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MCLAREN ARTURA

Beneath the McLaren Artura’s subdued exterior beats a hybrid heart that signals a new era of performance for the embattled Woking supercar maker.

McLaren Automotive is no stranger to building desirable hybrid supercars – the berserk P1 plug-in hybrid, launched a little over a decade ago at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, was the brand’s opening salvo. While the Formula One-inspired hypercar had a limited run of 375 units and sat atop the McLaren model range, it was intended as a showcase car more than a sign of things to come for the supercar maker.

Enter the new, lightweight, and techno-forward McLaren Artura…

A MCLAREN FIRST

As their first-ever series production hybrid car, dubbed a High-Performance Hybrid (HPH) by McLaren, the Artura is key to the future survival of the brand. Where the P1 was the flag bearer in the McLaren line-up, the Artura sits comfortably between the road trip-ready GT and the high-spirited 720S.

As with the P1 at the time, the Artura distils all of McLaren’s expertise and experience in race- and road-car engineering – now spanning more than half a century – into a car that successfully blends thrilling performance, driving dynamics, and excellent driver engagement with EV driving capability.

It is also the first model built on the all-new McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture (MCLA) that’s uniquely prepped for hybrid powertrains. Among other attributes, the architecture saves weight by incorporating an ethernet network that replaces hefty conventional cables, resulting in a 10% overall weight saving over equivalent predecessors. Shrink-wrapped around the new architecture are eight superformed aluminium panels that mould the Artura’s near-perfect supercar proportions.

WEIGHT NO MORE

McLaren has long prioritised lightweight construction, and Artura’s near-flat-oriented 3.0-litre V6 takes this philosophy another step further. Shorter (by 190 mm) and, at 160 kg, lighter (by 50 kg), the new engine trumps previous V8 applications on the lightness front, helping to deliver a kerb weight of just 1,498 kg, despite hybrid components that include a 7.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

The powertrain combines this featherlight V6 with an E-motor and the aforementioned energy-dense battery pack to produce combined outputs of 500 kW and 720 Nm, resulting in ferocious acceleration of zero to 100 km/h in 3.0 seconds and zero to 200 km/h in 8.3 seconds. At the same time, the Artura is the most fuel-efficient McLaren ever produced, with a claimed 4.6-l/100 km, while the battery supports a claimed 31-km electric-only range.

AN EXPERIENCE TO SAVOUR

Opening the Artura’s signature dihedral doors reveals an entirely new, if snug, interior. Although there are more than a few memorable cues from McLaren’s interior design playbook, the new-generation interior space is sumptuous and elegant.

The familiar handling and powertrain controls have been moved to either side of the new instrument binnacle. Adjust the switches to change modes, and the car’s digital display reflects the adjustment with a small graphic or a change in layout, depending on the driving mode.

Drive modes – E Mode, Comfort, Sport, and Track – are activated by a rocker switch within easy reach of your right hand, while the handling adjustments are made on the left.

McLaren prides itself on ensuring all driver controls are accessible with both hands on the steering wheel. Infotainment adjustments on the new 8” high-definition touchscreen are also within easy reach, the system is not the most refined we’ve encountered, and it’s advisable that buyers spend some time learning the system before heading out on the road, unless you’ll mainly be using either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

That said, during our test drive, there was little inclination, or need to bother with sound system adjustments. As refined and powerful as the car’s Bowers and Wilkins system is, the resonant growl of the Artura’s V6 powerplant delivers a much more entertaining soundtrack during the driving experience.

At lower speeds, driving in EV mode is stealthy, if somewhat subdued. The magic happens when you open the pipes to bring the full might of the system to bear on the tarmac. Although Joburg’s highways aren’t the ideal testbed for a supercar of the Artura’s consequence, there were instances to experience the revs climbing through the 8,500-rpm range, as the transmission swapped smoothly through its eight gears. Even at full tilt, the engine sounds are never overwhelming. Instead, its refined natural exhaust note fills the cabin quite nicely without having sound artificially pumped in.

The interplay between EV and internal combustion happens seamlessly, allowing you to savour the full torque offering between 2,500 and 7,000 rpm. And when the time comes to slow down, as it inevitably must, the conventional hydraulic brake system (instead of a brake-by-wire setup) gives excellent feedback from the first tap. With another nod to the traditional, McLaren has also retained its electro-hydraulic steering setup for consistent and accurate driver feedback.

LAST WORD

As McLaren’s first series production hybrid, Artura is undoubtedly Woking’s most important road car release to date. Beneath its subdued exterior, the Artura maintains purity in its lightweight construction, predictable dynamics, and all-around driveability. Whether it has what it takes to carve a lasting niche in the minds of supercar buyers remains to be seen, especially in the face of stiff competition from the likes of the Ferrari 296 GTB, Lamborghini Huracán, and the Maserati MC20.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © MCLAREN SOUTH AFRICA

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