The convertible. It’s always had a stigma among true automotive enthusiasts. A good hard top fastback or coupe is generally preferred. Not because a folding roof makes a Camaro into a girl’s car. We do not look at a taupe top Mustang and see a VW Golf Cabriolet. It’s because a car’s roof provides a key element of structural rigidity. Take that away, and as Jeremy Clarkson once explained while reviewing the Audi R8 convertible, it’s like attaching two bricks with an index card.
But lately other supercars have begun to make a dent in this line of thought, and we can think of no two companies more suited for the job than McLaren and Lamborghini.
Reviewers, this author unfortunately not among them, tend to agree that the new sans-roof version of the McLaren MP4-12C, which they’re now just calling the 12C, has not been affected in the least, and handles just as well as the full-capsule edition. The 12C Spider, as it has been officially deemed (though we almost wish they’d called it the 12Cc), has the exact same top speed as the 12C – 204 mph, though with the top down, it’s been limited to a much more tame and pedestrian 196 mph.
This comes at the superheated hands of the 12C’s 3.8 liter V8, capable of 617 horsepower. This is a 25 hp improvement over last year’s model, and we don’t know where McLaren found those extra horses. Likely it’s a fuel map rearranging, but since McLaren’s factory looks like Tony Stark’s house in the Iron Man movies, and since the janitor and the mail boy there seem to have PhDs and debate the intricacies of theoretical physics, we like to imagine they invented some sort of time distortion device and tucked it behind their swoopy badge.
They couldn’t have placed it under the rear windshield, because as it should, it retracts with the top. But instead of folding up into the boot, it rolls down like another window, and you don’t have to put the top down to retract it. This means that when you get tired of listening to the commercial train that is the radio, you can just roll back that glass and listen to the glorious chorus of an F1-inspired engine.
And while this does much for the car’s aural image, it doesn’t do much for the look. The buttresses are a bit weird, if carefully sculpted, and let’s face it: an MP4-12C is not something to buy for its looks. Every curve on the car was designed for speed, and while it’s certainly a very pretty thing, it’s not meant to win design awards. It’s rather like the Concorde with its nose in takeoff position. It gets the job done, and better than everyone else, it just doesn’t look particularly good doing it.
On the other hand, the Lamborghini Aventador LP-4 Roadster, just unveiled this morning, is arguably the hottest convertible ever made. It isn’t beautiful like a Rembrandt or the Millau Viaduct. It’s beautiful like a woman, like a supermodel with a blackbelt in Escrima and an Irish temper.
All of this, of course, could be said truthfully about the “plain old” Aventador, but that the mad savants at Sant’agata have managed to make a convertible nearly as stunning as the original Aventador is just remarkable. Now in the old days you might have looked at a roofless Countach or Diablo the way you might look at a roller coaster that’s been neglected for 130 years, despite the fact that it stands on a cliffside. In Siberia. It’s picturesque, but you wouldn’t want to go for a ride, lest you end up the beany filling of a very expensive V12 burrito.
But now Lamborghini is ruled by a system of shadowy overlords known as the Volkswagen Audi Group, who are in the process of becoming the most powerful car company in the world. They’re very serious about this, as they are about everything. Which is why you probably won’t have to worry about your index card being crumpled between two bricks. We shall see.
All this German brow-furrowing, though, could not completely mute Lamborghini’s deranged laughter. They’ve kept the Avendator’s 700 hp V12, which will propel the tear-pumping Aventador Roadster up to 62 mph in just 3 seconds. This is, admittedly, one tenth of a second slower than the original, but unless you are a neural synapse or a beam of light, you won’t likely notice the difference. It will keep going all the way up to 217 mph. We need to wrap this up so we can go buy some stock in toupee adhesives.
Of these two finely tuned slavering beasts, we’d have to pick the Aventador on design alone. Just look at the headrests. They’re octagonal! Have you ever seen octagonal head rests?
Which one would you pick?
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.