First Drive - McLaren Artura

McLaren has launched its first main series hybrid supercar, the Artura and expectations were high as we headed to Spain to drive it.

The Car.co.uk First Drive Verdict: 4.2

It feels like the McLaren Artura has been a long time coming, but the past couple of years have been a bit strange and not the best time to be developing a new supercar. We first saw the new model back in December 2020 and the launch was postponed last year, but finally we’ve managed to get behind the wheel of the car which writes the first chapter of a new book for McLaren’s modern-era road car division. 

The first book was written in 2011 when the MP4-12C came along and McLaren Automotive was formed. This being book two, the Artura doesn't leave behind models like the 720S and others but what it does is start a whole new era of electrification. It is the first full series model to feature a hybrid powertrain and before you point it out, the P1 was not a main series model. The Artura is and it debuts a brand new in-house developed V6 petrol with twin turbos as well as an axial-flux electric motor, a clever piece of technology that adds 95hp and allows you to cover a few miles in whisper quiet electric-only mode, because that’s what you want a supercar to do these days.

There’s a new carbon fibre McLaren Lightweight Architecture monocoque which is stronger, stiffer and lighter than previous versions. The Artura gets lots of other new stuff too including electronic diff, proactive damping, eight-speed transmission and another essential, Variable Drift Control for when you’ve accidentally taken the route home via your favourite race track.

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DESIGN - 4.0 out of 5

The Artura does feature a new design language but at the same time there is lots of familiarity. The hammerhead shark appearance at the front reminds us very much of the MP4-12C that kickstarted the modern era of McLaren Automotive road cars and while the rear features laser-cut cooling grilles and a hot-bee chimney in the engine cover, there’s also a look of 540C about it. Its design might have an evolutionary feel, but it’s still striking and much of the work is about being functional first to manage aero and cooling. 

The interior also features new cooling in the form of a new climate control system, but it’s part of a very different interior to McLarens that have come before it. The steering wheel is still devoid of buttons because McLaren feels it should be uncluttered, unlike some rivals and to facilitate this, the controls for driving modes and suspension are now rockers on the side of the instrument binnacle. Within it is a full digital screen that provides access to various menus and display options. This is to keep essential info in plain sight, without needing to reach for the low-placed infotainment screen. Here too there’s an element of minimal distraction, with touchscreen operation and a single rotary dial that’s easy to find on the move. 

It’s all contained in an interior that feels of a much higher quality than before, with comfort too, even on the Clubsport seat package. McLaren has definitely upped its game here. 

PRACTICALITY -  4.0 out of 5

Practicality is not the highest thing on the list for a McLaren or any supercar, but it can lift its nose at speed bumps and yes, it does have a bit of boot space, more than a 570S. You can get in and out of the car fairly easily, but if you want practicality, you might want to wait for the McLaren SUV, you know, the one they said they would never build and then said “we’ll never say never.”

You can also expect practicality to come in the form of that everyday supercar vibe that McLaren brought in with the MP4-12C. There is a real feel that you're in a car that you could just drive to the office or the shops and even do a long distance cross continental trip. It is very comfortable, very well laid out with bits and pieces that you need, navigation, audio, all sorts of stuff like that and practicality also includes things like the active cruise control, which is fitted for the first time. But it's not really about practicality is it? 

TECH - 4.5 out of 5

It is about tech though and that brings us to the new hybrid system. The new axial flux electric motor sits inside the gearbox housing and generates 33% more power than that in the P1 while weighing half as much. It adds 95hp and 225Nm as well as being able to cross town in electric mode and it provides the reverse gear. The rest of the total 680hp and 720Nm is provided by the new M630 engine, a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 on top of which sits a great talking point, the powertrain chimney. This vents hot air from the engine and reduces its temperature at exit from 900˚C to 240˚C which might even add to the Artura’s practicality if you can cook burgers on it.

Inside there’s a really clear digital instrumentation cluster which offers a range of menus and display settings, but importantly on either side of the binnacle now sit rockers. These are for the driving modes and suspension controls because McLaren is adamant that they want to keep the steering wheel pure and uncluttered, a little bit of a dig perhaps at pretty much all its rivals particularly Ferrari with its manettino. They are at your fingertips and make it easy to switch between Comfort, Sport, Track mode, and let's not forget, Electric mode. 

The Artura also sees the debut of the cool-sounding Pirelli Cyber Tyre, which was jointly developed for the car with McLaren. It’s the first time it has been used on any car and could well be the future in terms of communication between not just tyre and car but potentially even car and infrastructure. Looking ahead to 5G technology it’s a development to watch but for now it's giving a lot of information to a system on the centrally mounted infotainment screen. 

That touchscreen is very easy to use with one simple dial to scroll or press to go through menus. It’s not in your eyeliner which in a family hatch we would probably take issue with but in a supercar you don’t want to be distracted by it and besides, you have plenty of functionality in the instrument cluster for most things you will use regularly.

DRIVE -  4.5 out of 5

Now for the most important bit, how does the new Artura drive. Well let us hit you with a few specs first, like a 0-62mph time of three seconds, a top end of 205mph and of course that electric-only range of 19 miles. Fuel consumption, really you want to know, okay then. McLaren claims a whopping 61.5mpg, but yeah right, on our road drives, we averaged 11.4mpg, but admittedly we might have had a bit more fun than the average run to the shops. 

Eerily, the Artura always starts in electric mode, which is great news for your neighbours but it does feel a bit strange in a supercar, especially one that does actually have an engine. You can keep it in electric mode and glide through town, but switch it into Comfort, Sport or Track, adjust the suspension settings - we found Comfort suspension and Sport powertrain a good combination - and away you go, 

It’s a rapid thing, but not in a brutal way like a Lambo and it also seem quieter than you might expect, due to the switch to the V6. McLaren has resisted moving to electric steering so its still electro-hydraulic and it really is fantastic. Few will argue that Porsche has the best steering in the game, but the engineers have finally managed to match the 911’s steering in the Artura. They’ve actually matched more than just the steering though because it also has that everyday supercar thing which made it pleasant even on scarred roads and effortless through town.

Find the right road though and it is one of the most obliging cars of the genre. It feels like it pivots around a central point, again something we normally say of a 911 and while it definitely feels wider than its rival, it’s on a par in the handling department too. Your view of the road ahead is excellent, almost racing sim-like and it’s easy to hurl into a corner and feel confident even when the tyres skip on the surface, almost as though it will forgive any last minute change in direction or power request from the driver.

There’s a level of communication between car, driver and road that proved impressive and then we took to the Ascari track. We weren’t allowed to test the Variable Drift Control for reasons which we’ll get to shortly, but there’s a feeling of precision with the car, as though you can really trust it to do what you ask of it. So what are these testing problems then?

VERDICT - 4.2 out of 5

While we only had one minor technical issue with our car, others were not so fortunate. We spent way too long waiting to go out on track, essentially because two cars had quite significant problems. They weren't the only ones, others during the course of the launch had had to jump out of their cars due to fire. While this is concerning, McLaren is not a company to shy away when there are issues and they’ve been very transparent with us about it all. The cars are the first ones off the production line and of course, crisis meetings will be held with a view to ensuring that customer cars are 100% perfect. 

It’s a real shame because the fact is that McLaren has really pulled a blinder with this one and come up with a fantastic performance supercar that is feels more GT than the McLaren GT, and could even be seen as a match to the 720S. 

It’s also a car which comes close, if not matches a Porsche 911 In terms of feel, communication and the ability to do what you want it to do when you want it to do it and that’s a bigger achievement than many might realise. 

McLaren wanted to start a new book and it's really come in with a stonking first chapter with the Artura, or at least it will once it’s finished the editing.

SPECIFICATIONS

Model driven: McLaren Artura

Price: £189,200

Engine: 3.0 twin-turbo V6 with E-Motor

Transmission: 8-speed dual clutch

Power: 680hp at 7,500rpm (combined)

Torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm (combined)

0-62mph: 3.0 seconds

Top speed: 205mph

Combined economy: 61.5mpg

CO2 emissions: 104g/km