For more than a decade now, McLaren has been building supercars powered exclusively by twin-turbocharged V8s. Every roadgoing McLaren since the 2011 MP4-12C has been united under that commonality – giving the old, entry-level 540C something in common with the mighty Senna and all points in between. That changes for 2023, however.
That’s because the new McLaren Artura does away with the bent-eight engine layout altogether, opting instead for a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, with a compact electric motor and 7.4-kilowatt lithium-ion battery providing some extra motive force (as well as improved fuel economy and emissions). But is the kinder, gentler future creating supercars that are, well, less super? Luckily, the answer is no, with one decently sized caveat.
A vehicle's ratings are relative only to its own segment and not the new-vehicle market as a whole. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.
|2023 McLaren Artura
|Twin-Turbocharged 3.0-Liter V6
|671 Horsepower / 531 Pound-Feet
Gallery: 2023 McLaren Artura: First Drive Review
Soothing the pain that comes with losing two cylinders and 0.8 liters of displacement relative to the 570S, the Artura gets a plug-in hybrid system that gives the mid-engined sports car a total of 671 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque. Those represent respective increases of 109 and 88, though their impact is blunted a bit by an added 86 pounds of dry weight compared to the Artura’s predecessor. Still, the powertrain’s newfound responsiveness – the electric motor is housed inside the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission for instant reflexes – makes it feel borderline telepathic, minimizing lag and producing excellent mid-range thrust.
The axial-flux electric motor itself is designed to be lighter and more energy-dense than the more common radial-flux design. Weighing just 34 pounds (50 less than McLaren’s last electric motor offering in the P1 hypercar), the e-motor makes 94 hp and 166 lb-ft on its own – good for a fully electric top speed of 81 miles per hour. And with its battery fully charged, the Artura will provide 11 miles of fully electric driving in EPA testing.
McLaren’s new Carbon Lightweight Architecture debuts on the Artura (but will soon spread to other new models), and it helps compensate for the added heft of the electric motor and battery with stiffer construction. The carbon fiber monocoque is higher around the A- and B-pillars than previous McLarens, helping obviate the need for separate bonded metal parts. The windshield frame is also integrated into the monocoque, and the side impact beams extend further rearward to protect the battery and fuel tank. McLaren claims that the new monocoque is 10 percent lighter than its predecessor when accounting for the added structural functionality.
And the aluminum front and rear subframes provide stiff, lightweight mounting points for the engine cradle and suspension components. The subframes are also deliberately deformable and replaceable, preserving the integrity of the expensive carbon monocoque in the event of a mild collision. Strategically placed carbon crossmembers help tie the subframes together, yielding structural rigidity you notice from the moment you thumb the starter switch and toggle the electronic gearshift into Drive.
For starters, the McLaren Artura is one of the most comfortable, user-friendly supercars on the market right now – only the Porsche 911 Turbo S is more approachable. The stiff, carbon-intensive chassis allows the relatively soft adaptive dampers to smooth out bad pavement without sacrificing stability, and the monocoque allows for a spacious passenger cell even in the Artura’s short, 104.0-inch wheelbase. The optional 10-way power seats are supportive and not terribly confining, although my butt prefers the standard Clubsport bucket seats and their 40-pound combined weight savings.
Unlike some other mid-engined sports cars, the McLaren is all too happy trundling around town, and its available nose-lift system removes the fear that parking berms and speed bumps impose. The Artura always defaults to the E-mode powertrain setting, which feels plenty responsive around the neighborhood, although acceleration falls off sharply at about 30 mph and at freeway speeds, the Mac loses momentum on hills. No matter – toggle the powertrain mode switch to Comfort and the car will balance operation of the e-motor and gas engine to provide the most efficient operation, while still uncorking the full combined power when desired.
But you didn’t come to read about efficiency and comfort, did you?
Not only is the Artura easy to drive around town, it’s also scintillating when it’s time to go fast. Although not as spine-tingling as the shriek of a McLaren V8, the interplay of wild V6 and hybrid-electric propulsion yields some undeniably exotic sounds. And the electric motor does a great job of backfilling torque as the turbos come online, meaning you almost always have an excess of power when both the engine and EV system are working together. McLaren quotes a 0-60 time of 3.0 seconds; my butt says faster. And the feeling through the seat of your pants only gets more thrilling when it’s time to upshift.
McLaren’s signature Inertia Push transmission swaps gears so quickly that the engine doesn’t have a chance to reduce in speed, giving the next gear up a little added torque via the spinning input shaft’s kinetic energy. It’s not necessarily smooth, but it is incredibly quick and drama-filled, especially when accompanied by a dual-clutch–signature exhaust blaaat. Response through the paddles is preternatural, but the transmission does an excellent job of upshifting at redline, downshifting on hard braking, and holding gears when speeding around corners.
The dampers provide clear detents between comfort, sport, and race modes, though I suspect you could potentially use the smoothest-riding setting on a track and not feel like you’re missing out too much. That’s because the Artura’s inherent center of gravity is so low – thanks to both the floor-mounted battery and the nearly flat 133-degree V6. There just isn’t that much mass up high to manage, so body roll and dive are always very well controlled. If you’re the starched-collar type, the sport and race settings provide better transitionary response through corners, eliminating any hint of body motions that could upset handling balance.
Given my last experience in a McLaren was the hilarious (and terrifying) 765LT Spider, the Artura is reassuringly competent and balanced.
The stiff chassis is also very communicative, and the car seemingly rotates around your inboard hip as you turn in. The electrohydraulic steering is heavy and chattery as G-forces build, giving you a clear picture of what the front wheels are experiencing – grain of sand, fleck of gravel, or striated concrete? You’ll be able to tell the difference. And regardless of the suspension or powertrain settings, McLaren insists on low-assist steering and a firm, short-travel brake pedal, helping the driver be consistent irrespective of the road conditions.
It all adds up to a surprisingly accessible and enjoyable sports car on public roads, with plenty of power and even more control. Given my last experience in a McLaren was the hilarious (and terrifying) 765LT Spider, the Artura is reassuringly competent and balanced.
The Artura is a willing dance partner on the track thanks in part to an 18-setting drift control system and stability controls that operate independently of the drive mode. When approaching the limits (either yours or the car’s), the Artura will gently remind you to dial things back and refine your approach a bit. It’s like a coach that helps you improve in a supportive environment before setting you loose.
That feeling of safety does come at the expense of outright thrills, though. Sometimes you want a coach that makes your life a living hell. Some supercars offer that experience, biting you in the ass the moment you step beyond your talents, and the experience can be genuinely fun – at least until you’re shiny-side down. The Artura isn’t such a machine, with an amenable demeanor that’s both its greatest asset and liability.
Still, the newest electrified McLaren is proof that a more ecologically conscious future need not be at odds with internal-combustion hilarity, just as the involving driving experience need not compromise around-town comfort. The 2023 Artura breaks new ground for McLaren, sure, but not without remembering the impressively engineered driving fun that made the brand famous.
Artura Competitor Reviews:
2023 McLaren Artura