Those of you with deep pockets a need for speed, and industrial strength toupe glue have plenty of choice in the convertible supercar world. But narrowing the list down to just one is incredibly tough, especially when options include the McLaren 12C Spider, the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster and the Ferrari 458 Italia Spider. It goes without saying all three are dream convertibles with bonkers performance and looks to die for, but does one have the edge over the others? Let’s find out.
This is arguably the toughest fight to call. The 458 Italia Spider is every bit the Italian Stallion, looking powerful and purposeful from every angle. Its front end has a beautifully sinister snake aesthetic, its dramatic lines are gorgeous in profile and that centrally-mounted triple exhaust pipe is a touch of design genius. Make no mistake, heads will turn when you rumble past.
McLaren’s 12C Spider is noticeably less dramatic than the Ferrari 458 Spider, particularly when viewed from the front. But the design becomes more outlandish as you head to the rear of the car. The side is dominated by huge air intakes and the back by those high-mounted rectangular exhaust pipes. It’s a beautiful car, but it doesn’t quite tug at the heartstrings in the same was the Ferrari does.
If the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster isn’t an automotive pin-up, we don’t know what is. Its hexagon-themed exterior design, sharp edges and overall aggressiveness make it a brilliantly fascinating thing to look at. Children will think you’re Batman and adults will gaze at you in awe (or spit at you if they’re jealous) for driving something so utterly bonkers. The only black mark against the Lambo is the fact it’s not a proper ‘spider’-style convertible – it’s a roadster, which means you have to pull over and manually remove the roof yourself.
Looks are very subjective, but it’s fair to say the Ferrari is all about the flair and style, the McLaren is built more with function than form in mind and the Lambo is for people that want to show off. We love the Lambo, but that’s because we generally prefer beef to horse.
Design winner: Lamborghini Aventador Roadster
Performance & handling
The Aventador Roadster uses the 6.5-litre V12 from the coupe version and provides 691bhp and 689Nm of torque. It’s 50kg heavier than the coupe, but can still accelerate from 0-62mph in an astonishing 2.9 seconds and can hit a top speed of 217mph — even when the roof is down.
The addition of a roof mechanism adds 40kg of heft to the McLaren 12C Spider but the performance difference between itself and the hardtop is negligible. That 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 delivers 616bhp and 600Nm of torque, which is enough to hit 62mph from a standstill in 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 204mph – nothing to be sniffed at.
The Ferrari 458 Italia Spider, somewhat shockingly, languishes in third place – at least where raw straight-line numbers are concerned. The car’s 4.5-litre V8 produces a ‘mere’ 562bhp and 540Nm of torque, so 0-62mph takes 3.4 seconds and its top speed is 198mph – the same time as the tin-topped Italia. It’s still faster than almost everything else on the road but in this company, in a straight line, it doesn’t fare quite as well.
Handling is a little more difficult to call as each car is able to corner with face-sagging ferocity. We’ve driven the McLaren and it is absolutely sublime, utilising active roll control to remain stable in the bends while offering a comfortable ride on less-than-perfect road surfaces. Ferrari’s 458 Italia Spider is also incredible on the track. Despite its power deficit, there’s no way it’ll get left for dead by its rivals on a circuit, even in the hands of an idiot. Its phenomenal traction control system makes you feel like a far better driver than you are. The Lamborghini is brilliant, too. It’s arguably not as sophisticated as the McLaren, but it remains composed and controllable even with the traction control on a loose setting, and there really is no arguing with that 217mph top speed.
Performance winner: Three way tie
Economy & Environment
With just shy of 1,800 horses between them (enough to feed the entire UK) economy is bound to be in short supply. But even supercar makers understand that, while money is no object for a lucky few, it’s perhaps reassuring to know fuel efficiency is a thought – even if it is an afterthought.
The McLaren 12C Spider can pootle along and manage an impressive 24.2mpg with just 279g/km of CO2 emissions. Lamborghini uses stop/start technology and cylinder deactivation in an attempt to reduce fuel bills, but there’s no taming that V12 – it returns a paltry 16.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 370g/km.
The Ferrari 458 Italia Spider beats the Lambo for fuel efficiency with a score of 20mpg, and slots in just after the 12C with emissions of 275g/km.
Economy winner: McLaren 12C Spider
All those extra horses in the Lambo don’t come cheap. It’ll set you back a whopping £294,665, but you do at least get the fastest acceleration, highest top speed and biggest bragging rights ‘free’ with your purchase. The car comes with a theft-tracking system, sat-nav and climate control as standard, though you’ll have to fork out an additional £1,500 if you want metallic paint.
The McLaren 12C Spider will set you back £195,500. That’s a lot of money but being nearly £100,000 cheaper than the Lamborghini, it arguably represents better value for money. Okay, so McLaren thinks metallic paint should cost £3,820 on top, and even leather seats cost nearly £2,000 but it does come with a very good sound system, climate control, sat-nav and McLaren’s Active Ride system as standard. Even with a smattering of optional extras, you still would have a lot of change from £300,000 to buy yourself some track time, a sensible commuter car or a lot of fuel.
For the privilege of owning the 458 Italia Spider, you will need to part with £198,856 – nearly £30,000 more than if you went with the 458 Coupe. It’s worth it to have the wind in your hair and for people to see you better though, right?
Value winner: McLaren 12C Spider
If you crave a function-over-form supercar that is strangely economical, the McLaren is a no-brainer and at £100,000 less than the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster, it represents great value. It wins the marks in our analysis, so it’s arguably the best of the three.
Don’t discount the others, though. Anyone looking for sporting heritage above all else should have no qualms about flocking to the Ferrari. What it lacks in straight line grunt it more than makes up for with incredible handling, beautiful looks and that undeniable pedigree.
The Lamborghini isn’t the best drop top in the group. Its roof isn’t up to the standard of the other cars and it’s bleedin’ expensive, but that extra dosh gets you almost unrivalled performance. It also looks bonkers – in a good way – and the others are simply no competition in this regard.
Ultimately, if money were no object, we wouldn’t buy the Ferrari, or the McLaren, or the Lambo – we’d buy all three. Restricted to a single choice, we’d have to decide whether to listen to our heads, our hearts or our egos. Listening to our heads, we’d buy the McLaren in a heatbeat, but our hearts would lead us towards the Ferrari. If we were buying a supercar simply to show off, the Lambo is the obvious choice.
Overall winner: 12C Spider, 458 Italia Spider, Aventador Roadster Toss a coin