Our favourite supercar spawns a convertible that proves its performance equal
Even in McLaren’s earlier days, when it wasn’t quite on top of the car-making world as it is now, it still made a darn good convertible supercar with its 650S Spider, and the 12C Spider before it.
The strength of McLaren’s carbonfibre tub meant a conversion from coupé to convertible could be made without sacrificing stiffness and by adding little weight. It thus avoided the main pitfalls that have usually made a convertible supercar a slower, heavier and less good-looking version of the coupé on which it is based.
Now the 720S Spider has arrived to carry on that rich open-top bloodline. Its official brief is to be the ‘most complete convertible supercar’; if it matches its credentials, then it should be the more desirable version of the world’s best supercar, the 720S coupé, and the one you’d probably buy.
The coupé’s dramatic dihedral doors have been lost to allow for the addition of the retractable one-piece hard-top roof. But this development means all of the coupé’s structural strength has been retained.
The 720S Spider weighs just 1332kg dry, which is lighter than the current class featherweight, the 1420kg Ferrari 488 Spider, and only 49kg heavier than the coupé. Dry, the old 650S Spider weighed 1370kg.
Key components such as the twin-turbo 710bhp 4.0-litre V8 engine and the advanced hydraulic Proactive Chassis Control suspension set-up make it over from the coupé, the two cars sharing a 0-60mph time of 2.8sec and a top speed in excess of 200mph. The Spider will go 202mph even with its roof down.
This is one seriously quick car, from off the line and while accelerating; another quite remarkable stat is its 0-124mph time of just 7.9sec, which is only 0.1sec shy of the coupé. This is no poor relation in the performance stakes, and you’re only made to pay for the marginal weight gain when you’re long past speeds at which you’d lose your licence anyway.
This powertrain loses points for noise, the twin-turbo V8 lacking any real aural soul, and proves surprisingly quite droney even in top gear on a motorway cruise, thus not exactly encouraging you to put the roof down.
One thing the 720S Spider is very good at is cruising. The ride is very comfortable for such a potent supercar, the kind you can cover big distances in and still feel ready for more. But then that shouldn’t really be a surprise in a McLaren any more, and yet you’re still taken aback with how sophisticated it all is.
Where McLaren really broke new ground with the 720S coupé over the 12C and 650S was how it married that ride sophistication with new-found handling verve, excitement and dynamism.
And we’re happy to report that this is something else that’s carried over from the coupé to the Spider – the car is fast, fun and involving, but also approachable. Whereas many a supercar is intimidating, the 720S Spider encourages you to go faster and find your limits; it displays wonderful poise and urgency, the chassis and powertrain working in harmony and all controlled through the throttle. The hydraulic steering is beautifully weighted too, with real accuracy and feel.
The 720S Spider also displays improved usability over the 650S Spider as a convertible. The roof opens and closes faster, in just 11sec – a 6sec improvement – and at speeds of up to 31mph, instead of 18mph previously. Both front and rear visibility are improved, the latter due to the lower rear deck and the glazed buttress.
So in almost every department, the 720S Spider has lost nothing over – and is the dynamic equal of – the coupé on which it is based. It has even gained extra desirability.
McLaren is at the very top of its game at the moment.
An optional glass roof turns opaque to near transparent at the touch of a button, flooding the cabin with light in the process. MT
Engine V8, 3994cc, twin-turbo, petrol
Power 710bhp at 7500rpm
Torque 568lb ft at 5500-6500rpm
Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Kerb weight 1468kg
Top speed 212mph
Economy 23.2mpg (WLTP combined)
CO2, tax band 276g/km, 37%
Rivals Ferrari 488 Spider, Lamborghini Aventador Roadster