The new McLaren Artura plug-in supercar delivers performance, but McLaren needs to nail down its reliability issues.
The Artura matters for McLaren. A lot. Its new carbon fibre platform and twin-turbo V6 hybrid powertrain will form the basis for pretty much all McLarens for the next decade, so it can’t really afford to put a foot wrong.
Hence the reason its original launch was postponed from late last year until now, some eight months later, thereby allowing Ferrari to launch its own V6 hybrid – the 296 GTB – to such acclaim in the meantime.
But that’s how vital the Artura is to McLaren’s future, so the fact that we’ve now driven it in near-production form on its international launch and experienced numerous technical issues with it – some minor, some not – does seem hard to excuse. For all its speed, drama and dynamic capability, we’re not sure it’s ready just yet, not until there’s clear evidence that the technical issues it continues to suffer from have been resolved. This is not a nice thing to say about any new car.
Anyway, having said all that, there are no such things as problems, they say, only solutions, and with this in mind, what’s the car itself like to drive? In many ways it’s excellent, in some ways it’s mildly disappointing, but overall, it’s very good indeed. Even if it does fall a yard or two short of matching a Ferrari 296 GTB, which to be fair costs more than the $449,500 (before on-road costs) Artura.
In isolation there is much to be impressed by with the Artura. Its twin-turbo V6 engine develops a combined 500kW and 720Nm of torque once the 70kW and 225Nm of electric power has been factored in. That’s enough to fire it to 100km/h in a claimed 3.0 seconds and to a top speed of 330km/h, so it’s more than just quick, it’s ballistic.
This is partly because McLaren has managed to keep the kerb weight down to just 1498kg, which is deeply impressive for a car that carries 130kg of battery and an e-motor.
In simple terms, the Artura effectively replaces the company’s most popular model, the 570S, occupying the expansive chunk of real estate that exists both dynamically and financially between the GT and the 720S. As such, McLaren claims it heralds “a new era” for the company, hence there’s also a great new design theme to the interior with much more intuitive instruments, new seats, a cleaner layout for all the major controls and a far less complex (but better to use) central touchscreen.
All the drive mode buttons are now up at fingertip level on either side of the wheel, just above where the gear shift paddles sit, although unlike the paddle shifters themselves, these new buttons don’t move when you twirl the wheel.
Either way, it feels like a more serious and higher quality car inside than any previous McLaren. This sits well with the equally significant increases in both ride and noise refinement on the move. The same goes for the new powertrain, which is probably quieter than you’d expect (or perhaps want) but still deeply entertaining to listen to if you give it some revs. And boy does it like to rev, the red line set at 8500rpm, at which point the engine still feels and sounds remarkably smooth and unstressed.
On the move, the Artura feels extremely grown up and capable, perhaps even a touch too grown up for its own good. It’s refined to the point of feeling slightly aloof emotionally to begin with, although again the harder you drive it, the better it gets. And on a track, so long as you turn all its numerous new electronic aids off and summon the courage to start flinging it around a bit, the Artura does come alive beneath your backside and fingertips. At which point the potential that lurks within this car dynamically is released, and it all begins to make perfect sense.
The brakes, steering, gearchange and handling also go to another level once you push to unlock them on a track, although on the road there’s nothing actively wrong with the way the Artura stops, steers, changes gear or goes round corners. It feels like it is on rails for most of the time, to be honest, it’s that well composed.
Yet until you push it close to the edge, the contents of its dynamic envelope remain a well-guarded secret for much of the time, which can be a bit frustrating to begin with. It’s a bit like the “shy but interesting” supercar in this respect: thoroughly intriguing in isolation but harder to be won over by in a broader sense when the room is full of warmer, more outgoing but equally interesting alternatives.
Yet however good or great it may be to drive, this is not the Artura’s main issue at the moment. Reliability, on the other hand, is – and until this gets resolved the quality of its dynamics are of little consequence. Over to you McLaren.
|Engine/battery:||3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 PHEV|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive|
|On sale:||Q4 2022 (Australia)|