McLaren’s work of hybrid art — the supercar Artura

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McLaren Automotive celebrated a decade in South Africa in 2021. A great deal has happened in that time, but the biggest takeaway from its auspicious commemorative celebration was that McLaren is indeed an ambitious sports car brand. 

While the MP4-12C — later dubbed just 12C — was the seminal car in the new era of McLaren’s product portfolio back in 2011, it was perhaps the P1 hybrid hypercar a year later that got the competition to sit up and pay more attention. Here was a lightweight (1 395kg dry weight) carbon fibre-hewn hypercar with biblical outputs totalling 674kW and 900Nm. It was quite the marvel, even by today’s standards.

Such learnings have influenced the future of the brand’s products and have culminated in the company’s latest car since the 12C, the new Artura. Decidedly replacing the Series range of sports cars in the firm’s lineup, the Artura is the proverbial step forward and the next chapter in the company’s electrified future ambitions. 

You see, many of the Woking outfit’s future models will be spun off the Artura’s modular platform, so a lot is riding on this first model out of the starting blocks. 

We travelled to Mallorca, Spain, to sample the new model and see whether the company has done enough to push the performance envelope. Many will argue that the overall silhouette and facade of the Artura are akin to the outgoing 570 S with hints of the 720 S up front. 

I can definitely see the comparison, but then again, McLaren seems to have found its own design language that threads through its entire product range. Those familiar design elements aside, though, the Artura couldn’t be more different from everything that came before it.

It is the first model to feature a V6 powerplant in the modern McLaren lineup — previously V8 — and also the first series-produced hybrid supercar from the brand. 

The entire package is in-house developed and produced, including the carbon fibre tub chassis, engine and hybrid system. Of course, adding electric power means an onboard battery pack, which inherently adds more weight to the vehicle.

The Artura features a new 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo engine (codenamed M630) that, at 160kg, is 50kg lighter than the outgoing V8 and is significantly more compact for efficient packaging. It also boasts a wide 120° V-angle layout that houses the two turbos, enhancing the packaging. 

It is an energy-dense engine, delivering 430kW and 585Nm and revs at up to 8 500rpm, which is quite impressive, no matter how you slice it. This is augmented by a 7.4kWh battery pack with 70kW and 225Nm, which allows up to 31km of electric-only propulsion at speeds of up to 130 km/h. It takes 2.5 hours to power the battery up to 80% via an electric vehicle (EV) cable. In case you were wondering, it isn’t calibrated for an EV DC fast-charger, only AC.

The combined power output is 500kW and 720Nm, going to the rear wheels via a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. The electric motor doubles as a “reverse gear”, while the Artura is also the first modern-day McLaren to feature an electronic limited slip differential (eLSD), meaning maximum grip out of corners, but also more sideways drift fun should the mood take you. 

The Artura’s engine bay has been further optimised to dispense with heat, which can reach temperatures of up to 900°C. A chimney-like heat dissipator contraption has been engineered into the rear engine deck. 

That technical lecture aside, what you want to know is how does the thing drive and is it worth considering among the current crop of supercars? We’ll get into that, but first, let’s open the driver’s dihedral door and sink into the low-slung cabin.

The layout and architecture is similar to the outgoing models, save for the new instrument binnacle, which houses the drive modes and aero via toggle switches. Another update points to the infotainment screen, which is more angled towards the driver and features Apple CarPlay and physical shortcut buttons for easier navigation.

Firing up the engine via the starter button can be a silent matter, depending on the drive mode. E-mode allows for silent travel without annoying your neighbours with a loud start-up as you slink onto the road. You can travel in this mode for 31km at speeds up to 130km/h and the combustion engine will remain off until you switch driving modes.

The transition can be done on the fly and, as I experienced on my drive out of Mallorca towards the Ascari racetrack, there are some glitches in the system that require some ironing out. My press test car experienced some electronic gremlins in the gearbox, which required me to stop by the side of the road before a replacement car was swiftly dispatched. From there on, I could experience the Artura with no foibles in sight. 

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The interior design is stylish and comfortable.

The first thing that grabbed my attention with the combustion engine running as well was the instant torque aided by the electric motor “torque filling” at the bottom of the rev range where there’d be turbo lag. 

Mind you, this is still in Comfort mode, which is for everyday driving. 

Switching things up to Sport, Sport+ or Track truly livens things up and the Artura feels more like the supercar it is. Thoroughly quick. The pace is a testament to the performance numbers; 0-100 km/h in 3.0 secs, 0-200 km/h comes up in 8.3 secs, 0-300 km/h in 21.5 secs, and it only calls it quits at 330km/h.

I start threading it through a series of switchbacks on a mountain pass and it delivers on the driver enjoyment front. The view through the windscreen is typically McLaren good, while the hydraulic steering has a tactile, granular feel to it and is as communicative and analogue as they come. 

Those carbon ceramic brakes require proper warming up to increase their bite, but they never quite came alive, not feeling as incisive as I would like, and arriving at a corner a little quicker than intended. 

While there is no regenerative braking in favour of a natural brake pedal feel, I reckon the brakes need a little bit more calibration to inspire even more confidence. 

In-gear acceleration is good; however, I cannot help but feel that the potential of the powerplant has been sand-bagged. Perhaps this was to give some breathing space to the 720 S and that car’s eventual replacement, which will come sometime down the line and brandish a similar engine layout. 

The Artura’s torque delivery is linear for the most part, and so immense that even revving out the engine is more for driver enjoyment than eking out more performance from the engine. Not a bad thing. 

If there’s anything I would have preferred, though, it was a louder exhaust note, as the ones fitted to our press cars just didn’t quite hit the right notes. As a road car, the Artura is very good, and surprisingly comfortable, even with the Clubsport bucket seats with their electrical tilting adjustment.

The Ascari resort circuit in Ronda, Malaga is a private racetrack that was recently refurbished with fresh tarmac. It is quite a technical track and excellent for exposing a car’s dynamic abilities, or lack thereof. 

Placing the vehicle in Track mode and nosing it onto the track, the front-end grip is pronounced and feels prodigious right off the bat. 

There is so much torque from the drivetrain that third gear is more than sufficient to negotiate slower corners. The lightweight carbon fibre chassis truly shines here and gives the Artura a satisfyingly rigid structure that translates to incredible body control. 

The shortcomings of the brakes out on the road were less pronounced here, surprisingly.

As a series hybrid supercar, the R4 570 200 McLaren Artura looks poised to catapult the Woking brand into a new era.

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