First Drive: McLaren Artura
After a somewhat stalled launch, the hybrid wonder that is the McLaren Artura finally makes its Australian debut.
What do you get if you cross the modern, mad thrusting, light-switch-like acceleration of an electric vehicle with the highly strung, beautifully sung sound and fury of a traditional, petrol-powered supercar engine?
While I’d call it a very good idea, McLaren calls it the Artura (and mentions, in brackets just like this, that it’s a “plug-in hybrid electric vehicle”).
The Artura—which I drove for the first time recently on a local racetrack, an experience that still fizzes my adrenal glands whenever I think about it—is also something of a collector’s item; a fast-moving moment in time that represents what the chief engineer for this mad McLaren, Geoff Grose, describes as a “golden age” for supercars.
Fully electric high-performance cars are definitely coming, but McLaren doesn’t believe they’re ready for market yet—mainly because batteries are too heavy and weight is the enemy of performance. And so, in the meantime, it’s all about combining EV tech with traditional combustion engines to make crazy-fast hybrids.
“We do see hybrid as being the dominant powertrain to the end of the decade, because we don’t believe EV technology is mature enough to deliver a full EV supercar that would be true to the DNA of our brand, which is about exhilaration, engagement and light weight,” Grose explains.
In the not-too-distant future, the Artura will be a kind of museum oddity, but right now it is one of the most ferociously exciting ways to hurl yourself around a race track because the power from its E-Motor punches you off the line and out of corners and then, faster than you can take breath, the twin-turbo V6 kicks in to spin you towards the stratosphere.
The combined power figure is 500 kW, which combines with the two different kinds of torque (McLaren describes the E-Motor’s job as providing “torque infill”, meaning there is never a flat spot) to produce 720 Nm. All of that grunt somehow gets to the ground through the rear wheels alone, which should make it a big hairy handful to drive, but this F1-bred company knows a thing or two about software and traction, and the electronics manage to make you feel in control at all times, with just a tiny touch of tail wagging now and then to also make you feel alive.
I have no problem at all believing the claims for the Artura’s zero to 200 km/h time of 7.2 seconds ( just ponder that for a moment; it takes some hot hatches that long to get to 100 km/h, a number the McLaren hits in 2.9 seconds), because I experienced it several times at Sydney Motorsport Park.
The Artura is capable of coming out of the last corner onto the long straight there like one of Space X’s more explosive rockets and you find yourself smashing past 200km/h less than a third of the way down. At this point you wonder whether 300 is possible (the car can easily exceed that number, of course), and perhaps it would be in a racing driver’s hands. My right foot became as nervous as my thudding heart at 260 km/h and I eased off, smacked its incredible brakes and hurled into turn one at 180 km/h.
It is at this juncture that the aero package on a vehicle like this really comes into its own. I was pretty sure I’d gone into the bend at a speed faster than my abilities, and this was confirmed when the Artura squirrelled underneath me, just enough to push my eyelids to the top of my skull, but this McLaren is so nailed to the ground that it just gripped, ripped and poured through the bend like liquid metal. It was wonderful, thrilling, entirely enervating.
Throw in its brilliantly sharp steering and an engine note from that 3.0-litre V6 that somehow manages to sound more angry and yet pleasant than any McLaren V8 before it and you’ve got one hell of a supercar. Soon, of course, engine notes like that will be gone, so soaking up this golden-age moment with several dozen more laps seemed the only appropriate thing to do.
Yes, a Ferrari 296 GTB, another super hybrid, is a bit faster, but the McLaren is more than quick enough, and it’s cheaper too, at $449,500.
And it’s a fair bet that it will be worth more than that in a few years. Yes, you really should buy one.
Subscribe to the Newsletter
Recommended for you
The vehicle is powered by a naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V-10 that produces 640 hp.
By Bryan Hood
November 30, 2023
From stealth profiles to surprisingly lavish appointments, launches from Sacs Marine to Lomac are gaining popularity.
By Kevin Koenig
November 27, 2023