FIRST DRIVE : McLaren Artura Hybrid Tested

  • PROS
  • The brilliant new V6 turbo hybrid
  • Great chassis
  • Fresh new interior
  • CONS
  • New styling does not move the brand on
  • Could do with extra exhaust tweaking
  • Taking off in silent EV mode takes some getting used to

When you press the start button on a supercar, you are usually greeted with a “bwoah” sound from the engine bay and a wave of vibration as the power unit springs to life. The McLaren Artura, the brand’s first-ever plug-in hybrid, is the first supercar I’ve driven which makes no noise when you flick the starter button. Just silence. This is the first in a new generation of McLarens. In fact, pressing the start button engages the car’s default mode—or electric mode—allowing the driver to make a quiet, stealthy departure early in the morning late at night, without disturbing the neighbors, and with no emissions.

The Artura employs McLaren’s first V6 twin turbo hybrid.

The Artura is all new

When I tested the car late last year at Fuji Speedway near Tokyo, I headed out of pit lane in “E mode,” with just a barely audible whir of the electric motor in the background. To be honest, the smile-inducing sound and vibration of starting a supercar used to be a highlight of the driving experience, so the “shhhhhh” start of the Artura took some getting used to. But then again, as all supercars will end up like this eventually, I suppose we’d better start getting used to it, and quick. 

The interior has also been totally redesigned. An 8-inch touchscreen sits on the center console and looks is newer and cooler overall. It can control the air conditioning, audio, ADAS, etc., and is also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Audio from the venerable British acoustic brand Bowers & Wilkins is also standard. The upward-opening doors, which open straight up, are 19 inches narrower when opened in order to accommodate door operation in tight spaces.

Make no mistake about this new McLaren. It’s all-new, not just the stealth E-mode. Its exterior design is new, as is its powertrain—which is the brand’s first V6. The Artura also employs a new 8-speed DCT, a new chassis, a new interior, just to name a few.

The Artura does not really take the design language forward enough.
The writer gets ready for his turn in the Mclaren.

The old V8 is out and a V6 twin turbo is in

The Artura does inherit strong design hints from previous McLarens, like the 720S, but bluntly speaking, what the exterior offers is not really new.  The new PHEV is definitely not as refreshing as its main rival—the Ferrari 296 GTB hybrid. Replacing the outgoing 4.0-liter V8, the Artura gets McLaren’s first mid-engined, 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbo on a rear-wheel drive layout built around a two-seat carbon tub and mated to a plug-in hybrid powertrain called the High-Performance Hybrid (HPH). The 15.4-kg electric motor generates 94-hp and 166 lb-ft, taking power from a 7.4kWh battery pack located behind the seats. The V6 produces 577-hp and 431 lb-ft for a grand total of 671-hp and 531 lb-ft, with the power being channeled through an 8-speed twin-clutch gearbox.

Air outlets, called chimneys, have been fitted above the engine bay to dissipate heat from the turbochargers. Acceleration from zero to 62 mph takes only 3 seconds with a 205-mph top speed. Since the car is combined with a plug-in hybrid, acceleration from standstill, merging on a highway, or even overtaking are instantaneous and pleasingly quick. For the record, in fully electric E-mode, the car has a range of 19 miles and can drive at up to 80 mph.

The cockpit is new and offers up-to-date tech.
Drivers can choose from 4 modes including electric mode.

Driving the Artura

The V6 twin-turbo and motor combination transmit power smoothly and effortlessly, with torrents of go juice available in any rev range. The electric motor helps to cancel out the inherent turbo lag and deliver instant throttle response. We tried all four drive modes: “Electric,” “Comfort,” “Sport,” and “Track,” and were impressed with Track mode which allows drivers to really find the limits of the car. As I left the pit in E-mode, I slowly accelerated to around 20mph, when the engine fired up, joining the motor in proving propulsion.

The steering is one of the highlights of the Artura. Its steering feel is as close to perfect as can be, set with just the right amount of weight and response from the tarmac. Turn in and the car follows your chosen line with a precision that’s hard to find on other supercars. Meanwhile, pedal feel rigidity, and stopping power of the massive six-piston brakes pulls the car up on a dime and generates driver confidence.

The doors open upwards and offer a smooth action.

However, unlike the “MP4-12C” I drove 11 years ago, the suspension was firmer. The MP4-12C was so supple and compliant that you could ride it to work every day. While suitably damped, the Artura, however, was noticeably stiffer even in Comfort mode.

Priced at $237,500, the Artura is considerably cheaper than the Ferrari 296 GTB. It employs many firsts and new technology like the V6 engine and plug-in hybrid system, in addition to a completely new interior, but unfortunately, it does not do enough in the visuals to communicate these upgrades to potential buyers. Or the sound department for that matter. The Artura could also do with some extra exhaust tuning to add even more spice to the driving experience. 

CONCLUSION

This new McLaren is a great car. There’s no doubt about that. It’s quick, handles superbly, and has some wonderful new tech. But supercar owners will have to get used to the silent ‘motor-only’ treatment when pushing the start button and when accelerating away from a standstill. It’s kind of like getting used to drinking your first few mouthfuls of champagne without bubbles. You will get used to it. You’ll have to—because by 2030, every supercar will either be a hybrid or an EV.

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