The first of a new generation of McLarens. It is a hybrid supercar, which combines twin-turbo power with an electric motor and plug-in capacity. McLaren says it’s not a replacement for the Sports Series (570S et al), but come on, it is. This will be the entry-level hybrid McLaren. Expect an upgraded replacement for the 720S in due course, using this technology but with more power and equipped with technical features that the Artura is denied.
It doesn’t look much different, does it?
It’s an exercise in familiarity: the nose, Sports Series flying buttresses, indeed the overall stance, proportions and even the McLaren orange color of this one. Enough to make it difficult to figure out if this is a new car – which should make it a tough sale for existing customers considering upgrading.
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And if you only read the highlights, the underpinnings don’t seem much different either. It is built around a two-seat carbon tub (now called the McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture), with a twin turbo engine bolted to the rear and driving the rear wheels via a dual-clutch gearbox. So far, so familiar. It seems to be the same basic kit of parts that underlies almost all other McLarens.
So you have to look for the differences. A 3.0-litre V6 instead of a 4.0-litre V8, and it’s not like they’ve cut off just a few cylinders – the lean angle has been changed from 90 degrees to 120 degrees, the turbos have been moved in. Only a handful of bolts were carried over. The gearbox now has eight gears instead of seven, the space for which was found by the lack of a reverse gear – which is only handled by the electric motor. The 94 hp, 166 lb ft, 15.4 kg electric motor is mounted in between and draws power from a 7.4 kWh battery pack behind the seats. The V6 makes 577 hp and 431 lb ft from 2,250-7,000 rpm for a total of 671 hp and 531 lb ft.
I think this sounds rather familiar?
You are not wrong. A ‘hot vee’ V6, 7.4 kWh battery, electric reverse, two-seat cab, electronic differential, plug-in capability and more means the tech package is very similar to the Ferrari 296 GTBs. Both firms say they are not rivals, and given the Ferrari has 140 more horsepower and costs an extra £50k you might agree.
hmm. The biggest difference is the carbon chassis fairing of the McLaren. It is brand new, now produced in-house at McLaren’s new MCTC (McLaren Composites Technology Centre) in Sheffield. Weighing just 82kg, it has greatly increased strength and stiffness and contributes significantly to the Artura’s 100kg weight advantage. 1,498 kg (DIN, dry weight is 1,395 kg, compared to Ferrari’s 1,470 kg on the aluminum chassis) is impressive for a plug-in hybrid supercar.
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Can you drive electric?
You can, up to an official 19 miles (call it 12), but there’s no rain brakes – McLaren didn’t want electric recuperation to interfere with pedal feel. The whole front end is as analogous as it gets, with double wishbone suspension, adaptive dampers and hydraulic steering. We’ve had some minor issues with stock carbon-ceramic brakes (see the Riding section), but no complaints about the handling or the way it handles corners. It is only about 60 kg heavier than the old 570S.
No fast charging, however (instead of 2.5 hours to get to 80 percent), meaning the battery is recharged by the motor along the way. There are modes to help you with that, but unless you’re taking short daily trips on e-power alone, the Artura isn’t a frugal hybrid.
How is the quality?
Ah, that old chestnut. It’s been a McLaren bugbear since the days of the 12C. Well, there’s an all-new Ethernet electrical architecture, which reduces the weight of the wiring harness by 10 percent because it requires 25 percent less cables. It also allows over-the-air updates (one of which will be wireless phone mirroring support – you must be connected at this point). Our car still regularly refused to recognize the key.
However, the quality and habitability of the cabin is great. It’s more luxurious than the old Sport Series, better insulated, wrapped in more tactile materials, there’s thoughtful storage and visibility is good – especially to the rear. Go to the Interior tab for more information about this.
Does he drive like a McLaren?
Hybrid helps immensely as instant e-power overlaps the turbo lag – as a result you have torque when you want it, no need to question the mid-range lag. It’s super fast (0-62 mph in 3.0 seconds, 124 mph in 8.3 seconds, 205 mph top speed), but doesn’t feel as explosive as the Ferrari (2.9 seconds, 7.3 seconds and ‘more than’ 205 mph).
However, there is little downside or downside to being a hybrid. It’s still light (not much heavier than a V6-no-hybrid Lotus Emira, in fact) and has that familiar precision, natural purity and athleticism that we’ve come to love from McLarens. It covers professional ground, delivers impressive feedback and confidence and feels immensely capable. And when you leave roads behind, it hurtles down a track with astonishing composure and speed. The V6 even sounds good.
What is the verdict?
†Hybrid power is smoothly integrated and the Artura is very easy going. However, it feels like it has been fed back†
The concern is that the Artura doesn’t visually do enough to inform potential buyers of the progress being made underneath. Nor are the technical specifications if you just skate through it. In fact, it doesn’t even come across as a revolutionary step forward to drive.
Instead, this is McLaren that integrates the technology and does it very smoothly. We would have liked to see fast charging and brake regeneration to improve efficiency, maybe a bigger kick from e-power too. But this is a very easy supercar to handle. Perhaps not as lively, explosive and alert as a Ferrari 296 GTB, but a more thoughtful daily driver, and at £189,200, over £50,000 cheaper.
If we have a critique, it’s that the Artura feels somewhat constrained, being tethered to achieve certain performance parameters. It’s no secret that the same parts kit will support the replacement of the 720S, with more power, probably more e-functionality, plus additional dynamic elements such as active aero, hydraulic suspension and four-wheel steering. The Artura has to play second fiddle to what comes next. For now, he is sending McLaren into the hybrid era with confidence and capacity. Too bad it will be difficult to recognize it.