In praise of the McLaren Artura

A paean to the deserving winner of Robb Report’s 2024 Car of the Year awards

If you ever find yourself on our .com sister site, you may have spotted that the Robb Report 2024 Car of the Year awards have just been dished out. Everyone likes a top 10. We’re a species of competitive orderers.

The winner of said awards was Aston Martin’s imperious DB12, the world’s fastest and most expensive slipper. Not a car-length behind in second place was the McLaren Artura, the British marque’s first series-produced hybrid and a machine that by glorious happenstance I’ve just had in on loan (I’m not on the COTY voting panel).

McLaren Artura
Photo by McLaren

But before we get to how awesomely fast and brilliant it is, let’s just take a moment to reflect on what the Artura beat. On the COTY list were two Rolls Royces, a Bentley and a Maybach, alongside some very big, very comfortable, very powerful and very expensive SUVs.

As giant cruisers of the road, designed more for those slumped in the back than those with eyes on stilts in the front, few of the competition bore any literal comparison to the Artura, at least, no more so than an omelette could be compared with a chicken drumstick.

The Artura really isn’t a car you travel in, you see. It’s a car you drive. With both hands on the steering wheel. And your tongue on the floor.

And what a drive it is. Let’s start with the good stuff. Inside its aluminium composite shell are a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 (a first for McLaren) and an Axial Flux E-motor (giving serious Back to the Future vibes in name alone), a violent combination of fire and whizz that spits out 680ps and 720 lbs ft of torque.

Given that even when the fuel tank is 80 per cent full the Artura weighs less than a tonne and a half, that’s enough to spirit it to 62mph in three seconds flat. Which would be terrifying enough, if it weren’t for the fact that from there it just keeps going. It’ll blast through 124mph in 8.3 seconds and keep going, apparently, to an electronically limited 205mph (any faster would be silly).

On the road, it’s not just the power that brings a tear to the eye. It’s the grip. If it wasn’t for the promise of a badger jumping out of a country hedgerow or a rambler hitting the car with a stick, I might have left my foot on the Artura’s accelerator, confident that all my failings at the wheel would be masked by the car’s enormous brain and gluey grasp of the Tarmac. It’s got some stopping power, too: from 124mph to zilch in 125 metres. After that, you’ll have to drive the same distance again to collect your teeth, which will have carried on down the road without you.

McLaren Artura
Photo by McLaren

McLaren says all this performance stems from its new generation McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture (MCLA) platform, which debuts in the Artura and is set to become the basis for the company’s future line-up. At a pinched 2.6 metres, it also has the shortest wheelbase of any current model in the McLaren line-up, adding tension to what in any McLaren I’ve ever piloted was already impressively clipped handling.

And before you ask whether that means the cabin’s a squeeze, it doesn’t. A reworked interior—grassed in Alcantara—means it’s more spacious than the 720S, and smarter, too. The instrument panel, to give one example, now adjusts with the steering wheel so it’s not obscured in some set-ups, a pet peeve in older models.

If there’s a failing with the Artura, and I might be splitting atoms here, it’s in its styling. Now, I know, finding fault with the swoops and cutaways of a sculpted, state-of-the-art supercar that makes regular folk stare and gawp is like accusing Tolstoy of being a bit long-winded. But from certain angles, particularly head-on and even the three-quarters, there’s a tameness about it. The car is built to create prodigious downforce and the Wonks of Woking have done such a good job there’s no need for a rear wing. Which I found a bit sad.

Then again, the absence of outsized appendages gives the Artura’s profile a stealthiness, made more acute when it’s got an MSO satin black paint job (a £7,500 extra), as mine did. Yes, Batmobile comparisons apply. Let’s not forget, too, that this is a hybrid and that if you’re so taken, you can do 11 miles in electric silence before the V6 kicks in again. A spoiler might spoil that.

I’d worried that the Artura would be less fun to drive than previous-gen McLarens and that the boys and girls in Woking had lost their mojo. Would it still have the unfettered sexiness of the 570GT, the belligerent beauty of the 720S, the track-day lunacy of the 600LT? As it was, I was wrong. The Artura is brilliant.