the car's rear end from lifting.
For street driving, the rear window can likewise move up and down, regardless of the roof's position. With the roof lowered, the rear glass automatically finds the most aerodynamic position to reduce buffeting.
For 2014, in-cabin technology has been upgraded with a center console swipe screen that is vertically oriented, similar to a smartphone. It can be operated by touch or with a voice-recognition system. McLaren's personal assistant is known as Iris, and the voice is male.
Driving the Spider on the street, Iris occasionally scolded: "You are over the speed limit." Buyers of the McLaren 12C Spider are likely to hear that often.
2014 MCLAREN 12C SPIDER
Base price: $265,750
Power: 616 horsepower at 7,500 rpm
Torque: 443 pound-feet at 3,000-7,000 rpm
Maximum speed: 204 mph
0 TO 62 mph: 3.1 seconds
62 TO 0 mph braking distance: 101 feet
Weight: 3,033 pounds
Wheelbase: 105 inches
Length: 177 inches
Manufacturer-estimated fuel economy: 24.2 mpg
Bottom line: British thrill ride