Accepting that McLaren is small potatoes alongside the volume carmakers, Iain Robertson is of the belief that the promotional value conveyed by it shines like a beacon across the entire, UK-based and remaining British-owned automotive scene.
Packed with post-modern irony, McLaren Automotive grew into a 21st Century miracle from an highly successful Formula One enterprise. Not all participants in the premier motorsports league tinker with road cars in quite the same way as Lotus, or Ferrari, but McLaren had enjoyed a few dalliances prior to establishing itself quite rapidly in the upper echelons of ‘supercardom’. Its passport was granted by way of F1 but its escalation into poster boy for the current generation lies in its passionate single-mindedness and devotion to perfection.
To be fair, its early machines had issues but the company was tireless in its pursuit of engineering integrity, even though much of the development programme was carried out in full public glare. While McLaren Cars was established in 1985, the current McLaren Automotive is only just over a decade old, yet while possessing the energy of youth, it has also assumed the mantle of maturity and been able to trade alongside its several international rivals on level pegging. Its financial performance has constituted that ‘miracle’ status in that its ROI arrived within only its third year of existence and has been delivered consistently ever since, with profits being ploughed back into the company to result in new model developments.
However, the irony exists in the very form and function of the supercar market sector. While change is evident, even with brand signatures being quite different, each model follows a broadly similar pattern, which almost guarantees a ‘double-take’ not so much because of what a lowline, growly and eye-catching supercar can achieve but as affirmation of which supercar it is…Lambo, Ferrari, Lotus, or Porsche among an array of others. They can, in a passing flash, look pretty much the same.
Branding often demands commonality of approach, unless your brand is Ferrari, which tends to rely more on paint colour recognition and that charismatic black-on-yellow ‘Il Cavallino Rampante’ marque badge. When BMW crafts a supercar, it also manages to graft a stylised ‘double-kidney’ radiator shell on the front-end. Merc’s efforts are equally recognisable, thanks to the ‘Three-Pointed-Star’ wrote large on its pointy bits. Porsche, an undoubted target for McLaren, is always readily recognisable. Lamborghini is all angular and edgy but McLaren has settled on its headlamp signature that incorporates the company logo in its outline shape, allied to a spacy front splitter and purposeful air intakes. The problem, if one exists, is that McLaren’s style is also lacking in bite, with a degree of subtlety and anonymity more closely akin to the front-end of a Tesla Model S. Thus the all-new Artura, which is genuinely all-new, could pass for something older from the McLaren stable, let alone some rivals, as both flanks carry the customary swoop into a deep air intake scallop, making identification even more awkward.
Yet, as stated, Artura, which has a familiar ring to it, loses a pair of cylinders over its predecessor, while also hiking up the power and punch quotient, riding on a new suspension system and incorporating hybrid electrification as a legislator satisfying sop set to survive for a handful of years beyond Boris’s 2030 ‘E-Day’. Thought about logically, such a timely entitlement surely underscores that Artura will also be the swansong of ‘normality’, before EV neutrality sets in. In the process, McLaren has just warranted the model’s collectability status. Smart move!
The Surrey-based carmaker is using its Sheffield-based composites factory as the supplier of its Carbon Lightweight Architecture for the first time. The body features the clever melding of aluminium alloy and carbon-fibre for a modest kerbweight of 1,498kgs, within which is positioned amidships the enticing new 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo petrol engine, energy-dense battery pack and associated hybrid componentry (130kgs). Developing a bodice-ripping 671bhp, the free-breathing and surprisingly musical V6 (not a format renowned for easy balance), in conjunction with its 93bhp E-motor, produces a hefty 530lbs ft of torque, which is substantial for a supercar. The response to dipping the throttle pedal is an instant bomb-blast from 0-60mph in 2.7s, 0-120mph in 8.0s and 0-180mph in a smidgen over 21.0s. Intriguingly, the on-paper stuff rates the unit at 129g/km for CO2 emissions and being capable of returning 50.2mpg, albeit with its 7.4kWh battery providing around 20 miles of EV-only range.
Driving the electronic locking rear differential through an all-new 8-speed sequential, automated-manual gearbox, the new tub also benefits from adaptive damping for its traditional double wishbone front and quite different upper wishbone and lower multi-link rear suspension set-up, which is produced from forged aluminium for lightness. The driver can select one of three configurable modes, Comfort, Sport and Track. In typical McLaren form, the ride comfort is astonishingly compliant but well-damped in default Comfort selection, becoming progressively more reactive in the other more focused states. A mix of 19.0-inch diameter (9.0-inch width) front and 20x11J rear cast alloy wheels (forged versions are an option), behind which sit the 6-pot front and 4-pot rear carbon-ceramic brake discs, are clad in 35-profile Pirelli P-Zero tyres, for maximum traction and retardation, as well as enhanced stability and assuredly honest rear-driven responses.
Its two-seater cockpit is spacious, even for a two-metres tall driver, and beautifully detailed. The driver is fronted by a pair of high-definition screens, the centre one of which allows alterations to the chassis control, the HVAC and most of the ADAS fitments. It also contains the sat-nav and connectivity options. The main, configurable instrument cluster is attached to the steering column and moves with driver adjustment. A not so generous 160-litres of luggage space is available…enough for a racing helmet and suit! Supported by a 5 years, 75,000 miles warranty (almost as good as a Hyundai), four versions are available, with prices commencing from a chilly £185,000.
Conclusion: Yes. I know it’s another supercar into a market that does seem to be loading up with last-ditch efforts and some mighty potent all-electric alternatives but this is McLaren, a thoroughly British success story and EV is already in its stars.