McLaren's topless 12C Spider is most alluring in the way it moves
Sizzling Spider The McLaren 12C Spider is not perfect but it is certainly a sexy animal. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

Once in a while, along comes a car that makes you feel you should have done better in school, laughed more at your bosses' jokes and queued at property launches before the cooling measures.

The McLaren 12C Spider is one such car.

Not because it is perfect. As arresting as it looks, it has its fair share of niggles that have dogged most British cars from time immemorial.

For a compact racer, it has a wide turning circle. Its engine emits a trailing screechy note each time you lift off after hard acceleration (in fact, the cabin is filled with a whirr that sounds like a rodent in a constant state of arousal).

Its reverse gear does not always engage the first time. Or it could be the stodgy brake pedal, which does not respond to light pressure.

And its elegant swan doors have to be slammed shut hard - otherwise the windows won't go up and you can't activate the locks.

No, this Spider is not perfect. But that's the beauty of it. Despite all its shortcomings, you are drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Uh, maybe that's not an appropriate analogy but you get the drift.

First off, it is a beautiful machine, with its roof either up or neatly tucked away. This is a feat not many cars with a foldable hard roof can pull off. At the moment, I can recall only one other: the Ferrari 458 Spider.

Like the 458's canopy, the McLaren's roof folds away very quickly, with minimal movements. It comes back up the same way. And you can activate the mechanism at speeds of up to 40kmh.

With the roof up, you can make use of a small storage compartment in the rear. Otherwise, there are 144 litres of stowage under the bonnet.

In the car, there is hardly any space for anything. There is a small tray behind the slim centre console but that's about it. It is a tight cockpit with tight seats.

The McLaren's weakness is, however, also its strength.

Its compactness accentuates the car's other handling-enhancing attributes - a tarmac-hugging chassis, a mid-engine configuration and an extremely rigid monocell construction.

The Spider has the surefootedness of its arachnidan namesake. There is no hint of unnecessary body movements, which makes piloting this two-seater such a pure driving experience.

And you do not even have to go fast to savour this. But doing so is definitely recommended (on a circuit, of course).

Doing it with the roof down is also highly recommended. This way, the frequencies that distort cabin acoustics disappear. In their place, you get the immediacy and impact of the car's engine and exhaust notes. And they sound absolutely wonderful this way.

Unlike in many topless cars, your hair does not fly into a tangled mess, even at highway speeds, thanks largely to an effective wind deflector.

Like the coupe version, the Spider offers different drive modes: normal, sport and track. And there is a choice to select each for the powertrain and the chassis.

For Singapore roads, a track suspension set-up is definitely too bouncy. So it would have to be sport. But even in normal mode, the car's handling is superb.

Track mode for the powertrain is certainly the most steroidal, bringing out the hardest of hard-core repertoires from the car's lethal 625bhp power plant.

Yet the Spider remains well-behaved and a joy at the wheel. Even when it begins to slide (track mode switches off the car's traction control), it is easy to correct.

No, it isn't a perfect car but it sure moves like one. And of the handful of cars I would buy (if I had the dough), this is definitely one.

 

CAR INFORMATION

McLaren 12C Spider 3.8 (A)

Price

:POA

Engine Type

:

V8 32-valve DOHC dual VVT

Engine Cap

:

3,799 cc

Horsepower

:

616 bhp

Torque

:

600 Nm

Transmission

:

7-speed (A) SSG

Acceleration

:

3.1 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

329 km/h