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Flagship McLaren drop-top makes debut Down Under

Spider bait: McLaren’s 720S Spider is the British company’s fastest, most powerful and most expensive convertible to date.

McLaren takes advantage of Australian Grand Prix to show off its new 720S Spider

14 Mar 2019

MCLAREN Automotive has rolled out the red carpet to prospective Australian buyers of its new top-shelf drop-top, the 720S Spider, in Melbourne during Australian Grand Prix week as it prepares to start local deliveries of the $556,000 before on-road costs weapon in May.


Newly minted head of McLaren for Asia Pacific, Rob Pritchard, declined to say how many orders had been taken to date for the latest Spider, saying only that interest had been strong.


To show off the first 720S Spider in the country to potential customers, the company hired a venue in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond, just a few kilometres from the Albert Park grand prix circuit where some McLaren customers are enjoying the efforts of McLaren’s Formula One racing team this weekend.


The Spider slides into the nine-model range alongside the closely related 720S Coupe, sharing the latest 4.0-litre version of the McLaren twin-turbo V8 that packs 537kW of power at a hyperventilating 7000rpm, along with 770Nm of torque at 5500rpm. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is also standard.


Losing the roof adds about $40,000 to the cost of your 720S, but the price goes up exponentially once you start ticking boxes for extras such as the electro-chromatic glass roof panel that adjusts the sunlight with the push of a button. The standard issue is tinted glass.


The new Spider is about $45,000 dearer than the previous McLaren drop-top champion, the $511,000 650S Spider that packs 478kW and 678Nm from its previous-generation 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8.


Despite a 49kg weight penalty over the coupe, the new Spider is claimed to match the coupe’s 0-100km/h sprint, clocking 2.9 seconds and a 341km/h top speed, at least with the folding roof up. Dropping the top apparently knocks 16km/h off the peak velocity.


McLaren claims the kerb weight of 1467kg is 88kg lighter than its nearest rival, the Ferrari 488 Spider that, for reference, is priced at $526,888 and is powered by a 492kW/760Nm 3.9-litre V8.


Like all McLarens, the coupe and Spider are both based on a race-style carbon-fibre tub – dubbed Monocage 2 – but with modifications on the Spider to allow for the folding carbon-fibre-framed glass roof that that disappears into a compartment over the mid-mounted engine in a best-in-class 11 seconds when driving at up to 50km/h.


This retractable top meant the removal of the coupe’s fixed carbon-fibre reinforcement ‘spine’ over the roof. Despite this, McLaren says the Spider required no extra reinforcement, although the ‘flying buttress’ elements behind the cockpit that double as roll over protection required modification to accommodate seatbelt mounts and the roof mechanism that involves 10 electric motors.


McLaren employed weight-saving carbon-fibre in place of steel reinforcement in these buttresses that, on the Spider, even include a glass panel to improve rear visibility to the point where McLaren says it is the best of any such super convertible. A lower rear deck also helps.


Because the open roof alters the aerodynamics at high speed, the active rear spoiler automatically adjusts to keep the car glued to the tarmac.


The dihedral doors – they open up, not out – have been modified to allow for the removable roof, although this means less headroom during entry and egress. The Spider’s doors are frameless, like those on most convertibles.


The 720S Spider gets McLaren’s active suspension that is said to deliver a compliant ride with precise body control. Three settings – comfort, sport and track – can be selected.


Speaking of choices, the Spider can be ordered in the same three specifications as the coupe: standard, performance and luxury. The 23 colour choices include two fresh shades for the Spider, Belize Blue and Aztec Gold.

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