McLaren Launches Its First PHEV Supercar

A couple weeks ago, McLaren released a new PHEV supercar, the Artura. We got busy with other projects here at CleanTechnica, but I’m sad now that we didn’t get to this sooner. Not only is it a cool car, but it also has a very innovative launch event that you can still experience.

In the era of COVID-19, lots of things have been ruined in the automotive industry. It’s fun to attend car launch events, and companies generally go all out trying to impress publications because they need to get good press. The result is a good time, but you have to make sure to not let it get to your head because the first responsibility is to readers. This year? It’s almost all on the internet. Zoom meetings, YouTube presentations, and other events just aren’t as fun now that there’s a virus floating around in the air trying to use our bodies to make more copies of itself.

McLaren actually did something kind of cool with the website announcing the Artura. It made it like a big automotive event that you can click through and explore. It’s kind of like an DVD menu, but at the same time, it’s refreshing to have some interactivity other than the “raise hand” button on Zoom.

Image: Screenshot from McLaren’s website

Each stop along the McLaren track shows you about the history of the company, what lead up to the Artura, and a variety of information about the car. Sure, it’s a little hokey compared to a real launch event, but I’ll take anything refreshing I can find these days.

About The Car

PHEVs may seem like a step backwards in automotive technology, but don’t forget that a Tesla Model S is heavy. Like an American muscle car of decades past, the new Plaid cars have great acceleration and even quarter mile times, but all that weight is bad for handling. A company like McLaren is all about performance, and it isn’t going to let our obsession with BEVs get in the way of that.

The company wanted the extra performance of electric, but it couldn’t justify paying the weight penalty for driving other-than-straight lines. Thus, a PHEV was the best way to accomplish that. When you consider that most drivers aren’t going to drive more than the range of a PHEV from day to day, it’s also very environmentally impactful to take care of 90%+ of the miles and make them electric.

The vehicle is built on a new carbon fiber tub, with metal components and “hard points” to mount the body and mechanical components, like an airplane wing’s ability to carry missiles, called the McLaren Carbon Light-weight Architecture (MCLA). This architecture allowed it to add luxury features like adaptive cruise and Apple CarPlay. This platform will underpin the next generation of McLaren’s models.

The drivetrain is also designed around keeping things light. The fossil power plant is a 3.0L 120-degree V6 engine, with direct injection. The electric side of things is an axial flux motor powered by the densest lithium-ion battery pack it could get (once again, to keep things light). It produces 670 horsepower, and 531 lb-ft of torque. 93 of the horses are electric, and you can drive on pure EV for 19 miles before the gas engine will be needed to keep going.

Putting all of its power together, you can go from 0-200 kph (almost 125 MPH) in only 8.3 seconds, so it’s a high-speed screamer like you’d expect from McLaren. Top speed is also McLaren typical, at 330 kph (just over 200 MPH). The 670 HP is able to get this kind of performance because the vehicle only weighs 1395 kg (3075 lb).

For maximum controllability and the best feel, McLaren kept a hydraulic steering system and gave it a very stiff suspension that has proactive dampening control, giving the vehicle excellent handling. It has an electronic limited slip differential in its 8-speed transmission, giving even more control and performance.

On the “event racetrack,” there’s also a video of the team taking the vehicle out on a track for some fun. They slip the thing around all over the place in the turns because they want to show just how much extra torque it can suddenly introduce during a turn. The vehicle ends up having the ability to get fossil-fuel high speed performance with the electric instant-on torque.

Why This Car Matters

At $225,000, very few of us will be buying this. Yeah, I know that there are people willing and able to plop $135k down for a Plaid Model S on here, but let’s admit that most of us are more in the Model 3 or Nissan LEAF ballpark, budget-wise.

On the other hand, it’s not far off of the expected price of a Tesla Roadster. For EV fanatics, the 20-ish mile range probably isn’t what you’d look for, and the Roadster will blow the doors off the McLaren in terms of acceleration. It probably won’t be very competitive when the road gets bendy, though. The battery of the Roadster alone probably weighs 2/3 what the whole McLaren weighs, and that’s gotta hurt it there. That’s a tossup, depending on what your priorities are.

The real thing we can pick up here is that the supercar market isn’t as concerned about the environment, but they’re adopting more and more electrification. This tells us that the performance of electric vehicles is even getting to the point where completely objective observers (of performance alone) are willing to put it in their cars and risk selling it to customers who expect a top-notch sports car experience. EV technology is getting really mature.

More importantly, battery technology managed to arrive a bit now. Given the importance of keeping weight down, this shows us that battery density has gotten to the point where companies like McLaren are willing to put some batteries in the car. That tells you a lot about how far that technology has come in recent years.

Finally, it shows us that perceptions have changed a lot. The buyers of a supercar aren’t going to think too much about the environmental impacts, but electrification isn’t just about being green anymore. Tesla made electric cool, and now it’s cool enough to get a supercar with an electric motor, even if it’s only playing second fiddle.

Things have definitely changed, and it’s neat to see.



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