2022 McLaren Artura | UK Review

We've skidded it in Spain – now for the real world. How does a hybrid McLaren plug into everyday life?

By Stephen_Dobie / Friday, 11 November 2022 / Loading comments

The Artura is, apparently, a wholly new McLaren. Carryover parts from any Woking product before it are minimal in quantity and size; the engine and carbon tub are entirely fresh, and thus the whole car is. This isn’t our first taster of it, and Mr Howell had an extensive road and track drive in the searing heat of Spanish summer. Where, it must be said, he came away from the Artura feeling a touch underwhelmed.

Our second bite is on the slimier tarmac of autumnal Britain, snaking through the Surrey Hills in something far closer resembling the real world. This isn’t a test of its variable drift control or an in-depth appraisal of McLaren’s first locking diff, rather an analysis of how useable the Artura is when you’re driving it every day.

Which I’d like to think you might do. It’s a plug-in hybrid with nearly 20 miles of emissions-free range (at least in theory) while McLarens have always been famed for their cossetting ride, comfy driving position and extensive visibility. All traits which add up to an easy-going companion, however low it places you – or quickly it propels you.

On which note, the combination of 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor results in 680hp and 531lb ft peaks and a 0-62mph time of three seconds flat. The hybrid setup adds 130kg to proceedings, but McLaren’s move from a V8 to V6 engine (still made by Ricardo) brings a 50kg saving, while the carbon tub would be lighter if it wasn’t for new components related to the battery cell. It sneaks under 1.5 tonnes with fluids on board, something the Ferrari 296 GTB certainly can’t claim.

While McLaren is naturally keen to talk up how new the car’s major components are, it’s the tweaks made inside the car that’ll be most keenly appreciated in everyday driving. The drive modes for the chassis and engine have moved up to the instrument binnacle – meaning they can be reached with a fingertip stretch from the wheel – and they’re always ready, too. There’s no longer an additional button-press to activate them, a move catalysed by the fact you might want to swiftly flick into Electric mode when you get close to home. The same thinking sees the nose lift moved to one quick prod too, and it can automatically work its magic at crawling speed. No more holding up traffic as you feverishly flap away at a metallic stalk the second a boisterous speedbump homes into view.

Remember the fuss McLaren’s head-scratching IRIS infotainment setup caused? It’s a long-distant memory now that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard and relayed via a portrait screen that sits the perfect height and distance from your hands to not distract as you use them. A rare trick that few larger carmakers have yet nailed. I’ll conclude the more prosaic stuff by saying the standard ‘Clubsport’ seats are fantastic. They slide fore and aft manually and then pivot electronically so you can adjust their height without sacrificing the great driving position they offer. Should you want heated seats – or more adjustment – you’ll have to give them up for a more luxurious option.

Onto the driving. The Artura always starts in Electric mode, which is wonderful news for not annoying the heck out of your neighbours and it does an admirable job of encouraging you to scurry quietly through town afterwards. Albeit not silently; where we’ve got used to EVs isolating us from the noise their motor makes – many, such as BMW, even piping in an artificial soundtrack instead – the Artura sounds not unlike an oversized RC car as its gearbox-mounted motor subtly whines away in town. Up to 30mph, it’s a welcome bit of aural interaction, but its pitch begins to rise at about 40mph, half of its theoretical top speed on battery power alone. Probably a sensible reminder to shift up to Comfort mode (basically Hybrid mode) as you leave town. Or better yet, Sport.

In the former the engine initially fires up and sits idling while the electric motor continues propulsion, effectively warming itself up before it begins providing power. It’s utterly discombobulating and a unique sensation to be whooshing around on a wave of instant torque while the V6 burbles away at fixed revs behind your head. But it wouldn’t be a McLaren without bizarrely charming belligerence somewhere in its make-up.

Comfort mode is pretty smart at balancing both powertrain elements, favouring electric at low speeds but calling on engine power as soon as it suspects more assertive throttle use. You use it as intuitively as you do kickdown in a well-calibrated automatic, meaning you might well end up saving Sport (or the more aggressive Track setting) for the really good roads. Then you’ll see the engine and motor constantly active, which means you can finally start playing with the carbon rocker paddle of the new eight-speed twin-clutch gearbox. It’s a good ‘un, too, but there weren’t really any complaints with the seven-speed transmission that preceded it.

As for the engine? Well, its 120-degree angle and hot-in-V turbos make it remarkably similar to the 296 GTB’s on paper, right down to a mere cubic centimetre separating their capacity, but the two cars are different animals – in price, in power and in swagger. For all McLaren’s switch to a more melodic six-cylinder setup, the gruff, industrial edge of the old V8 still lingers. This V6 is a better sounding engine, but it lacks the wonderful musicality of Maranello’s equivalent. A greasy afternoon in the suburbs surrounding London didn’t allow any real chance to explore the 8500rpm redline of McLaren’s new unit, but nor am I particularly crestfallen. In the GTB, you feel like you’ve got access to a truly great engine with some hybrid tech latched onto it. In the Artura, you consider the powertrain as a whole.

Which I do intend as praise. The way the motor fills in low-down torque gaps is downright spooky, too; pop the gearbox in manual and stick in sixth or seventh gear at 40mph and you’ll still surge relentlessly forward on electric power before the engine picks up pace. Given the lag we’ve associated with McLarens in the past (sometimes welcome, to be honest, given their licence-shredding speed once the turbos spool), it’s a minor revelation. But the Artura’s obviously bloody quick with everything on full song too, the vast windscreen doing its usual trick of drawing pace out of you that you don’t always intend once the road opens up.

Accelerate past a national speed limit sign with the traction and stability controls all activated and you’ll marvel at how well this car puts its prodigious power output down on less than warm surfaces. Try the same trick with the systems loosened – via a mercifully easy single button prod – and you’ll suddenly realise how much work they’ve been doing as you squirm forward, applying a lick of corrective lock before realising the car’s still got your back and was probably just letting you have your moment.

The steering itself is great, McLaren sticking with a hydraulic setup and reaping the rewards with lots of natural weight and feel. Some critiques of the Artura have suggested a move to EPAS wouldn’t be all bad, not least because of the mid-corner kickback this system retains on gnarlier roads. But overall I love it. Every input you make is so precise, all thanks to how communicative the system is rather than any overflowing driving talent. Still makes you feel good, though.

Assessed on UK roads it’s stiffer than I recall previous McLarens feeling, the chassis’ Comfort mode setting feeling closer to where Sport used to sit, but perhaps that’s because of the additional effort needed to keep the Artura’s modest weight gain in check. Something which I’d argue you notice under braking, too, this car not as obviously lithe as those before it. But these are marginal differences, and this remains a relatively light and unarguably athletic supercar.

And an eminently useable one. Unless you need the boot space, I don’t see why you’d choose the McLaren GT over one of these, and that’s a car I’ve always had an uncommon soft spot for (honestly, it’s a charmer). While the economic benefits of a £200k hybrid supercar are probably up for debate, I adore being able to potter through towns making as little fuss as it’s possible to make in an orange McLaren with dihedral doors.

That’s in contrast to the 296, where I felt compelled to stoke the V6 into life as I drove past crowds as if I’d be doing onlookers a disservice if they saw a Ferrari without hearing it. The Artura simply comes across a different kind of car, one that’ll be less of a plaything and more of an everyday partner if its size and 160-litre luggage capacity work for you. Exhibiting none of the infamous teething troubles of its Spanish press launch, it feels an impressive achievement and a genuinely useable supercar.


SPECIFICATION | 2022 MCLAREN ARTURA

Engine: 2,993cc, V6 twin-turbocharged, plug-in hybrid
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 680
Torque (lb ft): 531
0-62mph: 3.0secs
Top speed: 205mph
Weight: 1,498kg (DIN)
MPG: 61.5
CO2: 104g/km
Price: £189,200

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