The McLaren Artura Is The Hybrid For Those Who Dislike Hybrids

McLaren: the hallowed, decades-old racing name with a surprisingly brief road car history. McLaren sports cars, of the type you can just go out and buy, hit the scene only 12 years ago. In that short time, they have forged a formidable reputation on the back of a simple formula: two-seater sports cars with a carbon fibre monocoque chassis, a turbocharged V8 engine in the back, and doors that opened upwards. So you always knew what you were getting. Until now.

The McLaren Artura still has doors that open upwards, and the engine still sits behind passengers, but this time it’s a V6. The carbon fibre monocoque is still there, in all its lightweight, flex-resistant glory, but it’s an all-new platform designed specifically to take batteries into account. Because, yes, the Artura is a McLaren hybrid. We haven’t seen one of these since the P1 from 2013, and the P1 doesn’t count because it was a limited production, 900bhp exercise in insanity. The Artura, then, is the first McLaren hybrid you would actually go out and buy.

So what does this radical powertrain change mean to the McLaren fan? Honestly, not much. The Artura is McLaren through and through: fast, precise, focused, and with an old-school feedback thanks to the hydraulic steering. The 3.0-litre V6 is good for 577bhp, and the electric motor, buried in the transmission, adds another 94bhp for a total of 671bhp—and a 0-100km/h time of 3.0 seconds. As far as game-changing hybrids go, the Artura ranks pretty low in terms of impact. Electric-only mode gets you a mere 31km (theoretically). If you really pay attention, you might notice an influx of immediate power as the e-motor fills in while the turbos are spooling up, and the V6 is a little pitchy and less growly when compared to a V8—not necessarily in a bad way, mind—but it’s pretty easy to forget you’re in a hybrid at all. The Artura doesn’t even have regenerative braking, and it’s still terrifically light at just 1,498kg. Your fuel bill might notice, though, as it’s the most efficient McLaren ever made at an apparent 4.6km/100l.

It’s the other, smaller, changes that you’re likely to feel. This is the first McLaren with an electronic differential, working away at the rear axle to improve traction out of corners. There are now eight gears, one higher than before as reverse has been passed off to the e-motor. The controls for powertrain and suspension modes have been shifted to paddle-like switches on the instrument cluster—one on each side, like ears—where they can be reached without taking your hands off the wheel. And the wheel itself is now a single unit with the instrument cluster, which means that the screen moves along with the steering wheel’s position as it is adjusted, and therefore remains at the ideal viewing distance.

In an ongoing trend for McLaren, life within the Artura cockpit is surprisingly comfortable. It’s a sports car and it feels like it—you sit low, and it’s on the cosy side—and yet visibility is decent. McLaren’s engineers have found room for cupholders, places to put your smartphone or wallet, a reasonably sized parcel shelf behind your head, and door pockets that somehow keep everything in place even as they tilt upwards. The vertical, eight-inch central touchscreen is a little sparse by today’s standards, but it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the speakers are from Bowers & Wilkins. The suspension is more than adequate when it comes to dodgy tarmac: the ‘comfort’ setting is a remarkable all-rounder that still inspires driving confidence even as it soaks up knocks in a way that not all automakers can get right, and raising itself for speed humps is just a button-press away. It honestly makes McLaren’s own GT a bit redundant—though that model can hold golf bags, if one is of that persuasion.

Other headline electrics and hybrids have gone for the wow-factor—exhilarating, powerful beasts loaded with bells and whistles that seem to shout about how exciting the all-new, all-different future will be. Where those are cannonballing into the future, McLaren has dipped a toe in it, saying that the future—for now, at least—will stay much as it currently is. And sometimes that’s not a bad thing.


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