2023 McLaren Artura Review: McLaren’s First V6 Silences Any Non-Believers

The Artura marks the first V6-powered production McLaren ever made. Past models always relied on a V8.

byBasem Wasef| PUBLISHED Jun 14, 2022 7:01 PM
2023 McLaren Artura Review: McLaren’s First V6 Silences Any Non-Believers
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In 2011, the confusingly named McLaren MP4-12C re-launched McLaren’s road car efforts to huge effect, and the supercar landscape was never the same. But an arguably bigger bombshell dropped the following year at the Paris Motor Show: the million-dollar P1, which merged with the Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder to form the now-legendary Holy Trinity of hybrid hypercars. A decade later, and the blend of gasoline and electric technology has finally trickled down into the brand’s first serially produced plug-in hybrid: the 2023 McLaren Artura.

Electrification has since gone from a dirty word to de rigueur, seeping into the collective subconscious and normalizing the once-alien. But no supercar pundit could have anticipated the drama surrounding the Artura. Following a string of production delays and financial setbacks at the Woking mothership, the hybrid two-seater is finally here. I jetted down to southern Spain to see firsthand if the long-awaited Artura is worth the wait. Does the new kid hold the line on McLaren’s history of building fearsome and focused supercars, or is it a flawed product of its troubled development process?

2023 McLaren Artura Specs

  • Base price: $237,500 ($4,500 destination fee included)
  • Powertrain: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 plug-in hybrid | 8-speed dual-clutch | rear-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 671 @ 7,500 rpm
  • Torque: 531 lb-ft @ 2,250 to 7,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 3,303 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 2
  • 0-60: 3.0 seconds (est.)
  • Top speed: 205 mph (electronically limited)
  • Cargo volume: 5.3 cubic feet
  • All-electric range: 11 miles
  • All-electric top speed: 81 mph
  • EPA fuel economy: 39 mpge | 18 mpg
  • Quick take: McLaren faces the future with a V6 plug-in hybrid that ticks all the right driver-focused boxes.
  • Score: 9/10

Highly Anticipated, Hotly Landed

You’d expect the monumentally complex P1 to have gone down in history as the most logjammed McLaren of our time, but the Artura earns that dubious prize by a landslide. Beset by everything from chip shortages to “operating challenges” and supplier-related issues, McLaren’s second-ever hybrid was originally promised for October 2020, but finally becomes commercially available next month. Is it ready for primetime?

First impressions hit hard. Under the bright Andalusian sun, the Artura’s Flux Green paint pops like an iridescent arthropod, its various scoops and planes cutting sharp edges against the lush surroundings. In the fancy-pants microcosm of Puerto Banús where megayachts bob in the Mediterranean as Lambos and ‘Rraris blast past, the Artura looks fresh but not exactly shocking. One onlooker at the hotel valet asked, “Is that the updated 570S?” Oh, and he was an automotive journalist. 

(Relatively) mild styling aside, the Artura is a radically different direction for McLaren. While the brand has traditionally leaned on twin-turbo 3.8- and 4.0-liter V8s, the clean-sheet Artura pairs a new twin-turbo V6 hot-vee with an axial flux e-motor, fed by a 7.4-kWh battery which contributes 94 horsepower and up to 166 pound-feet of torque. The six-cylinder lays nearly horizontally, with banks angled at 120 degrees—think more Porsche 911 flat-six, less Maserati MC20 90-degree V6. Using both hydrocarbon and electron power, the Artura churns a combined 671 hp and 530 lb-ft of torque, with 11 miles of motivation available in pure EV form. There’s an inherent temptation to compare the Artura to Ferrari’s latest 296 GTB, and while there’s considerable overlap on paper, there’s far less in common between the two than meets the spec sheet.

Moving Forward, Climbing In

As I regaled after sampling the 296 GTB in Maranello (which Robb Holland backed up in his follow-up review), Ferrari builds a sensational vehicle that’s equally compelling on the road and at the track. But Modena’s finest isn’t quite a fair fight: the Artura starts at $237,500, positioning it nearly 100 grand below the spicy Italian’s $322,986 MSRP.

The Artura might be mistaken for other McLarens at first glance, particularly the entry-level 570S. But the hybrid is packed to the gills with newness that sets it apart from any McLaren currently on the market. Starting with the McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture (MCLA), the Artura’s ethernet architecture saves cabling mass that helps it tip the scales at a relatively wispy curb weight of 3,303 pounds. Aiding the transfer of power is McLaren’s first-ever electronic rear differential, turning the rear wheels to deliver a claimed zero-to-60-mph time of three seconds flat and a top speed of 205 mph. Keener eyes will take note of the large air intakes along the side—not quite as dominating as, say, the oversized dustpans on the Lamborghini Countach redux—but they are noteworthy visual differentiators, as are the vented louvers over the front fenders and the flying buttresses that link the aluminum roof to the rear bodywork.

McLaren’s now-familiar dihedral doors swing up at a shallower angle than before, making it easier to park in tight spots. It takes a gentle press of the door release and a light lift of the underside, and the door glides up and welcomes you into a low-slung cabin. A new all-in-one binnacle/steering assembly adjusts in unison to keep the wheel from blocking the view of the 10-inch digital instrument cluster. Also new: the portrait-oriented eight-inch touchscreen, which uses an Android-based platform but offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Like most things McLaren, the touchscreen is predictably minimalist and managed by a sole controller: a volume knob with a central button that recalls the home screen. Adjusting the volume requires a bit of a reach-around for the driver, but the system works easily enough. The home screen icons can be rearranged by pressing, holding, and dragging. As in past McLarens, basic HVAC functionality is controlled on the lower portion of the screen. However, more advanced adjustments require an unfortunate fullscreen takeover of the climate control menu. The onscreen graphics for HVAC settings not-so-subtly assert the car’s sporting nature by incorporating a racing helmet onto the pictogram depicting a seated occupant. 

The drive mode interface has also been tweaked for the Artura, and now incorporates powertrain/handling switches on either end of the instrument cluster, which twist in order to toggle through modes. The setup is simpler than the previous arrangement, which required an “Active” button to be pushed before twisting individual dials. However, I wish they weren’t plastic or had a moment’s lag between they’re turned and the instrument cluster responds by switching its graphics scheme. Overall, the Artura’s interior feels appropriately functional, though more upscale and thoughtfully finished than the 570S, with touchpoints like the delicately chamfered aluminum or carbon fiber paddles lending the cabin a well-honed feel.

Seat of Pants

Both seat styles I sampled—the single-piece Clubsport setup and the fully adjustable, 10-way sport seats—were accommodating in a way that McLaren’s most committed offerings (I’m looking at you, 765 LT) simply aren’t. The Clubsport’s adjustable lumbar setting helped make the two-hour drive more comfortable than most fixed-recline seats would.

Press the engine start button while holding down the brake, and the system defaults to full EV mode as the car’s electronic systems whir to life. The lack of internal combustion makes the ancillary system sounds more noticeable, including the HVAC compressor and McLaren’s notoriously noisy electro-hydraulic power steering pump. The latter’s high-frequency squeaks are quieter than on past models, particularly considering the thrum of an idling V8 does not drown them out. The improvement comes partially from a new housing that better insulates the offending component. But keen-eared observers take note: The system should receive an upgrade in the next year or so. 

Tap the paddle or the center-mounted “D” button, and the Artura eases forward quietly in EV mode. Unlike the Ferrari (or virtually any other hybrid for that matter), fiddling with the paddles won’t alter the regen settings; what you feel is what you get, which keeps the brake pedal feedback and engine braking levels constant. Leave it in EV mode, and the gas engine won’t kick in, no matter how hard you bury the pedal. Though acceleration is mild in electric-only, when the handling is set to Dynamic mode (via a pushbutton on the left binnacle), there’s enough torque to slide the tail through low-speed roundabouts. Hoons also take note: the Variable Drift Control has been upgraded to adjust yaw angles within 15 levels: just drag the icon of the sideways McLaren, and proceed to execute your best Ken Gushi impersonation. Sure, you can eke your way to the 81 mph vmax using battery power only. But it won’t exactly pin you to your form-fitting seat.

Switch to Comfort, and the V6 fires up when needed, putting the humble battery-powered motor where it belongs: as a second-billing to the main attraction. The internal combustion engine is a smooth-running number, with an exhaust note that resembles an inline-six BMW M mill more than a snorty supercar. There’s no sound tube or artificial exhaust note accompaniment, just a somewhat thin firewall separating the cabin from the 8,500 rpm V6, whose voice is on the expensive-sounding, but not particularly loud, side. 

Sport mode leaves the engine in “always-on” mode, and the power pours on strongly in a linear crescendo towards redline. There’s a generally organic, not explosive, feeling to the Artura’s power delivery. Though graphics on the instrument cluster reveal when EV power is being generated or recouped, the seat-of-the-pants feeling is natural and intuitive, aided by the avoidance of confusion over regen settings or brake feedback. That said, the electro-hydraulic steering feel is on par with most of its peers, though not quite at the level of Ferrari’s transcendent 296. Similarly, brake feel is linear and predictable, with none of the initial dead stroke associated with some McLarens. Incidentally, I was warned that the diagnostic limits of the testers’ were not finalized, which made the high clutch temperature warning I saw during spirited driving of no material consequence.

Switching the handling mode changes the solenoid damping settings on the shocks, creating noticeably stiffer or softer suspension feedback. Never floaty, the Artura’s chassis doesn’t manage to feel loose or sloppy, rather going from controlled to firm to tight, depending on the driver-selected setting. Despite its rear-drive configuration, sticky Pirelli P Zeros manage to claw in nicely during launch control, creating a sensation of grip and stability that’s aided by the e-diff. Braking is similarly reassuring, with easily modulated stops that can get violently strong when summoned, with good feel on both compression and release.

Circuit Time

Though I experienced a fleet and viscerally satisfying-yet-comfortable street drive, my scheduled track time at the 3.4-mile-long Ascari Race Resort was bumped a day due to what I was told was an engine part “not performing up to spec.” Unconfirmed rumors of a thermal event suggest the errant part failed spectacularly, but either way, McLaren said the issue had been resolved. New components from a different supplier had to be flown in and fitted, and the switch-up would require an extra overnight stay—fine by me because you can’t judge a car like Artura without track time. 

The following day, I drove from Marbella to Ronda, which validated my initial on-road impressions on flowing, well-paved backroads. Sessions at the track revealed the Artura’s solid underpinnings and ability to get around the 26-corner circuit as intended; it felt confident and light enough on its feet to handle abrupt direction changes and mid-corner adjustments. Though highly capable, those hoping for hardcore track demeanors à la McLaren’s LT models won’t quite get that with the Artura: Equipped with Pirelli Corsa tires and racing harnesses, the Artura responded crisply and cleanly, but not radically, to the task at hand. A slightly positive aero profile (77 pounds of downforce at 150 mph) keeps it planted, but not enough to encourage ultra-high corner speeds. Compared to, say, the 720S which relies heavily on brake vectoring to aid turn-in, Artura is tuned more conventionally—and thus, organically—to inputs. Grip levels are high and power is never wanting, but it also doesn’t feel like the larger-than-life superhero that is the 720S, whose seemingly endless torque and physics-defying grip belie its relative age among its supercar peers. 

Future Friendly

Two days spent driving the Artura revealed an entirely different beast from McLaren than I expected, especially with the wild Ferrari 296 so fresh in my mind. Yes, the Artura is quick. Sure, it’s capable, and indeed, it keeps many of the lightweight, innovative traits we’ve come to expect from the Woking brand. But it’s also expressed as a more cohesive, livable package than some of the brand’s more sensational offerings—less a modern-day P1, more a sophisticated, mature way to carry McLaren into the next decade. 

Crucially, retiring the Sport Series and positioning the Artura between the GT and 720S suggests future hybrid McLarens could have a wilder, edgier side that’s less Artura-like, and more akin to the hybrids McLaren places on the Formula 1 grid. As it stands, the Artura is a remarkably usable, well-rounded supercar that’s easy to live with and entertaining to drive fast—imagine a wilder LT version, and it’s easy to see how a bright, hybridized future for McLaren is just a matter of time.

Basem Wasef is a motorcycle and automotive journalist. He's written for WiredMen's Journal, and Automobile and resides in Los Angeles.

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