Car review: You get two cars in one McLaren Artura

The Artura’s design is unmistakably McLaren, with clean and beautiful lines that exude elegance and power in equal measures. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE – McLaren’s first-series production petrol-electric hybrid car should be cause for celebration, as it is now possible to own a full-blooded British sports car which you can also drive like a Toyota Prius.

This is akin to eating that cake which you have – something not only the jewelled class can appreciate.

But a number of minor irritations in the test car spoil the experience.

First, the windscreen tends to fog up. Typically, this happens in very cold places, and Singapore is not one of them. Still, this is usually solved by opening the air-conditioning ventilation, but in the Artura, the mist takes a long time to lift.

Then, there is the air-con ventilation control itself. Whether it is open or in recirculation mode, you still get a strong whiff of exhaust gases on the go. Left in Auto, the air-con fans continue to blow hard, even when you feel the cabin temperature has reached your setting.

And thirdly, the cabin trim does not seem befitting of the car’s $1.2 million price tag. Various controls are decidedly plasticky, and the car’s red engine start button – a centrepiece in any sports car – glows innocuously in the dark and you cannot make out the letters on it. Its austere interior robs the car of a sense of occasion.

The Artura’s interior falls short of what you expect of a " > The Artura’s interior falls short of what you expect of a $1.2 million car. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG.2 million car. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Lastly, you need to pull a lever to get your seat back to its memorised position. This is tedious and, worse, does not work all the time.

That said, the Artura is still an interesting piece of engineering from McLaren.

Instead of a V8, it employs a V6. And not just any V6, but a rather unusual 120-degree V6, which is very wide indeed. I must say the engine note from this block is a tad strange. It sounds like nothing in town, with a loud monotonous drone which does not exactly inspire awe – whether you are inside or outside.

Like all plug-in hybrids, the car can be driven in electric-only mode, and McLaren says the Artura can cover 31km this way.

But unlike most hybrids, the Artura’s engine cuts in but does not immediately engage the drivetrain. It sort of idles in neutral for a while, which is, again, strange.

The soundtrack of the V6 hybrid McLaren is loud but monotonous. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The Artura uses an axial flux motor, which is deemed by many – including Mercedes and Toyota – to be superior in terms of compactness, power and efficiency. In electric mode, the car is still fairly punchy.

Its design is unmistakably McLaren, with clean and beautiful lines that exude elegance and power in equal measures. Inside, a couple of differences stand out, such as a compact infotainment screen angled towards the driver, and control tabs on either side of the instrument binnacle for you to select engine and suspension modes.

Like many sports cars, the Artura’s ride is decidedly firm even in Comfort mode.

Its level of steering and brake assistance is lower than most, giving the impression you are driving an analogue performance car from days gone by. For those who feel that modern sports cars are too soft and filtered, the Artura should be a breath of fresh air (except for the car’s glitchy air-con ventilation).

The car’s compact footprint – with a low and wide stance – makes it a precise driving machine indeed. Steering response is taut, quick and sharp, and the car’s fat, grippy tyres ensure it sticks to the tarmac – even if the hard suspension means jolts and bumps are par for the course on public roads.

The Artura is quick, but does not feel as quick as you would imagine a car capable of a three-second 0-100kmh sprint, nor one with 720Nm of torque available from 2,250rpm. Nevertheless, you are astounded by how easily the speedometer breaches the three-digit mark.

Plug the car in every day and you should be able to drive it without waking its combustion engine. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

If you plug it in every day, the Artura could possibly offer you emission-free motoring to the office and back. And on weekends, take the car up to a nearby race circuit and enjoy it the way it is meant to be enjoyed.

This way, you have two cars for $1.2 million – a super sleek Prius and a track beast capable of hitting 200kmh in 8.3 seconds.

• Follow Christopher Tan on Instagram @chris.motoring

MCLAREN ARTURA

PRICE: $1,198,000 without COE
ENGINE: 2,993cc 24-valve twin-turbocharged V6 paired with electric motor
TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed dual-clutch with paddle shift
POWER: 671hp at 7,500rpm
TORQUE: 720Nm at 2,250-7,000rpm
0-100KMH 3 seconds
TOP SPEED: 330kmh
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 4.6 litres/100km
AGENT: McLaren Singapore

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