From the April 2023 issue of Car and Driver.
It’s hard to believe McLaren has been in the road car game for a little over a decade. (Granted, it was almost 30 years ago that the McLaren F1 became the be-all and end-all for enthusiasts, but McLaren didn’t produce another street car for years after that.) Since 2011, the famous Formula 1 brand has introduced several set root models and completely disrupted the supercar hierarchy that had long dominated a few Italian companies. And while all those models, including the MP4-12C, the 570S, the Senna and the 720S, had their own character, they all shared a very similar set of components. The Artura is new and not like your favorite streaming service’s latest round of reboots. New like never before. Think Separationnot Call air. For all intents and purposes, this is McLaren’s second series production car. And it’s a plug-in hybrid.
The Artura’s 181-pound carbon fiber tub looks a lot like the old one made by Carbo Tech in Austria, only it’s stronger and lighter and has a cavity that houses the sound system’s subwoofer. It is also now made in-house at McLaren’s carbon fiber factory in Sheffield, England. The engine, a 120-degree 577-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, is more of a departure. All McLarens before (except the F1, with its BMW V-12) used a V-8 displacing 3.8 or 4.0 liters. Compared to the V-8, this new V-6 is about 110 pounds lighter and shockingly small. Like “I didn’t know the original Mini was so small” small. The eight-speed dual-clutch transaxle is about the same size as the old seven-speed, thanks in part to its lack of a reverse gear system, but it now incorporates McLaren’s first application of an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. All reversing is strictly electric, provided by the motor, a 94-hp axial-flux unit, which reverses. The motor is just upstream of the transmission input. It’s a power-tight ring that a drunk Ultimate Frisbee player will try to discuss throwing if one is unguarded at closing time. The front suspension still uses control arms, but the rear is now a multi-link design said to improve stiffness and reduce deflection. There is no hydropneumatic suspension here; it’s coil springs and anti-roll bars just like in the GT which sits below the Artura in the range.
That’s a lot of time spent telling you about the new hardware. But it seems worth it because this car launch almost broke the company. McLaren is probably the smallest and least supported supercar manufacturer selling federated cars, and rumors of receivership swirled as the Woking-based brand used its lusty fleet of historic racers to pay for the expensive development of a new electrical architecture and plug-in hybrid engineering. Remember, Lamborghini and Porsche have the Volkswagen Group’s deep pockets, and Ferrari, which has been building street cars for over 70 years, had Fiat backing until fairly recently.
We are happy to tell you that despite the apparent engineering and financing problems, the product is worth the wait. Its silhouette is pure speed, like that of a hawk in a 200 mph dive. We were worried that the added mass of a car (which turns out to be a heavy plate) and the 7.4-kWh lithium-ion battery would ruin the McLaren feel we’re used to. But at 3443 pounds, the car is lighter than a Corvette Z06 and most likely lighter than the Ferrari 296GTB (we’ll know for sure when we test drive one). The extra weight is so low in the car – and the engine sits completely under the top of the wheels – it seems to anchor the Artura to the road.
The Pirelli P Zero Corsa PZC4 tires hold 1.08 g’s on a flat test ground slip road, and 1.07 is usable on the open road. Turn-in is sharp, and feel – from an electro-hydraulic assist – is the best in the business. Resistance naturally builds and then decreases just before understeer arrives. The chassis balance is much more favorable than in the tail-happy 570S, but far from boring. It pegs the public road fun meter safely in the red.
This is a good thing because the car can generate illegal speed in extra short time. Hitting 60 mph in 2.6 seconds might be Z06 territory, but the McLaren steps away from the American at higher speeds, reaching 100 mph in 5.5 seconds and completing the quarter mile in 10.3 seconds at 140 mph. Even the similarly priced Porsche 911 Turbo S Lightweight, which beats the McLaren to 60 and in the quarter (Thank you, four-wheel-drive traction), is a second slower to reach 180 mph. A 720S is much faster, but the soon-to-be-replaced 720S also starts about $73,000 higher than the $237,500 Artura. This Volcano Blue example stickers for $284,925, and the vast majority of options are aesthetic, not functional.
We didn’t do an official range test of the hybrid system, but we successfully drove the Artura for 13.5 miles in EV mode. About five of those miles were on a 55-mph road, and the rest were on the highway, very close to EV mode’s 81-mph top speed. The car could not maintain that speed on steep grades. Still, we didn’t need to wake up the V-6 on the highway. The EPA electric-only range of 11 miles is very achievable. On the rest of our drive, we averaged 18 mpg, matching the EPA combined estimate.
Rocker switches on the instrument binnacle are near the steering wheel and offer the ability to change the various drivetrain modes (Electric, Comfort, Sport, Track) and chassis modes (Comfort, Sport, Track). The wheel and binnacle move together when adjusting for rake and reach. Like Ferrari, McLaren no longer wants drivers to take their hands off the wheel. Unlike Ferrari, McLaren’s answer was not to put more buttons on the wheel than a BlackBerry has keys. McLaren’s steering wheel is all but unchanged and still without dials, buttons or switches. Crush the center of the horn.
When left in Comfort drive mode and asked for more thrust than the car can provide, the Artura occasionally pauses before firing the engine, as if to ask, “Do you really want ketchup on your hotdog? ” The slow compliance acts as a kind of eye roll. Sport mode keeps the engine running and is an excellent center. The same goes for the chassis modes, but in the other direction; Track feels over-damped on anything but glassy tarmac. Sport-Sport is the hot setup.
The Artura uses no regenerative braking, and the brake booster is a vacuum type (albeit powered by an electric pump), so the feel is very familiar. Stops from 70 mph take 141 feet, and from 100 they require 279 feet—good, but not great. McLaren programs the car to cause relatively little drag torque and recover energy from the engine except when you floor it. You can ask the car to charge itself faster, and Sport and Track modes always keep the battery juiced enough to deliver peak performance. Recharging requested by the driver using the engine is not very efficient, but it gives owners the ability to manage the state of charge while on the move.
About the only thing we don’t like is the new V-6. It goes like hell, but a V-6, even one with an 8200-rpm redline, can’t make the same noises as a flat-slung V-8. The Artura has an exhaust system that is quiet. McLaren calls it a chimney. Radiator fans move air over the turbos in the V valley. Look in the rear view and heat waves distort everything behind you. While the chimney never makes a sound, the visual distortion it creates sends a message to the driver that what’s ahead is what matters, and what’s ahead is more hybrid supercars. We can’t wait for the next one.
All frustrations about getting up the steep gas station ramp evaporate as I’m immediately called “wrong” by a cool teenager and “awesome” by a grizzled biker. That I can’t exit the vehicle over the massive carbon door sill is beside the point. Who needs to get out of a car when you look this good in it? This is the Artura in a nutshell. Small imperfections are forgotten amid an overall sense of glamor and speed. The shift from motor to engine must be adjusted because the motor rises at low speed. So stay at high speed—putting the pedal down turns the scenery into ribbons. Go fast, fierce and awesome. —Elana Scherr
Any bench racing critics who suggest that the Artura is only marginally faster than a Corvette Z06 are looking at it wrong, akin to saying Usain Bolt won’t be that far ahead of you in a foot race after the first 10 feet. The Artura and the Z06 are in a dead heat to 70 mph, but then it’s all McLaren, which is 9 mph faster at the quarter-mile and faster at 170 mph getting a massive 8.8 seconds, which is 0.4 miles less need runway to do so. For the one who presses the pedal, the difference is breathtaking. —Dave VanderWerp
2023 McLaren Artura
Vehicle type: mid-engine, mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
Base/As Tested: $237,500/$284,925
Options: Volcano Blue paint, $9500; Performance Spec, $9400; Technology package, $7400; Dark Stealth Diamond Cut wheel trim, $7150; sport exhaust, $6850; Black Pack, $3125; McLaren Orange brake calipers, $2200; Gloss Black Interior Package, $1600; warning triangle and first aid kit, $200
Twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter V-6, 577 hp, 431 lb-ft + AC motor, 94 hp, 166 lb-ft (combined output: 671 hp, 531 lb-ft; 7.4 -kWh lithium-ion battery pack; 3.3-kW onboard charger)
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Suspension, F/R: control arms/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 15.4-inch ventilated cross-drilled carbon ceramic disc/15.0-inch ventilated cross-drilled carbon ceramic disc
Tires: Pirelli P Zero Corsa PZC4
F: 235/35ZR-19 (91Y) Extra Load MC-C
R: 295/35ZR-20 (105Y) Extra Load MC-C
Wheelbase: 103.9 inches
Length: 178.7 inches
Width: 75.3 inches
Height: 47.0 inches
Passenger volume: 50 feet3
Hull volume: 5 feet3
Curb weight: 3443 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 2.6 sec
100 mph: 5.5 sec
130 mph: 8.8 sec
1/4-mile: 10.3 sec @ 140 mph
150 mph: 11.8 sec
170 mph: 16.1 sec
Results above show 1 foot deployment of 0.2 sec. away.
Acceleration, 5–60 mph: 3.2 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 2.0 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.6 sec
Top speed (mfr’s claim): 205 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 141 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 279 ft
Road holding capacity, 300-foot skid road: 1.08 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 18 MPGe
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 18/17/21 mpg
Combined petrol + electricity: 39 MPGe
EV range: 11 miles
C/D TEST EXPLAINED
KC Colwell is Car and Driver’‘s executive editor, who covers new cars and technology with a keen eye for automotive nonsense and what he considers great car sense, which is a humble feat. On his first day at C/D in 2004 he was given the keys to a Porsche 911 by someone who didn’t even know if he had a driver’s license. He is also one of the drivers with fast laps C/Ds annual Lightning Lap track test.