By Matt Degen
After decades of proving its mettle on racetracks, McLaren recently began taking on cars such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis in another, equally competitive setting: the showroom. Introduced in 2012, the MP4-12C establishes McLaren as a legitimate player in the elite world of track-ready supercars. A mid-mounted V8 engine that now makes well over 600 horsepower is at the heart of the McLaren's enviable performance figures, while a supple 2-seat interior and a surprisingly refined ride help make this quarter-million-dollar car more livable than others in its rarified air.
If you want a supercar that can stand out even among, well, other supercars, the 2013 McLaren 12C is ready to do so with jaw-dropping looks and the performance to back up its racing pedigree. On the pragmatic side, it's relatively easy to drive, too.
With so few models on the road, McLaren does not have a dealer and service network as established as others. If you want a car that's about as fast but is easier to attain both monetarily and literally, Porsche, Audi and Jaguar dealers would be happy to scratch your supercar itch.
2013 marks the second year of production for the MP4-12C coupe and the first for the MP4-12C spider (convertible) variant, which has a retractable hard-top roof. It returns with a more powerful engine – now tuned to make 616 horsepower – revisions to its transmission responsiveness, and expanded paint, leather and wheel options.
Driving Impressions Even with all its power and performance abilities, the MP4-12C can be a tame beast when you want it to be. It's a supercar that won't fuss about trips to...the market. In "normal" mode, the chassis quells rough roads with ease. Switch to "sport" or "track" settings, though, and the McLaren becomes another car. Suddenly, its compliant ride and smooth shifts from the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission are replaced by a ferocity that leaves no doubt about the racecars that inspired the 12C. Turbo lag from the compact V8 engine is nearly nonexistent. The McLaren 12C coupe has a 0-60 mph time of three seconds flat, with the Spider just a tick slower at 3.1 seconds. The MP4 corners with devastating precision and makes even novice drivers look good thanks to a system that applies brakes when needed to help keep you – and the car – in one piece.
LUXURY RIDE QUALITY
Many cars can go fast and many more can be comfortable cruisers. Few do both laudably. Thanks to the McLaren's sophisticated design and engineering, the 2012 MP4-12C has a Jekyll and Hyde personality that enables it to hit 205 mph on a track and still be livable in stop-and-go-traffic.
FOLDING HARD TOP
The new 12C Spider gives you the best of two worlds: The joy of open-air motoring in fair weather, and the security of a hard top when Mother Nature turns foul. The secret is a 2-piece retractable hardtop that raises or lowers in less than 17 seconds and at speeds up to 19 mph.
Getting into the McLaren isn't exactly an elegant affair. The upward-opening doors are a nice touch, but you still need to drape yourself across the wide doorsill before finally settling into the low seat. Once inside, though, the car is quite comfortable. The two seats are appropriately bolstered, and to McLaren's credit there is even cargo space on a bench behind the seats in addition to the cavity up front near the bumper (remember, this is a mid-engine car). Directly in front of the driver is the large oval instrumentation that will let you know when you're traveling at jail speeds. Spider models feature a rear glass panel that can be lowered to let in more engine noise.
The McLaren has more curves than a supermodel and skin as scintillating as one. Massive air intakes define the MP4's sides, while even the vertical-opening doors are a work of design magic. Up front, long and trapezoidal headlights are reminiscent of Ferraris, and the rear boasts high-mounted exhausts that howl from above, not below, the bumper. The McLaren's mid-mounted V8 heart, meanwhile, is displayed under a panel of glass for all to see. Spider models have a 2-piece retractable hardtop and dual-purpose tonneau that protects the retracted roof or, with the roof up, covers a small cargo space.
The 2013 McLaren MP4-12C comes with a twin-turbocharged V8 engine, a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with manual capability, 19-inch wheels in front and 20-inch wheels at rear, bi-xenon headlights, cruise control, a 7-inch touchscreen monitor, dual-zone climate control and a Meridian 4-speaker sound system with AM/FM/USB/hard drive and iPod integration. The coupe and Spider also feature a unique Intake Sound Generator system that lets drivers vary the amount of engine noise entering the cabin.
The McLaren can be taken to even higher heights with carbon-ceramic brakes (nearly $14,000 alone), power-adjustable seats, parking sensors, custom interior trims including Alcantara, an upgraded audio system with satellite navigation, and exterior bits that include carbon-fiber engine panels. An upgraded exhaust system that's lighter and louder than the standard one can be had for even more aural pleasure. A "Stealth Pack" doesn't make the car invisible, but rather finishes the rear airbrake and exhaust pipe in a polished metallic finish, with the aim of giving the 12C a more aggressive rear.
The heart of every McLaren MP4-12C is a twin-turbo V8 engine that has now been tuned to make 616 horsepower, 24 more than the previous year (owners of 2012 models are offered a complimentary upgrade). All that power is transferred to the rear wheels via a dual-clutch 7-speed transmission that can shift automatically or manually via F1-style paddle shifters. In a car that weighs around 3,000 pounds, all this ferocity makes for a vehicle that can hit a top speed of 207 mph and blast to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds.
3.8-liter twin-turbo V8
616 horsepower @ 7,500 rpm
443 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000-7,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/22 mpg
At over $240,000, the McLaren 12C coupe isn't exactly a good choice for folks who enjoy practicing self-denial, or for those who might be interested in using that kind of cash to buy something more pragmatic. Like a house. The topless 12C Spider variant adds even more to the bottom line, with a starting price around $268,000. Options on this car can quickly add up to tens of thousands more, easily pushing this car beyond a quarter-million dollars. At these prices, the MP4-12C is comparable to a Ferrari 458 Italia, about $40,000-$50,000 more than a base Lamborghini Gallardo and Aston Martin DB9, and well over $100,000 more than the Audi R8's starting price. Be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for the 2013 McLaren 12C. Since the 2013 McLaren 12C continues to be made in limited in quantities, we expect its value to hold up well in the years ahead.