McLaren 720S Spider Dec 2018 image 001

McLaren 720S Spider: Performance Necessary, Roof Optional

  • The McLaren 720S Spider is remarkably similar to its stablemate, the 720S.
  • The Monocage II-S is one of the most impressive things about the Spider’s design.
  • However, wait until you see the tinted/transparent roof feature. 

To make a good car even better, remove the top. Or so goes the old saying, and it’s one I usually agree with. In this case, we’re talking about the new Spider variant of the already impressive McLaren 720S. People really do seem to love this car, and the specs of the McLaren 720S Spider are very impressive.

McLaren says this new Spider mirrors the Coupé in almost every aspect and that’s fair.

So, what’s the drop-top like?

Power & Performance: A Similar Story

Basically, the 720S Spider is a match to its hard-top brother, the 720S. It’s powered by the same 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, designed and built in-house by McLaren. That’s good enough for 710 bhp and 568 lb-ft. of torque and, for the Spider, a power-to-weight ratio of 533 bhp/ton. Impressive as one would expect.

This all adds up to a zero to 60 mph time of 2.8 seconds, same as the 720S Coupé. 124 mph is reached in 7.9 seconds, and the whole thing tops out at 212 mph with the roof up, 202 mph with it down. Either of those figures are attention grabbing, but hitting the double ton with the wind in your hair must be something.

McLaren says the new 720S Spider is the “most accomplished convertible supercar ever from McLaren” and I’ll take them at their word. Although the qualifier there, “from McLaren” does away with pointing out convertibles that are even faster and quicker, like Porsche’s 918 and the Ferrari 458 Speciale Aperta.

McLaren 720S Spider Dec 2018 studio image 02
McLaren describes the drivetrain of the 720S Spider as a “longitudinal mid-engine, rear-wheel” design. Photo: McLaren Automotive.

Essential Foundations: The Heart of the Matter

McLaren is right, however, to crow about their Monocage II-S. Essentially, the Monocage is like a roll cage you’d bolt and weld into your car, but it differs in two important ways. First, it’s made of carbon fiber, so it’s lighter and just as strong, and two, the Monocage II-S is the car. Everything connects to the Monocage; you sit inside its cozy confines, secure in the rollover protection it provides.

In the case of the Spider, it’s worth pointing out how the Monocage needs no additional strengthening over how it’s designed and integrated into Coupé. In other words, the Spider is just as stiff as the Coupe.

Impressive McLaren, very impressive.

The carbon fiber body structure is bespoke, of course, and built in-house (McLaren must have autoclaves all over the place). Normally, drop tops weigh more than their hard top counterparts. This is true for the 720S Spider, but not all that bad. Dry, the McLaren 720S Spider tips the scales at 2,937 lbs., just 108 lbs. more than the 720S Coupé. Nice!

McLaren says their new Spider is “194 lbs. less than the dry weight of its closest competitor,” but they don’t say who that is.

McLaren 720S Spider Dec 2018 studio image 01
The McLaren 720S Spider lets drivers choose between three handling modes: Comfort, Sport, or Track. Photo: McLaren Automotive.

Fast Car Magic

Another neat trick is how the panels and such comprise the retractable roof itself. For starters, the flying buttresses are glazed and transparent. This significantly ups the visibility (practical) and highlights the aerodynamic cleanliness of the design. They also say it increases downforce, but never elaborate beyond that.

The roof itself, or the “carbon fiber roof system” as McLaren terms it, is patented (natch), electrically-actuated and lowers (and closes back up) in 11 seconds, up to 31 mph. That’s nice, and dropping that top while on the move is everso stylish. However, someone needs to tell the boys from Woking the Ferrari Superamerica from 2005 could flip its lid in nine seconds flat.

Another trick they cribbed from the Ferrari Superamerica is the retractable hard top on the McLaren 720S Spider. It’s available glazed, with an electrochromic glass panel that can rapidly switch between tinted and transparent. This is like those eye glasses that darken as needed, only the driver controls how dark, or how transparent the roof is.

Pricing & Availability

So, how much? Very much. Prices for the McLaren 720S Spider start at $315,000. The 720S Spider is second new model under McLaren Automotive’s Track25 business plan.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

McLaren 720S Spider Gallery

Photos & Source: McLaren Automotive.