The hills surrounding Ascari Race Resort are steeped in history. First settled by the early Celts, the area became fortified during the height of the Roman Empire and has since been haunted by oversized figures ranging from the 8th century Moors to Ernest Hemingway. This ancient landscape is a spectacular place to launch the 2023 McLaren Artura, which places its futuristic design in an austere historical perspective.
Don’t let Artura’s understated bodywork fool you: beneath the fender louvers, large side scoops and flying buttresses is a hybrid powertrain that plays a key role in the survival plan for the beleaguered Woking marque . Rather than sitting at the top of the range like the late, big P1 hybrid, Artura fills a gap between the roadtrip-friendly GT and the exuberant 720S.
And while it appears to bear a remarkable amount of similarities to the Ferrari 296 GTB – a 120-degree mid-engine/rear-drive 3.0-liter V6, axial-flow electric motor, eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and EV range under 20 miles, for starters – the Artura is almost a more affordable 911 than the Modena monster, starting at $237,500. As such, the Macca produces 671 hp and 530 lb-ft more land than the 296’s 830 hp and 546 lb-ft. Not just a different league, but an almost entirely different sport.
McLaren has long prioritized lightweight construction, and Artura’s near-flat V6 goes one step further, measuring 7.5 inches shorter and 110 pounds lighter than the brand’s V8. This helps deliver a curb weight of 3,303 lbs, despite hybrid components that include a 7.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery. As with the Ferrari, Artura’s dual-clutch adds another cog for eight forward gears in total, ditching reverse as the electric motor now handles backup duties.
Although it seems to bear a remarkable amount of similarities to the Ferrari 296 GTB, the Artura is almost a more affordable 911 than the Modena monster.
A new carbon fiber chassis saves even more weight by incorporating an Ethernet network that reduces the mass that would have been absorbed by conventional cables. As such, McLaren claims the body structure is around 10% lighter than equivalent predecessors. Left in EV mode, the two-seater can lazily cruise up to 81 mph; in full-bore track mode with launch control, it’ll see 62 mph in 3 seconds flat and accelerate until it hits an aero wall at 205 mph.
Lift the dihedral billionaire doors and step inside to find plenty of subtle updates for those familiar with McLaren’s well-used supercar playbook. Handling and powertrain controls have been moved to either side of a new instrument binnacle, which adjusts in unison with the steering wheel. Move the switches to change modes and the display reflects the setting with a small graphic and/or layout change, depending on the mode. There is a slight lag between input and display, although the motor fires instantly when exiting pure EV mode.
Driving in electric mode is stealthy, although a bit limited when in a hurry. Quiet driving is a great way to leave minimal impact when driving in small towns or quiet neighborhoods, although the lack of exhaust din allows some subtle, high-frequency electronic sounds to enter the cabin. In sport mode, the engine runs until the catalytic converters are warmed up, then quiets until demands for acceleration aren’t met by battery power alone, which is most of the time. , unless the throttle is operated very carefully.
There’s a seamless interplay between EV and internal combustion, producing a massive torque plateau between 2,500 and 7,000 rpm. The direct regen strategy leaves the driver no choice: there’s no ‘high regen’ button, and pressing the gearshift paddles will only change gears. But that’s not a bad thing; the system works, while respecting the sanctity and consistency of pedal feedback. The braking system is a conventional, non-brake-by-wire setup that has a heavy race car feel with linear feedback and good initial bite that begins near the start of the pedal stroke.
Speaking of feel, McLaren thankfully retains its old-school electro-hydraulic steering setup, which provides enough feedback to give a clear picture of front-end grip. It’s not as transcendent as Ferrari’s, but it’s good enough to feel natural and precise.
Track powertrain tuning presents the tachometer in a line graph and offers crisp yet intuitive throttle response, along with a charging tactic that returns enough charge to the battery to help with 10+ laps on the track of Nardo test, which covers more than 60 miles of tar.
Although not quite as fast as the 296 GTB’s 819bhp powertrain, the Artura feels plenty quick on rural Spanish roads, climbing valiantly through the 8,500rpm rev range as the transmission shifts smoothly. Engine sounds are never booming or annoying. Instead, the cabin fills with a refined yet authentic exhaust note, eschewing the tactic of being heard through sound tubes or stereo speakers.
The new 8.0-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen is easy to use and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although its volume button is somewhat awkwardly positioned on the right side of the screen. At least the home screen is easily accessible by pressing the button in the volume button, recalling a series of icons that can be customized by holding and dragging.
We were told that some software settings on our tester weren’t finalized yet, so we weren’t surprised when the digital dash displayed a high clutch temperature message after spirited driving. Some time later, we managed to pull off a few hard launches, knocking out aggressive acceleration bursts without incident.
Ready for the road, focused on the track
An Unplanned Ride: Our track practice was postponed for a day due to a supplier issue that required parts to be swapped on all the cars on the track. The following day we headed to the Ascari track from Marbella, gobbling up the miles with an ease that cemented the Artura’s status as a fast, comfortable grand tourer that’s content to cruise at 90mph at speed. superior with the engine purring at a relaxed 2,500 rpm. There’s a bit of on-center tenderness on the road at around 120 mph, which makes the front end feel like it could use a touch of toe alignment.
That hint of uncertainty was not present on the track, where more aggressive Pirelli Corsas replaced the Pirelli PZeros we tested on the road. Incidentally, this McLaren is fitted with Pirelli’s first-ever Cyber Tire technology, which uses a sensor mounted in the inner center of the rubber to more accurately communicate temperature and pressure.
Unlike more aggressively-configured McLarens, brake vectoring on the Artura is only used in low-speed corners, removing some of the cliched “on-rails” cornering that characterizes some of the automaker’s top-end models. automobile. Thus, Artura relies on a more conventional driving style that respects the simple laws of momentum and forethought. Think of it as an analog way to drive lines, despite the digital underpinnings of the platform.
The Ascari Circuit offers a host of highlights, from right-handers and banked corners to wavy chicanes and gently curving high-speed transitions. The mix of internal combustion and electric power makes quick work of the straights, with the dual-clutch providing quick and smooth gear changes.
Six-piston carbon ceramic brakes and aluminum calipers sourced from LT models provide excellent stopping power, and in their stiffest setting, Tenneco adaptive dampers work with the carbon monocoque for a crisp, responsive feel. No, the Artura isn’t as jaw-dropping on the track as some of McLaren’s more exotic offerings like the 765 LT, and it doesn’t offer exorbitant downforce to encourage crazy cornering speeds. But given its positioning within the range, it holds its own with a communicative interface and buttoned performance.
As McLaren’s first mass production hybrid, Artura is one of the most critical releases in the brand’s still relatively young road car division. Its path to production was problematic and the launch somewhat bumpy, but McLaren’s vision appears to have been executed with a typically diligent attention to detail, maintaining a strong vision of purity that prioritizes linear feedback, predictable dynamics and lightweight construction. These fundamentals of a successful supercar are needed to compete with rivals that include the clinical yet capable Maserati MC20 and what promises to be an exceptional Lamborghini Huracán Tecnica.
From this perspective, Artura is more of a glimpse into the future of the brand than a holdover from the past. Consider that the MC20 platform is set for a fully electrified iteration, and the next-gen Huracán will incorporate a hybrid drivetrain. All factors considered, we hope that the trials and tribulations leading up to this critical moment in history will pay off for McLaren. Time will tell if the Artura proves to be as intriguing an ownership proposition as its competitors; until then, this carefully executed hybrid is an ambitious and encouraging sign of life from our favorite British supercar maker.