2013 McLaren MP4-12C Spider
2013 McLaren MP4-12C Spider
2013 McLaren MP4-12C Spider. Click image to enlarge

Review by Michael Bettencourt, photos by Michael Bettencourt and courtesy McLaren

Bowmanville, Ont. – It’s nice to know people. Especially people who rent out former Formula One tracks, and then offer them up to try out with super exotic 300+ grand sports cars. That’s exactly what Pfaff Motors did for its McLaren Toronto clientele, when its current MP4-12C owners as well as some potential buyers were invited out to have some high speed fun with their cars, as well as sample the brand’s first convertible, the MP4-12C Spider.

A few hardscrabble auto scribes were also invited out to sample McLaren’s new wind tunnel on wheels, with the opportunity to push the car to its limits at Canadian Tire Motorports Park, or at least as close to them as one’s self-preservation instinct would allow. Which for me, worked out to a flash at 242 km/h at the end of the long, uphill back straight, according to the car’s thankfully large digital speedometer, before a hard foot to the floor stomp on the brakes, and a quick sharp breath reminding me that the goal is to make it out in one piece, not to see any big number.

New company, long history

For non–Formula One fans, perhaps a bit of back story is in order on why a company you may know little about is now commanding three hundred large and up for its mid-engine two-seat sports cars. McLaren has been the main challenger to Ferrari’s supremacy on the high-tech F1 circuit for more than a generation, with some lean years for both during spells of supremacy by Williams and more recently Red Bull Racing. But it’s fair to say that McLaren and Ferrari have been the dominant race teams in the competition for the last 30 years.

Particularly successful was McLaren’s run in the late 1980s to early ‘90s, with multiple championships and utter domination of the series. That success on the track led McLaren to produce its first-ever road car, when McLaren technical director Gordon Murray was put in charge of developing a new supercar for the street that would challenge its bitter track rival for the hearts and lambskin wallets of Ferrari’s wealthy clientele. The result was the F1 supercar, a three-seat exotic still revered by supercar enthusiasts to this day for its futuristic technologies, relatively light weight and incomparable performance from its 618 hp V12 engine.

2013 McLaren MP4-12C Spider2013 McLaren MP4-12C Spider
2013 McLaren MP4-12C Spider. Click image to enlarge

The McLaren F1 was the first new production vehicle that cost over $1 million, paving the way for a new breed of seven-figure exotic cars that transcend the merely ‘super,’ and include vehicles like the modern Bugatti Veyron, upcoming Ferrari LaFerrari and McLaren’s own successor to the F1, the P1.

Thus the McLaren MP4-12C qualifies as two things: 1) the fastest “entry-level” model for any brand, ever; and 2) the most awkwardly named supercar ever – and that’s even before the inevitable ‘special editions’ start coming.

At least the convertible version receives the Spider moniker, so for at least as long as the company decides not to make any other convertible, this car is the McLaren Spider.

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