(Bloomberg) -- The 2023 McLaren Artura is the first regular-production hybrid from the 37-year-old British brand known for its Formula 1 racing team and portfolio of aggressive supercars meant for the track. (Previously, the McLaren P1 and McLaren Speedtailused hybrid technology, thoughproduction of thesemultimillion-dollar supercars was extremelylimited.) With the best cabin I’ve ever seen from McLaren and comfort-enhancing systems that make it nice to drive even on a daily basis, the long-awaited Artura is a capable coupe that will advanceMcLaren’s standing in the high-end sports car segment.
Better yet, thegaping air intakes, fender vents cut like armor and arches over the rear just slightly less imposing than those adorning the Cathedral Notre-Dame in Paris bringenough attitude to leave a message in the Artura’s wake: “Get outta my way.”
In McLaren’s lineup, the Artura most closely resembles the McLaren GT, a beautifully proportioned touring coupe with big air vents on the side, like an Audi R8, and none of the add-ons such astable-sized spoilers and carbon fiber doohickeys that make cars in this bracket look cheesy.
It’s the opposite of reserved—dihedral doors open upwardand scream “Look at me!”—but it’s not as outré as McLaren’s Senna, which looks like a deranged insect robot with a spoiler.
After driving it for a day in Los Angeles, I found the Artura also rivalingthe GT inits ability to handle the annoyances and perils of daily use. Owners may be inclined to guardthe Artura as a precious thingto be driven once a week or on a track, but it doesn’t have to be cosseted.This car hasmuch to give.
My user experience cameduring biblical levels of rain. This has been the wettest March in 28 years, according to the Los Angeles Almanac.I wonderedwhether I should reschedule the car, withstreetsflooding in the most inconvenient places in my Hollywood neighborhood. Broken branches, overturned garbage cans and fallen rocks turned highways into obstacle courses. This was not the weather you want for testing a car with 671-horsepower, 531 pound-feet of torquedesignedfor competence on the back straight at the Thermal Club.
Still, McLaren assured me I should see how it performson wet surfaces. Along with that twin-turbo V6 engine and electric motor, the Artura comes with sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires and plenty of systems to steady nerves in unstable conditions, such aslane-departure warning, road-sign recognition, adaptive LED headlights and myriad sensors.
The Artura arrived with its full electric-only range of 19 miles and an unnerving warning from the man who delivered it:“Just make sure the battery doesn’t go to zero—because if it does, you can’t reverse.” I was too concerned with maneuvering the $233,000 machine out of my driveway before his warningsank in. (Alift system that raises the front of the car 1.2 inches helped itexit.)
Later, I asked a McLaren spokesperson about putting the car into reverse. It turns outthe Artura backs up by pulling power from the electric motor;the absence of a reverse gear helps spareweight onthe 1 ½- ton car.
I could get stranded with insufficient power to switch the gear into reverse, explainscompany spokesperson Laura Conrad. If that happened, I could rev the car in track mode for a minute or two and draw enough power back into the battery to reverse. Or, in the unlikely event that I werenear a charger, I could plug it in.
At thatmoment, though, I was distracted, fiddling with the shifter. McLaren is the quirkiest of the supercar makers when it comes to its interior getup. I remembered this as I grappled with it in my driveway under a slate sky oozing rain, my plans to hit the hills wavering in the balance of gloomy weather and the car’s oddball design.
After some poking around, I hadit down: The shifter in the center console has Drive, Neutral and Reverse settings. (There’s no Park, as I found out later when I pulled into the valet line at the Sunset Tower, but you can pull a lever to the bottom left of the dashboard if you want to do it manually. The car will go into park automatically if you turn it off.)
All but the most devoted fans will find McLaren’signition setup and placement of the side mirror andseat buttons perplexingly counterintuitive. Then there’s the “switchgear,” for lack of a better word, that sits just above the steering wheel to the right, within finger reach. It’s perhaps the most glaring evidence that McLaren interiors are just plainweird.
The switchgear operates such driving modes asComfort, Sport and Track and changes between paddle-shifting andautomatic transmission. I toggled through those settings when I wanted to override the car starting automatically in electric mode.
Once sorted, I pulled out onto US 101. The single, massive wiper blade on the windshield scooped water as it came down in torrents. My mind turned back to what the delivery guy had said about reverse. “I really can’t drive these few electric miles down to zero?” I couldn’t risk any situation where I had to reverse; imagine the embarrassment of being publicly stuck in a bright-orange supercar.
In any event, I was busily admiring the cabin. What a spacious, bright, well-appointed interior. I never thought I’d write those words about McLaren, a company that used to suffer frompoor craftsmanship. McLaren still hasn’t fixed every problem. It has already issued anArtura recall for loose nuts in the fuel system, which could potentially cause a fuel leak—and fuel leaks can cause fires. That clearly isn’t good, especially after McLaren already had to sell some of its heritage cars last year to fund new technology for the Artura.Nearly 170 cars are potentially affected by the recall. But McLaren is getting closer.
The car I drove had premium black leather and microsuede seats with expert stitching and craftsmanship. I had a button-free steering wheel gently flattened at the bottom and almost no hints of the carbon fiber that clads the other McLaren models. An eight-inch, iPad-shaped screen mounted vertically in the center of the dashboard controlled things like Bluetooth and Navigation.
There were even cupholders—in a sports car. Just don’t get greedy and expect a glovebox.(This is howthese cars geta reputation of not being greatdaily drivers; you’ll have to store your driver’s license and registration elsewhere.)
I loved how the seats cradled my hips and shoulders. The windshield wasn’t so slanted as tocut visibility, as so often happens in Lamborghinis. The car was quiet inside, especially in EV mode, with a subtle drone from the motor and minimal road noise from the tires. During conventional driving, the engine offered a good-natured growl.
Drivable From Forest to Feast
Feeling confident, I pressed the accelerator as I wound my way up Route2. Here, the rain fell in sheets, but the well-balanced Artura stuck to the road like an industrial magnet. It handled so precisely that I never felt vulnerable outin thatrain, was just thrilled to be doing it. Credit McLaren’s unique hydraulically assisted steering system. I took full advantage of having the road to myself, dancedin the storm on my own private highway.
The brakes proved to beanother highlight. They come with carbon-ceramic discs and monobloc calipers that offer immense stopping power and stable grip on the wet surface. Braking before a horseshoe turn set me up for perfect acceleration through the curve and shooting like a bullet out the other side; the car never wavered.
I was practically singing along the highway as the Artura lifted me higher in nonstop rain,until I came around a tight hairpin and stopped abruptlyin front of a mass of mud and boulders that had just given way. The road was completely blocked. Brakes are great, but now I was more concerned about the turning radius. What if I couldn’t flip the car around and had to go into reverseto get out of there?
Fifteen miles up Angeles Crest, my electric-only range read virtually zero, according to the gauge behind the steering wheel, meaning I would need to charge the electric motor. I said a prayer and threw it into reverse. Thankfully, the car gently rolled back. I guess there was enough juice in the battery to get me away from thatmountain of mud.
I turned around—slowly, slowly—and headeddown. With a zero-to-60 mph time of three seconds and top speed of 205 mph, the Artura will hustle when needed. I hasteneddown to alert the maintenance crews of the new mudslide 10 miles uphill. My good deed of the day was done.
I’ll admit I loved the Artura most later that night, when I took it out again to drive down Sunset Boulevard to meet some folks for dinner. So few supercars are enjoyable in that pedestrian environment, what withstiff suspensions, delicate wheels, low bodies, poor visibility and noisy, roaring engines thatbarkand belcheven at 20 mph. Driving this one felt like a treat. While a Lamborghini Aventador on a pockmarked street at night in the rain is loud and will leaveyou driving half-blind; the Artura felt supple over uneven roads and quiet inside, even though the (nearly useless) EV mode was long gone. (The Artura gets 17 mph in the city and 21 mpg on the highway in gas-powered driving.) The cabin’s generous headroom even accommodated my black straw hat.
I rolled intothe dining room happy and energized, high off the drive and unbothered by the rain. The Artura had proved itself a reliable supercar in all conditions. If onlymy dinner companionsdelivered such joy.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.