The McLaren Artura goes from zero to 62 MPH in three seconds, and to 186 MPH in 21 seconds. It generates 671 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque and can reach 205 MPH, and that number would easily be higher if it weren’t electronically limited. And yet the Artura averages 39 miles to the gallon, because it’s a plug-in hybrid. This is the beautiful automotive future they promised us.
I was at the global launch of the BMW i3 more than 10 years ago. A representative from BMW–I will never forget this quote–boomed “today, we celebrate the dawn of a new age of electromobility!” In general, one should beware of Germans talking about the “dawn of a new age” of anything. It’s true, though, that the i3 was a key turning point in the electric car era, when legacy companies finally acknowledged that they needed to race with Elon Musk if they were going to survive.
The i3, one of the coolest and most fun consumer vehicles ever, has now become a $14,000 toy that enthusiasts trade on ebay (EBAY), or an entry-level Carvana (CVNA) vehicle for people priced out of the new-electric market. It resembles the Artura like a parking-lot pigeon resembles a California condor. A better point of comparison would be the i8, the i3’s sportscar cousin. That was a cool-looking car, a blue-tinged Batmobile. But it was also incredibly clunky to drive, uncomfortable, and almost unfinished. There’s a reason it vanished. Now the Artura has arrived to make good on the promise of an electrified high-end consumer sportscar.
McLaren is essentially a racing company. It sells cars to customers, in small batches, at prices in the $750,000 to one million range. By comparison, the Artura, the company’s first series production high-performance hybrid supercar, is a bargain at $260,000. They built it using proprietary carbon-fiber architecture specifically for hybrid vehicles. It wraps around a three-liter V6 gas engine that pairs with an axial flux electric motor and an eight-speed transmission with electronic locking direction. And there can be no doubt: this thing is a rocket.
I drove the Artura last week at a McLaren-sponsored press drive in Sonoma County, California. If I had anything negative to say about it, I would, but from the beautiful low-rise styling to the impeccable materials to the track-level steering and simply astonishing acceleration, everything about the Artura is a masterpiece. It’s the complete package of form, function and performance, without a doubt one of the finest consumer cars of its time, and possibly the greatest hybrid ever created.
The hybridization is really the key component of the Artura. It doesn’t make a sound when you turn it on, but when you engage the accelerator, it makes a Gran Turismo-worthy sound. I drove it in four modes: I wouldn’t recommend pure electric unless you like science experiments. The car only has 18 miles of pure electric range, and the immensely powerful engine drains the electric battery completely and quickly. But the Artura is such a clever vehicle. When you drive it in Track mode, the most super-charged mode available, the gas engine quickly and efficiently regenerates the electric motor.
When I got into the car, it had about 93 percent charge. I kept it in Track mode to start, and it was back to 100 percent within a couple of minutes. While poking through a town in the Russian River Valley, I downshifted to Comfort mode, which was definitely comfortable, but it also drained the battery to 60 percent within a few minutes. Once I had the road clear to myself, I re-engaged Track mode, and 15 minutes later, the car was fully charged again. There’s also a Sport mode, which is lots of fun, but not quite as fun as Track mode. Plus it drains the battery. So my recommendation, if you’re lucky enough to actually end up in one of these vehicles, is to keep it in Track mode as much as possible. You will eventually have to fill up the tank. But you’ll never run out of charge.
Also worth mentioning: when I plugged my iPhone into the charge cord in the car, Apple Car Play instantly and seamlessly integrated. That may not sound like a big deal, but the elaborate shipboard computers that come standard in even your basic Honda Civic still have a hard time adjusting to new devices. That’s just another example of how much detailed care McLaren put into the Artura.
I’ve been driving one Prius hybrid or another for nearly 20 years now. While I appreciate the durability and the incredible gas mileage, the Prius gave hybrids a bad rap as boring, low-performance cars. The Artura not only changes that conversation, it obliterates it entirely. At its $250,000-plus price point, the Artura may not be available to Prius owners, but for people looking for a ground-floor entry into the supercar market, you not only could do worse, you couldn’t possibly do better. Truly, the new age is here.