McLaren Artura Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Saturday 30th September


What is it like to drive?

Let’s begin on track: can it cut the mustard on a circuit? Yes, it really can. In fact, as is so often the case with modern supercars, you actually need a track to properly get the measure of it. On road there’s feedback and tactility, but you’re aware the car isn’t having to work that hard. Put it this way: on road we found it hugely capable, but missing the last bit of magic. On track we found it.

McLarens tend to have delicate, accurate, communicative front ends (sensitive sniffers if you like), and the Artura is no different. It loves carrying speed into corners, can take a huge amount of pressure and generate enormous grip through the loaded-up front tyre. It’s very resistant to understeer. Pile in on the brakes and it’ll be the rear that starts to edge wide, doing so very progressively.

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In fact it does everything progressively. Get back on the power and you don’t need to second guess the turbo lag – the blend of electric and petrol is very predictable. And thanks to the new electronic differential (the first mechanical LSD in a McLaren) smoky slides are there for the taking. There’s not been a McLaren that’s easier to exploit and play with than this.


Few complaints on track: they’re very strong with reassuring pedal feel, just got a bit grumbly under repeated extreme use (hardly surprising with ambient temperatures of 37 degrees at Ascari). The bigger issue is on the road. There’s not enough initial bite in the pedal – you brake but seem to surf onwards, not slowing as much as you expected. This is part of McLaren’s play for purity – they’re great when you’re using them hard, but less good during the 90 per cent of the time you’ll be pottering about.

But, boy, is the body control impressive. You can brake, turn, accelerate, do whatever you please and the car has got you covered. Traction is immense, and even at the limit you don’t feel the Artura is going to bite you, or that the chassis isn’t going to be able to cope with the power. Sure, it makes this less wild and free-spirited than the Ferrari 296 GTB, but there’s so much tactility through steering and chassis that it’s a genuinely exciting car to drive.  


It’s not as intense and expressive as Ferrari’s V6, but it has a tuneful mid-range, the kind you’ll actually enjoy listening to. Better than the outgoing V8, that’s for sure, plus it pulls cleanly all the way to the 8,500rpm limiter.

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Nail it at low revs, and after the initial electric hit there is a tiny lull while the turbos are still getting going, but at high revs you never notice it. Drivability is much improved: you don’t need to keep the motor spinning hard. We’d have liked a bigger e-hit to make its impact felt, but this is carefully blended and effective.


McLaren has traditionally been good at this, but it’s worth bearing in mind the Artura doesn’t have the clever cross-linked hydraulic dampers of the more expensive models. It’s coil sprung with adaptive dampers. The ride on poor surfaces is firm, you get some cavitation through the carbon tub, but add speed and it starts to flow. See pretty much every other modern supercar.

You never need more than Comfort mode on the road. The new rocker switches on the instrument binnacle are a nice touch: the left does the chassis, the right the powertrain, each with Comfort, Sport and Track modes, plus an EV mode for the powertrain. Use Sport if you want to keep the engine running, Track if you want it to recharge the battery with maximum prejudice. Be disappointed when that still takes a very long time and is then out of e-squirt after a couple of acceleration hits.

As ever, it’s the ability to creep silently into towns and villages that is the newest and most compelling aspect of these hybrids. You don’t broadcast your arrival in advance.


McLaren has done a great job of making it logical and easy to use – right down to the screen menus. Been enjoying the car in Sport and coming into town? Two presses on the right hand binnacle and you’re in e-mode, with silent running.

It’s comfortable and quiet enough to cruise in, long geared enough to hit fuel economy in the high-20mpgs if you’re careful. It’s not a car that’s demanding to drive, or constantly at you to give it the berries – it second guesses your mood.
Which makes its track performance more of a surprise. Because it really does hit hard on a circuit, gaining focus and determination to a level you hadn’t expected from driving on road. 


The chimney.


The ‘hot vee’ layout means engine bay temperatures can reach 900 degrees. To stop this causing havoc the turbos have been given their own heat shields and central vent, so as you drive along you have this rippling column of air rising from the chimney on the back deck.

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