McLaren 12C Spider (© Rick Wait)Click to enlarge picture

McLaren 12C Spider

Two years after McLaren took the wraps off the exotic MP4-12C at the Gooding auction during the Pebble Beach weekend, the company has returned to the same venue with the next chapter in the MP4 book, wherein the supercar takes on new life as a convertible.

McLaren's new 12C Spider met with rousing approval when the curtain dropped in the center of the Gooding & Company auction tent — not surprising, given the enthusiastic nature of this crowd. It didn't hurt that the new Spider practically glowed with its special volcano yellow paint.

The 12C Spider features a retractable hardtop that can be opened in just 17 seconds, even while the car is moving. And this car can move. With 616 horsepower generated by its 3.8-liter twin turbo V8 engine, it can reach 62 mph in just 3.1 seconds on its way to a top speed in excess of 200 mph.

As McLaren Automotive Managing Director Antony Sheriff pointed out, "You haven't lived until you've felt the wind in your hair at 204 mph."

McLaren built the MP4-12C with the idea of making it a perfect balance between a track car and an everyday driver. The transmission is a 7-speed dual-clutch SSG transmission that allows for very fast shifting — even for a novice driver — and features such as Brake Steer, ProActive Chassis Control and the unique McLaren Airbrake are designed to make the MP4 relatively easy to drive.

The 12C Spider will start at $265,750 in the United States and is now available to order from McLaren retailers around the world. First deliveries to customers are planned for early 2013.

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Perry Stern began his automotive career more than 20 years ago as an advisor at a vehicle consulting firm. One of the original staff members of CarPoint, Microsoft's automotive Web site that launched in 1995, he became an editor of the site in 2002, which is now known as MSN Autos. Stern has also contributed to MSNBC and various MSN properties in Canada, Japan and Europe.