The hybrid McLaren Artura is eroding my automotive traditionalism
Hybrid tech makes this advanced twin-turbo as sharp as a quad
Friends, I have a problem: try as I might, I can’t seem to wrap my emotions around modern cars.
Today’s supercars are too fast to use, too easy to work — and don’t even start me on hybrids. Stubborn to my own detriment, I quip against power steering and cry about the dilution of the driving experience. I pine for a bygone era of analog motoring, steeping myself in classic cars despite the headaches of maintaining my own.
I know full well that neither time nor progress are going to wait for me, yet I just can’t seem to shut my stupid wastegate. But it’s 2022, and not every British manufacturer can be Bristol — heck, even Bristol can’t be Bristol anymore.
Fortunately, I’ve now tasted something of an incremental cure. By its elegant duality, the new McLaren Artura is finally warming me to the miracles of modern enthusiast engineering. And alarmingly, its hybrid advancements might even be relaxing my prideful abhorrence of modern electronics’ soulless depravity.
The McLaren Artura is Woking’s latest series-production supercar, and a significant step for the marque. With a hybrid powertrain and markedly greater civility than the popular 720S, the Artura offers plenty of satisfaction on the track and remarkable comfort on the way home.
The Artura is quick enough that the numbers barely matter, but to get them out of the way: 3.0 seconds, 330 km/h, and 3,303 lbs. More important to a McLaren, however, is its indulgent engineering geekery — something the Artura delivers in abundance.
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Key to the new car’s character is its unique powertrain. The Artura utilizes a turbocharged and hybridized 120-degree ‘hot-vee’ V6, a first for the segment. Splaying those already-lightweight banks wide keeps their mass lower, their heat concentrated atop with turbochargers and exhausts run right down the middle. These pneumatic twists are mounted right there against the heads, minimizing the header volume to be pressurized for spooling and bringing greater immediacy to engine response.
It seems straightforward, and it very entirely isn’t. Exhaust catalysts get hot — 900-degree, Papaya-orange hot. Managing all of this heat directly within the compartment introduces distinct challenges: how do you keep that sort of heat mere inches from servos without melting them, for instance, and without weighing the car down with extensive shielding? In the case of the wastegate actuators, you stuff them into the cool airstream of the turbo inlet. These sorts of thoughtful solutions pop out all around the Artura, and stitching them together illuminates how the car took so many years to develop — five from brief, and eight in full.
Augmenting this, of course, is the hybridization.
The Artura isn’t your cabbie’s Prius, however. While it does render some economy benefits and enable 18-km stretches of all-electric driving, McLaren’s application emphasizes smooth and abundant power delivery across the rev range — and even through the milliseconds between gears.
More than this, the hybrid motor supplants the need for the small, easy-spooling low-rpm turbine that usually serves as the ‘twin’ turbo. With the low end thus sorted, the Artura’s twin turbochargers are both full-sized, exhaling symmetrically into their respective cylinder banks to cram as many molecules as possible into each half-litre chamber. Working together, peak output reaches 671 horsepower and 531 lb-ft of torque.
Technically, the Artura is a twin-turbocharged hybrid. Emotionally, the Artura starts to feel like a quad-turbo that in turn feels naturally aspirated. Hybrid torque infill simply works so well, delivering such power across a linear curve, that the driving experience circles back to the good-ol’ days of free-breathing NAs. Satisfying more than just the nostalgists, this affords underfoot controllability and yaw control without fear of lag-induced mortal peril.
Keeping that hybridization invisible, braking interface remains delightfully, heavily hydraulic. There’s no brake-by-wire like the Ferrari 296, nor is there any jerky regen to unsettle the car — just the linear physicality of a hydraulic pedal to match the directness of the Artura’s steadfastly electro-hydraulic steering. Get moving fast, and you’ll be putting your weight into deceleration. This pleases me.
Per the McLaren mission, light weight and agility remain primary focuses. Vehicle system ethernet saves complexity and weight in the wiring harness, the V6 trims 110 lbs versus a McLaren V8, and the entire hybrid system adds just 287 lbs. Even the electric motor, an industry-first axial arrangement (think parallel discs versus a radial’s orbital setup), produces one-third more power than the P1 hypercar despite weighing just 34 pounds. Further still, electric drive eliminates the need for a reverse gear, enabling McLaren to shorten and lighten the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The net product is the lightest and most powerful-to-weight in its segment, making the Artura a distinctly flickable machine. Riding a nimble 2,640-mm wheelbase, reactive adaptive suspension (don’t listen to the ‘Predictive’ marketing label), and advanced geometries including split lower wishbones up front, the Artura responds with smooth precision. Even the tires are smart, with sensor blisters on their inner faces feeding precise temperature and pressure data to inform the car’s tire-matched ABS and continuously variable E-LSD traction responses.
Deeply technical, this car is an enthusiast engineers’ dream. But with so much happening in the background, it doesn’t feel as though the Artura’s systems save so much as they silently pre-empt. This also means that much of the Artura’s best work goes deliberately unseen and unnoticed. This nonthreatening disposition may disappoint some of my fellow muppets, but traditionalist track purists will counter: drama is the enemy of speed.
All of this work yields smooth, steady lines and ensures that the Artura’s short footprint still feels proportionate to its 671 hp. Drivers can unwind the car into 200 km/h stability across imperfect surfaces, then skirt the car tightly around narrow mountain apices without puckering incident.
“But Hybrid Bad,” the horsepower traditionalists continue to grunt, their mouths dried and words crisp after so many years of vaguely principled mouthbreathing. I still indulge in more than my share of this, but the elegance of the Artura’s execution has made it worth shutting mine for a moment.
What is a problem, however, is that the Artura is perhaps too clever for its own good.
Beyond just disappointing the widowmaker nostalgists, that pre-emption comes at a counterintuitive cost to driver confidence. By making it harder to feel the limits wrought by my ham-handed inputs, this McLaren’s strong and abundantly capable personality becomes harder to read and learn. Where other cars communicate some sense of feedback as they correct, the objectively impressive absence of snaps and catches makes it harder for me to trust the Artura.
Run in Comfort mode, the Artura’s hard, tight modular monocoque glides along with elegantly tuned damping and forgiving response, all without ever feeling washy. It’s still plenty fast and fun in this setting, but it shines as bringing surprising touring readiness and partner friendliness. I have a pal who I wouldn’t even subject to a Z4 for fear of upset, yet I wouldn’t hesitate to transport their sensitive stomach in this supercar. Drop into E-mode, and the experience turns milder still.
It’s a characteristic that I appreciated on my day with the car as well. Exhausted by my runs at the track, I was entirely content to spend some of my return journey sauntering gently behind a Fiat Panda. The literality of the Artura’s Comfort mode is a crowning strength, and for all that I love my classic masters-of-one, its seamless turns from 8,500 rpm theatre to laid-back cruising command my respect.
Taking in the touches on this leg, all-around visibility stands out as excellent. Cabin ergonomics are impressive, with accessible controls, a clean interface, intuitive Android-based infotainment, and three seat options to suit a range of bodies and priorities. Warranty coverage is remarkable, extendable out to 15 years. Camera resolution may be underwhelming, but what’s a supercar without odd shortcomings?
It may be the baby in the lineup, but the Artura distills years of McLaren’s technological advancements into a serious machine that does very many things very very well. From the hot vee to its innovative suspension, this supercar models a compelling future that brings ever more capability to the average driver. And, come the reasonably presumable expansion to Spider and LT trims, to a broader clientele as well.
A track toy and a tourer, it seems almost too usable for something this fast. But like your ex who was too smart for their own good, the paradoxical predictability of the Artura obviates communication to the driver, and ultimately makes it harder to learn and trust. There’s still plenty of fun to be had in it by us hacks, but it will take a driver who knows what they’re doing to make the most of this car.
Personally, I’d still rather spend my $280k on some old garbage — probably with carbureted seatbacks and a vacuum-tube rearview. I am also an idiot who thinks that their rose-tinted slobber-chic is endearing.
If you don’t suffer my sort of fool-hearted traditionalism, the power, usability, and warranty longevity of the Artura seem a strong value.
And if you are an idiot like me, it turns out that there is hope. Ask your doctor about Artura®.