McLaren Artura is greener and sharper than its predecessor

  • McLaren’s first PHEV produces 671 hp from an electrically charged 3.0-liter V6.
  • The 7.4 kWh battery provides a range of up to 30 km.
  • The Artura is said to have an MSRP of $237,500 in the US.

    Nobody likes to lose a race, especially one where you were leading and looking victorious. We should have told you about driving the McLaren Artura last October, but the media ride was canceled just days ahead of schedule. McLaren blamed software problems for the embarrassing and no doubt costly delay – and the setback almost certainly played a role in CEO Mike Flewitt’s departure shortly thereafter. Then, to add insult to injury, Ferrari beat McLaren with its own V6-powered plug-in hybrid, the 296 GTB, relegating the Artura to second place in a segment it should have pioneered.

    Eight months later it’s time for a second try as the newly arranged Artura press launch takes place in southern Spain and offers the chance to experience the car on some of Andalucia’s spectacular roads and the challenging Ascari resort circuit. I’d like to report that there were no signs of the software issues that caused the initial move, but I can’t.

    My test car’s snazzy new user interface system shut down 15 seconds after I started driving and had to be restarted. It also failed to detect the presence of its wireless key in the cabin on several occasions. Other journalists reported similar errors throughout the driving program. McLaren says the launch cars all ran unfinished software – begging the question of what the company’s data engineers have been doing over the last eight months? – and that everything is repaired before delivery to customers begins later in the year.

    The infotainment system proved problematic.

    Chris Brown

    Glitches aside, the Artura is a huge, impressive car. It’s not the first road McLaren to use a hybrid powertrain, as both the earlier P1 and Speedtail hypercars have their turbocharged V8s powered by electric motors. But the Artura is the first McLaren to be able to drive in pure electric mode, defaulting to its EV mode when started – this is a legal requirement in Europe for a car to be considered an electric vehicle – with an official E- Range of up to 19 miles.

    All-electric propulsion offers more novelty than performance: the 94-hp axial-flow motor is almost completely silent when working alone, but acceleration feels predictably modest when working alone. Unlike many part-time EVs, the Artura doesn’t automatically start its combustion engine when the throttle is pushed past a certain point, requiring selection of one of the more punchy powertrain selector modes – these run through Hybrid, Sport and Track.

    The Artura is rear-wheel drive and, as the electric motor sits between the combustion engine and the new eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, it has to drive through the gearbox, giving it a slightly odd feeling that the system is gearing under electric to ensure the correct gear is engaged when the V6 has to start. The transition between EV operation and mixed propulsion is not always graceful, especially when sudden boost is requested when the engine is off in hybrid mode.

    The new 3.0-litre V6 has a wide 120-degree angle between its cylinder banks, revs to almost 8000 rpm and produces 577 hp of the combined system peak of 671 hp – it will always be the main partner of the powertrain. The engine sounds muffled low down – in smooth use the Artura is undoubtedly the quietest and most refined McLaren, even with the combustion engine running.

    There’s some gritty induction harmonics under small throttle openings, but there’s no pops and gurgles on a lifted accelerator pedal that supercar owners often hear. The combination of a petrol particle filter in the exhaust gas and stricter European drive-by regulations are partly responsible for this. US cars without GPFs will likely be able to breathe more freely.

    The new engine finds a harder acoustic edge as the revs increase, demonstrating enthusiasm through quantity rather than quality of noise – it gets loud but never particularly convincing. Anyone who thinks there’s never been a great-sounding non-Italian V6 probably won’t have changed their minds with this one.

    McLaren Artura interior.

    McLaren

    It’s insanely fast. The Artura sits on a new carbon fiber architecture that’s even lighter than other McLarens, and although the 194-pound mass of its 7.4kWh battery pack means it’s heavier than the old V8-powered 570S – with one Weighing 3303 pounds according to McLaren – the hybrid powerplant has no trouble delivering adjective-snapping performance.

    At lower engine speeds the electric motor can deliver torque as the turbos build boost, and while there’s still a very slight hint of lag if you’re looking for it, the overwhelming impression is of tremendous, linear boost throughout the rev range. McLaren’s otherworldly claims of a 3.0-second 0-60mph time and an 8.3-second sprint to 124mph show just how strong it is. As with a superbike, full throttle on the road is only experienced fleetingly.

    Surprisingly for any hybrid, the Artura doesn’t have regenerative braking. The company’s engineers say this is due to the challenge of seamlessly integrating the deceleration of the Artura’s standard carbon-ceramic discs with the energy harvested by the engine – although Ferrari actually did this with the 296 GTB’s similar powertrain configuration has achieved. Instead, the McLaren’s battery is charged directly by the engine when running at part throttle in Hybrid and Sport modes, and by keeping the engine running during braking at the most aggressive track setting.

    The result is an impressively solid and consistent brake pedal feel, even as it copes with the tremendous disc and pad temperatures that quickly build up with harder use. But the intensity at which the engine has to work to move faster becomes apparent when the car stops, with a haze of heat visible in the rear-view mirror from the cooling ‘chimney’ sucking hot air from the engine compartment.

    Steering is similarly unaffected by electrification, with Artura using a hydraulically-assisted steering rack in the interest of dynamic purity. Grip is tremendous and the Artura feels incredibly stable in high-speed corners on both road and track, and the steering progressively gets heavier as the lock is added. Still, the Artura’s handling balance feels more front-heavy than previous McLarens, certainly with the chassis loads that can be generated on the road (a new electronically controlled differential at the rear ensures safer traction).

    It feels less boxy than its predecessors, but also a little less exciting, and that’s true even at much higher speeds on the track. (Though it features the 720S’s Variable Drift Control system for those brave enough to go for it.) There’s certainly plenty of scope for the inevitable faster and more focused variants to follow to add more thrills.

    Butterfly doors on the McLaren Artura.

    McLaren

    Another sign of increased maturity is the Artura’s impressive ride quality. With the adaptive suspension in its softest comfort mode, it outperforms the McLaren GT that sits below it in the company lineup, absorbing bumps at high speeds without discomfort or any sense of secondary movement. Even selecting the firmer Sport or Track modes doesn’t get harsh on bumps. A front-lift system is fitted as standard to keep the nose off speed bumps at low speed, although the controls to activate this are awkwardly placed in a panel with other similar-looking knobs.

    Elegant, ventilated sports seat in the McLaren Artura.

    McLaren

    The Artura’s interior also feels like an evolution of McLaren’s previous cars. It’s still a struggle getting in and out through the gullwing doors, although no doubt most buyers will be happy to sacrifice practicality for the hassle. But the cabin is well-finished, roomy by two-seat supercar standards, and a comfortable place to spend time. When working, the Android-based interface is intuitive to use and the 10.2-inch portrait touchscreen in the center looks good despite being surrounded by a very thick body.

    The Artura is said to have an MSRP of $237,500 in the US, and McLaren now offers three years of free service and the security of a five-year 45,000-mile warranty. Let’s hope the finished car’s cured software issues mean owners won’t have to take advantage of that too often.

    specifications

    Engine:2993cc twin turbo V6 plus axial flow electric motor

    Transmission:8-speed dual clutch, rear-wheel drive

    Perfomance:585 hp at 7500 rpm (engine), 671 hp (system total)

    Torque:431 lb-ft at 2250 rpm (engine), 531 lb-ft (system overall)

    0-60km/h:3.0 seconds

    Top speed:205 mph (electronically limited)

    Weight:3303 pounds

    Price:$237,500

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