It’s been a long time coming, the 2023 McLaren Artura. We received our first in-depth look at the Artura, only the second all-new car in McLaren Automotive’s 12-year history, in February 2021. We’d typically be invited to get behind the wheel to record our first drive impressions within two or three months of such a detailed tech preview. With the Artura, though, McLaren took the better part of a year-and-a-half to make it happen. Worth the wait?

What Is It?

The 2023 McLaren Artura debuts a new vehicle architecture and a new plug-in hybrid powertrain designed to take McLaren into the next decade. But in many ways the Artura is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

At first glance the 2023 Artura looks exactly like what you expect a new McLaren to look like. But closer inspection reveals a carefully nuanced evolution of McLaren design themes rather than a cut-and-paste of familiar graphics, combined with careful attention to aerodynamic detail. For example, the vents near the front wheels direct turbulent air downward from the wheel wells so it doesn’t disturb the airflow into the engine intake vent at the rear. Additionally, what looks like a simple styling line on the door channels air from the front of the car along the sills and into the rear cooling radiators.

In the metal the Artura looks tighter, more sophisticated, more composed than any previous McLaren, with well-controlled surfaces, crisper detailing, and snugger panel gaps. The doors, rear clamshell, roof, and A-pillar are all “superformed” aluminum pieces. The hood is a conventional aluminum stamping, and the front and rear quarter panels are made from composites.

At 178.7 inches, the Artura is 0.4 inch longer overall than a McLaren 570S, but its 1.2-inch-shorter wheelbase delivers a subtly different proportion. The suspension is all new, too. Gone is the hydraulically cross-linked system used in the 720S, itself an evolution of the setup used on the original McLaren Automotive MP4-12C. In its place is a more conventional multilink setup front and rear, with adaptive dampers that can switch between Comfort, Sport, and Track modes. The rear suspension assembly is twice as stiff as the 720S’ setup and has been designed to deliver improved traction.

Tech Talk and Cyber Tires

The 2023 McLaren Artura is also the company’s first vehicle fitted with an e-differential. Another first—a world first, in fact—is the standard fitment of Pirelli’s P Zero Cyber Tire, which features an embedded chip that feeds real-time data into the Artura’s electronic brain.

The technology enables the Artura to know which tires are fitted (grippier P Zero Corsa Cyber Tires are available as an option, as is a winter tire) and thus allows it to show you whether the tires are above or below their ideal operating temperature. What makes the Cyber Tire system clever is that it provides the temperature readings directly from the tire itself rather than the common industry practice of taking the temperature from the wheel rim. In Track mode you can set the system to warn you when the tires have exceeded a particular temperature threshold.

Speaking of wheels, the 2023 McLaren Artura rolls on 19-inch front and 20-inch rear forged pieces, with 235/35R19 and 295/35R20 Pirelli tires. Lurking behind the wheels are standard carbon-ceramic disc brakes—15.4 inches on the front axle and 15.0 on the rear—clamped by six-piston and four-piston forged monobloc calipers, respectively.

The Artura’s carbon-fiber chassis structure is manufactured at McLaren Composites Technology Centre in Sheffield, U.K., 175 miles north of McLaren HQ in Woking, where the car’s final assembly occurs. It’s a lighter, stronger, and stiffer structure than that used in the 720S or 570S, and, crucially, it has been designed to ensure ideal placement of the battery pack required for the plug-in hybrid powertrain.

Power Games

The internal combustion component of that powertrain is a 577-hp, 431-lb-ft 3.0-lite twin-turbo V-6 built by British engineering company Ricardo. Code-named M630, it features a 120-degree vee like the twin-turbo V-6 in the PHEV Ferrari 296 GTB, which not only allows more room for packaging the two turbos in the vee between the cylinder heads but also lowers the Artura’s center of gravity. The 353-pound M630 engine is 7.5 inches shorter, 8.7 inches narrower, and 110 pounds lighter than the 4.0-liter M840 V-8 that powers the McLaren 720S.

The hybrid bit comes courtesy of an axial flux motor mounted between the engine and a new eight-speed dual clutch transmission. Powered by a 7.4-kWh battery that weighs just 194 pounds and is bolted under the fuel tank at the center of the car, the 34-pound motor adds 94 hp and 166 lb-ft to bring the powertrain’s total system output to a healthy 671 hp at 7,500 rpm and 531 lb-ft of torque from 2,250 to 7,000 rpm.

Slide behind the McLaren Artura’s wheel, and you notice the 10.0-inch HD digital instrument cluster moves in concert with the steering wheel’s reach and rake adjustments. That’s because the handling- and powertrain-mode selection is now by way of rocker switches just a fingertip’s stretch away from the steering wheel, on either side of the instrument binnacle.

The Drive

The 2023 McLaren Artura’s default powertrain mode is Electric, great for the neighbors if you’re in the habit of early-morning departures. In Electric mode the Artura moves swiftly away from a standstill, a gentle whine from the motor building as speed builds. McLaren says the Artura will travel 11 miles on pure electric power, at speeds of up to 80 mph. Progress is not quite as seamless as in a pure EV, though; at times you can hear or feel the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission at work.

Comfort mode is a good all-around urban driving choice, especially with the dual-clutch gearbox set to automatic. Comfort mode is calibrated to ensure the best fuel efficiency; it will deactivate the internal combustion engine at speeds less than 25 mph, and it will keep the engine shut down as long as possible.

In Sport and Track modes the gasoline engine runs at all times, and the motor is deployed to deliver torque fill across the power curve. The battery is kept at higher states of charge than in Comfort mode to ensure the motor is always ready to assist.

And assist it certainly does: There’s a broad, rich torque seam right across the rev range in Sport and Track modes that’s mined easily by the slick-shifting dual-clutch, especially if you switch it to manual operation. Track mode uses McLaren’s inertial push system to deliver the quickest, most concise shifts possible.

With an effortless, easily accessible 671 hp and 531 lb-ft in a car that’s claimed to weigh just about 3,300 pounds, you expect the Artura to be quick. McLaren quotes a 0-60-mph acceleration time of 3.0 seconds, with 124 mph coming up in 8.3 seconds on the way to a standing quarter-mile time of 10.7 seconds. Top speed is an electronically limited 205 mph.

Numbers Aren’t Everything

Those numbers signal the Right Stuff in a modern supercar; numbers that’ll have you tingling with anticipation as you open the door. Yet when it comes to the actual driving experience, the Artura feels oddly aloof. It has none of the edgy zoom-zoom of the 720S, a car with truly remarkable top-end thrust. Nor does it dance the light, lively dance of the 570S through the twisty bits. No, the Artura feels like an altogether more grown-up McLaren, more planted, more considered.

The hydraulically assisted power steering is tuned to further reduce the noise coming through the system, so it feels heavier than you expect in a McLaren, especially with the suspension set in the softer Comfort mode. The redesigned rear suspension and the e-diff deliver a ton of traction, so the tail stays resolutely planted unless provoked.

It’s a sensible setup—both the 720S and 570S can become decidedly fidgety at the rear when pushed—but the corollary, of course, is that the Artura seems to work its front tires a little harder than its older cousins. On a racing circuit, with both powertrain and suspension in Track mode, the Artura requires slightly earlier corner turn-in through fast corners, even on neutral throttle, to allow for the mild understeer that’s present.

On the entry to tight corners, though, the reliable rear end means you can take the Artura deep into the apex under braking and use the weight transfer to load the front axle and get the front tires to bite. Then, as you open the steering, you can go to power quickly and use the terrific traction to punch the car down the straight.

Make no mistake, the McLaren Artura joins the dots—on road or racetrack—with impressive rapidity, but it doesn’t leave you grinning with delight. It doesn’t have the joyful bravura of a Ferrari 296 GTB at full flight.

The Ferrari’s wide-angle V-6, almost identical in format and capacity, sings to its 8,500-rpm rev limiter while generating spine-tingling third-order harmonics like those of a V-12. The Artura’s engine, by contrast, sounds sonorous and workmanlike. Beyond that, the new McLaren feels heavier, more deliberate on its feet than the 296 GTB, especially in terms of its steering and brake-pedal feel, as well as in the chassis’ transient responses.

Some Problems

In fairness, the Ferrari costs about $80,000 more than the $237,500 Artura. But there’s another big difference between Maranello’s PHEV supercar and Woking’s, and it’s a troubling one. We journalists thrashed the 296 GTB during that car’s launch program, and all the cars behaved impeccably. Not so the Artura.

Out on the road loop, both the dash and the central touchscreen on our test car suddenly faded to black for no apparent reason. The digital instrument panel flickered back into life, but the central touchscreen remained out of commission—along with the air conditioning, the navigation, the audio, and the phone connection—for the remainder of the trip. Given it was a 90-degree day in sunny Spain, it wasn’t pleasant.

Our car wasn’t the only one with problems; several other Arturas suffered similar infotainment system failures, and one journalist was stuck by the side of the road when his car simply cried uncle and quit running altogether. It was eventually coaxed back into life but would only drive in “limp home” mode, which made for a slow trip back to base.

The Artura’s vaunted new ethernet electrical architecture was clearly suffering significant software glitches. What’s troubling about that is McLaren abruptly canceled its planned Artura media drives last year because of … software problems. It’s had months to implement fixes, but unresolved issues remain, at least in the cars we drove.

Questions Remain

So … worth the wait? Nope, not yet. However, McLaren said the Arturas we drove didn’t have the latest, customer-spec software, which, for some reason, was due to be installed 10 days after the media launch. Insiders also said the same cars subsequently driven by other U.S. media outlets a couple of days later did not display any problems at all.

To confirm whether the latest software fixes the issues we encountered, McLaren promised to get us back into a 2023 Artura as soon as possible and let us live with the car for a longer period—at least a month, it said. We’ll be back with an update.

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