Going Green? McLaren Introduces a Hybrid Supercar


The manner in which car manufacturers tend to launch their latest models has followed the same pattern for years. Fly a troupe of journalists and, more recently, influencers, to a glamorous hotel somewhere sunny, with nice roads and scenic backdrops within easy reach. On arrival, ply with drinks, canapés and strategic marketing messages. Next morning, put them in a car and wave them off. And cross your fingers. The hope is that everyone returns in one piece and that nice things are written about the particular machine in the spotlight.

As an invited guest, it’s all very pleasant and, at the same time, very odd. Smiling people in branded T-shirts usher you from hotel to car park to snack trolley to toilet break, only stopping short of actually coming in to show you how it’s done.

The hotels are enticing but your free time equates to an average of 27 minutes, so the spa slippers tend to remain in their cellophane wrappers. The food is often excellent, too, though there’s a high chance you’ll be seated next to the vice-chair of electronic inputs. Late-night cocktails are actively encouraged despite a looming 6.30am alarm call, upon
which you’ll be asked to drive cars rapidly around stomach-churning switchbacks.

Lots can go wrong — unseasonable storms, high-maintenance journalists, missed waypoints, kerbed alloys, speed traps. Everything that can be done will be done, including chats with the local police chief.

What you really don’t want to happen if you’ve gone to all this trouble and expense is for one of your cars to catch fire. Manufacturers tend to prefer the term “thermal incident”. Unfortunately, that’s what occurred on one launch day for the McLaren Artura last June.

Photo by MCLAREN.

Apparently, the wrong spec engine cooler had been used in a track session, causing a reaction that needed some immediate fire extinguishers. A few teething problems were also reported on the pre-production software. Let’s face it, journalists wouldn’t be your first choice of professions to maintain discretion when things go awry, so the news spread.

To add to the sense of misfortune, the long-awaited Artura, an important car for McLaren’s future, had already suffered significant delays. Covid wasn’t kind to the car industry, but McLaren has taken more hits than most, from supply-chain issues to layoffs and leadership changes. It even had to sell off its famous Woking HQ, only to lease it back again.

The Artura was supposed to be the car to change the narrative, and it still could. Which perhaps explains why it was presented before it was ready.

Several months later, in autumn, along the A and B roads not far from McLaren’s Surrey heartland, it soon became clear that one shouldn’t be swayed by that inauspicious
beginning, especially with a brand that has consistently produced laser-focused supercars.

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The scissor doors and curved wheel arches are familiar McLaren design tropes, and while the Artura looks mean and fast and stealthy, given it represents a new era for the marque it might have been nice to show as well as tell. Most of the Artura’s underpinnings are brand new, from the suspension to the gearbox to the carbon-fibre tub, which McLaren has developed in-house for the first time. That’s big news in tub world.

The biggest news, though, is that this is McLaren’s first entry-level car with an electric motor — if, indeed, that phrase still applies to a vehicle that costs £190,000. In conjunction with a new three-litre turbo-charged six-cylinder engine, the combined power on offer totals 671hp, with a 0-62mph time of three seconds and a top speed of 205mph. That isn’t a stat you want to verify on a damp road outside Godalming.

Photo by MCLAREN.

For McLaren, the addition of an electric motor represents more of a performance boost than a real effort to enhance its eco credentials, with the torque providing instant and constant power whenever it’s requested. The pure electric range is just 19 miles, though that is constantly being recharged by the engine so, theoretically, it never runs out completely. When you start it up, the default drive mode is electric. Initially it feels odd to drive away in silence, but the neighbours and passers-by will no doubt appreciate it.

Regenerative braking was considered but rejected, as likely to interfere with the driver experience. McLaren customers are known to take such things seriously; if the Ferrari brand is all double-breasted jackets and loafers, McLaren is more technical waterproofs with an array of zip-up pockets.

The cabin remains as driver-focused as ever, though there are plenty of welcome improvements, including excellent standard seats, more convenient seat controls (they used to require the dexterity of a puppeteer), an updated infotainment screen and plenty of handy spots to put drinks, keys and phones.

Visibility is great, and the dashboard is clear and uncomplicated. Overall, it’s a well-judged balance between a cabin in which to relax, but also concentrate. And concentrate you must.

The Artura can change personalities easily from traffic in town to open dual-carriageways without any discernible grumbles. In fact, electric mode in busy areas is a welcome way to at least marginally reduce the “look at me” vibes. With no white vans ahead, the car surges into life. Agile, balanced, engaging — it’s hard to imagine a supercar that would make a more enjoyable all-round companion. McLaren’s precision and technical prowess combine with old-fashioned feedback and direct hydraulic steering to serious effect. You’re in more than trustworthy hands, and one unfortunate press launch isn’t going to change that.

The only technical difficulties I encountered were with my own phone network provider, meaning I lost connection from the satnav, missed my turning and ended up in school-run traffic outside Dorking. Lost time I could have spent on a country lane with the Artura, and for that, I might never forgive them.

FromEsquire UK

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Will Hersey
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