Test Drive: McLaren Artura

Behind the wheel of the carmaker's first series-production hybrid

Like many automakers, McLaren‘s challenge is to create something new—not a facelift, but a market-defining, tech-forward, future-facing vehicle to include in the race to shed combustion engines, generating a storm of curiosity. Although first introduced in mid-2021, Artura—McLaren’s first series-production hybrid—officially made its world debut at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, when HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco drove it around the track on a cloudy May day. From the stands and the pits, Artura maintained a design fluency: flying buttresses, dihedral doors, that distinguishable snout. “It’s all new entirely,” Jamie Corstorphine, director of product strategy at McLaren, says.

The ongoing chip shortage late last year resulted in an initial vehicle delivery delay, with another setback due to “certain technical upgrades.” announced during the November third quarter earnings report. This required a capital raise from Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat Holding Co, McLaren’s main shareholder. The brand sold some of its heritage car collection for a $123 million cash infusion. Quite a gamble, some critics have noted.

As if to further highlight McLaren’s big bet on Artura, the brand selected Las Vegas as the location for test drives—on roads through the Valley of Fire and the short but punchy Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

For more than a decade, McLaren has been building supercars powered exclusively by twin-turbocharged V8s. Table stakes, if you will. Artura’s completely new engine, a 3.0-liter 120-degree V6 (577hp), is 110 pounds lighter than the aforementioned V8 and features a shortened, stronger crank. From a design perspective, it’s rather ingenious.

Bidding two cylinders goodbye allows for one designated crank pin for every pair of opposing cylinders. The turbochargers sit inside the nadir of the hot vee. The twin-clutch transmission (developed specifically for Artura) requires no reverse gear. “The e-motor takes care of reversing by literally rotating in the opposite direction,” Corstorphine explains. McLaren enclosed the turbos within heat shields and added a chimney to blow the roughly 900° Celsius air vertically out of the back deck, visible to the driver via the rearview mirror.

The engine pairs with an e-motor (94hp) and an energy-dense battery pack, producing combined outputs of 671hp and 530 lb-ft of torque. Artura achieves zero to 60mph in 3.0 seconds; even more impressive is zero to 124mph in 8.3 seconds. The most fuel-efficient McLaren ever produced (39 MPGe), Artura’s 7.4kWh battery supports 11-mile electric-only range. Super-lightweight engineering makes Artura lightest in its class with a curb weight of 3,303 pounds.

McLaren’s first series-production hybrid is a different venture than the company’s previous forays into hybrids like the limited production P1 hypercar and Speedtail. Series production means volume, and volume means an array of use cases, driver preferences and differing demands.

Windows down, music up, cruising on an open road past 2000-year-old petroglyphs carved into massive red sandstone formations in the Mohave Desert, Artura feels resolute. Sixth gear and a gas engine is seamless. First to second in electric, however, is a bit of an adjustment. The electric engine officially maxes out at 70mph, although we started decelerating around 65mph. A tick up to sport (gas) mode immediately alleviates that.

Using the instrument binnacle is paramount. Integrated on either edge of the cluster and very close to the steering wheel is a pair of rocker switches: the controls for the chassis on the left, powertrain on the right. Corstorphine admits it will be an adjustment, much like the new reality of sorting out charging stations along a road trip for those driving purely electric vehicles.

On the track in the namesake mode, the supercar sings. Traction is spot on, acceleration both impressive and available, and body control is measured. The drive out of a corner is controlled with understeer nowhere to be found.

There are speaker upgrades and seat options, room for a bit of luggage and a passenger. An improved infotainment system is one facet of the general reshuffle of McLaren’s cabin architecture. Altogether the car boasts plenty of nods that indicate the complete new-ness of Artura.

Images courtesy of McLaren