You might have heard about the new McLaren Artura, the first volume-production hybrid sports car to come from the British carmaker.
You might also have come across the snazzy new page McLaren put up on its official website to celebrate the launch of its new, entry-level (we use the term very, very loosely) sports car, described of course in breathless terms, with CEO Mike Flewitt hailing it as “the next generation McLaren”.
There, you’ll probably have learned about how the new car develops a total output of 680hp from its brand-new 3-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor combo, is able to hit 0-100km/h in three seconds dead, and will go on to a top speed of 330km/h.
It’s probably also worth mentioning that the last figure above had to be electronically limited, ostensibly to prevent irreparable damage to the space-time continuum.
And yet, in spite of all that performance, the Artura has a modicum of green cred (and not just from its striking green paint), with its plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of running for up to 30km on electric power alone.
The new Artura has also got a fancy new electronically controlled differential that McLaren says is not only lighter and more compact, it works quicker and boasts more granular control over a traditional mechanical differential to juggle power between the left and right rear wheels.
You might also have read about how it’s one of the lightest cars in its class, in spite of the additional weight of its hybrid drivetrain. It tips the scales at just 1,498kg with all fluids and a nearly-full tank of fuel on board, making it one of the lightest volume-production plug-in hybrid sports cars around.
In typical McLaren fashion, it talks up the Artura’s weight-saving gains (or more accurately, losses), with even such mundane things like the rear light cluster housing the positioning, brake and signal lights into one unit. The entire assembly comprises just nine components along with a single LED strip, McLaren says, and it weighs half as much as the unit found on its flagship 720S supercar.
Granted, there aren’t that many cars like the Artura in its segment that have a plug-in hybrid drive, but a sub-1.5 tonne kerb weight is nothing to be sneezed at.
Of course, there’s more than enough scope to make the Artura even less like other cars, and indeed, even less like other Arturas with a comprehensive array of off-the-rack options for the exterior and interior (how does 31 paint colours and four interior trim options sound). If that isn’t enough, you could always call up its customisation division, McLaren Special Operations, where “almost anything [is] possible”.
Anyway, once you’ve digested all the info on the Artura, which can at times read more like an engineering white paper than it does a product brochure, there are still a few things McLaren hasn’t mentioned in its marketing and press materials.
Right then, let’s get into it, shall we?
For the first time in its history, outside of its special-edition cars (the Elva, Speedtail, Senna), the Artura’s name is an actual name, as opposed to, say, an acronym (the F1, SLR, GT), or a seemingly random collection of numbers and alphabets (MP4-12C, 570S, 675LT, 720S… you get the idea).
Could this mean the end of an era for McLaren’s naming convention, which was wonderfully descriptive (the numbers refer to each car’s horsepower output), but yet also not the sexiest?
Well, only time will tell. But whatever it is, and whatever you might think of the Artura’s name, it’s at least a step in the right direction. I mean, if nothing else, a name like the Artura is a lot easier on the tongue than, I don’t know, the 765LT lightweight race track special supercar, which as amazing as the car is, sounds like you’re talking about your washing machine or fridge.
The Model Hierarchy
Whether McLaren is permanently changing its products’ naming convention remains to be seen, but one thing’s for certain, its three-tier product system (in ascending order of speed from quick, searing to have-I-left-my-kidneys-several-hundred-metres-behind) that made its debut in 2015 is now a thing of the past.
Gone are the Sport Series, Super Series and Ultimate Series categories, which with the debut of the new Artura, have been replaced by GT, Supercars and Ultimate.
Yes, it’s still a three-tier system, but unlike previously, where it was arranged in order of power, its cars are now grouped by purpose. The GT (grand tourer) category, which is used to denote its sporting, long-distance tourers is currently only occupied by one car, the eponymous GT. That said, if there’s now a separate category for it, then in the fullness of time, could see an entry-level model joining it.
Supercars, as the name implies, is just that. The current flagship of the range, the 720S, is due for a mid-life refresh any day now, which along with some bodywork revisions could see a name change to bring it in line with the precedent the Artura has just set. This is similar to what happened when the 12C morphed into the 650S after four years in production.
As for McLaren’s Ultimate line, that’s where things will change the least. It will still be the purview of ultra-rare, ultra-expensive, ultra-fast, no-holds-barred hypercars that will most likely have proper names.
… Or not. A delicious plot twist could be McLaren reverting to numbers and alphabets for its next Ultimate series hypercar.
Okay, this whole hybrid supercar thing isn’t exactly news to McLaren. There was the P1 hypercar from 2013, and since then, there’s been the ‘hyper-GT’ Speedtail, unveiled in 2018.
What is new, however, along with the McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture “that will underpin the next decade of McLaren’s electrified future” (meaning expect lots more hybrid McLarens in the next decade) is its new 3-litre, twin-turbo V6 engine.
It’s unclear as to whether the M838/M840 (the latter is an evolution of the former) V8 engines that have seen service in every McLaren since the carmaker’s modern resurrection a decade ago, will go on, but if you ask me, that’s very unlikely.
Increasingly stringent emissions regulations, that are only going to get even stricter as the 2020s wear on, is the culprit here.
So, for the foreseeable future, it’s going to be six-cylinder power for McLaren. Still, as McLaren is keen to stress, its new V6 that produces 585hp on its own, is the highest horsepower-per-litre unit ever put onto any of its cars, save for the Senna and Elva hypercars.
The king is dead, long live the king.
It might be a little odd to talk about money when talking about sports cars, especially sports cars in as rarefied air as the Artura occupies, but hey, money is money.
Before local taxes and optional extras are factored in, the Artura costs from GBP185,500, which is a whopping 30 percent increase over the GBP143,250 starting price McLaren was asking for its previous entry-level model, the 570S, back in 2015.
Just to give you a handy frame of reference, what McLaren wants for the Artura is not too far off the GBP208,600 starting price of the 720S.
The amount of tech and speed crammed into the Artura more than justifies that price tag, but it’s more than a sure sign that the prices of future McLarens are creeping northward. That’s more than a Ferrari Roma, the Prancing Horse’s entry-level sports car and more than the 'Baby Lambo' Huracan.
But the Artura’s ace up its (carbon fibre) sleeve, is it’s the only hybrid in its segment, let alone a plug-in hybrid that can potentially handle the daily home-to-work-and-back commute on electric power alone.
You know what they say, you get what you pay for.