LARRY KING, THE MUCH-CELEBRATED broadcaster who died in January, famously said: ‘I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.’ Now, listening is
not something that supercar companies are famous for. While the Fords and Kias might put a lot of effort into market research and customer surveys, you expect Ferrari to simply invoke the spirit of old man Enzo and tell people what their heart desires. On a scale of one to five, five being completely satisfied, how would you rate the ergonomics of your dashboard? A question put to people by Peugeot, perhaps, but likely not Pagani.
I recall there was an element of this almost-condescending conviction when McLaren launched the MP4-12C. Journalists were very much told, sometimes by Ron Dennis himself, why the McLaren way was the right way. If you disagreed, well, there were usually numbers to prove you wrong.
Part of me admires and even commends this approach. Not everything should be put to a vote or aim to please the majority. That way blandness often lies. We desire the inspired and even the flawed, because they make the world more interesting. Product innovation should give you something that you didn’t know you needed, but subsequently can’t imagine living without.
All of which brings me to a small, subterranean theatre in the bowels of the grandly named Thought Leadership Centre at McLaren HQ in Woking. It is dimly lit and an archetypal mid-engined supercar shape lurks under a cover on the stage. A presentation about the new car is underway and what’s caught my attention is not the power figure nor an acceleration time, but the fact that McLaren has said it has listened.
You see, McLaren has got an awful lot very right in the decade since the MP4-12C, but there is an argument to be made that all the cars since the original 12C have been very closely related to the 12C. Possibly too closely. The same engine, the same shunning of a limited-slip diff, the same modes, the same switches. People often voiced their dislike of certain elements, big or small, but generally the next model would arrive with the same elements unchanged. Was this an inability to alter – or a lack of inclination to alter? Now, with this completely new car, I think we have the answer. McLaren has listened.
It has kept the things that people have liked and for which the company’s cars have been praised. Things such as the deliciously tactile, hydraulically power-assisted steering. The pedal layout. The brake feel. The performance and attention to paring weight. But other facets, things that after ten years seemed like they might become the norm in McLarens for evermore, have been changed. Adios, Active button. Hello, limited-slip differential. So long, awkward seat buttons. A friendly welcome to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Greetings, better throttle response. Yes, you can even fathom how to activate the nose lift on this new McLaren.
But let’s go back to the beginning. This freshly minted supercar is called the Artura. Which, from my brief onomastic research, is a female variant of the name Arthur. Curious. Within the McLaren range, it will sit below the 720S but above the GT and we’ve been told to expect a starting price of around ₹ 1.8 crore (in the UK) when it goes on sale later this year.
It is a plug-in hybrid. The petrol-powered part is an all-new, twin-turbocharged, 2993cc, 120-degree, hot-vee V6. If you like your engine codes, then it is designated M630. This is augmented by an axial flux e-motor that is situated within the bell housing of the new eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission. It is, as far as I’m aware, only the second time that we have seen an axial instead of radial flux motor used in a supercar, the first being in Ferrari’s SF90. The advantages are the slimmer packaging and reduced weight for a greater power density, making it ideal for an in-transmission application.
Power is delivered to the rear wheels via an electronically controlled limited-slip differential. And there is, as you’d expect, a lot of power. Maximum outputs are 671bhp and 720Nm of torque. The V6 provides 577bhp at 7500rpm (the red line is another 1000rpm higher) and 584Nm of torque between 2250 and 7000rpm. Meanwhile the e-motor is capable of producing 94bhp and 225Nm of torque, although that maximum of 94bhp (and therefore the entire 671bhp) is only transient, lasting for 15sec of full throttle before reducing to 49bhp (giving a measly 626bhp in total).
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