So the big question is whether a hybrid 3.0-litre V6 is any kind of replacement for a larger capacity V8. And the answer is yes, a thousand times yes. Given that the car remains light by any modern standard, it is difficult indeed to find a downside. There are of course all the benefits of a car that, even for a short distance, can run on electrical power alone, but that’s only the start of what this powertrain brings to the Artura. Consider also its ability to allow the car to develop maximum torque at 2,250rpm, which is fewer than half the revolutions required by the V8, so with this car at least you can forget all those old complaints about McLarens being peaky: it’s going like a lunatic at engine speeds where the V8 would barely be out of bed. And you can forget turbo lag, of which the V8 has been criticised too; because when your right foot requests more power, the hybrid simply fills in those few microseconds until the turbos have spooled up to speed. The car is ferociously, relentlessly fast and if its ultimate performance is not quite that of a 296 GTB or, indeed, a 720S, remember it was never intended to be. This is just the starting point for the new powertrain, and far more powerful variants will follow in due course.
The noise is interesting. There are some V6s that sound genuinely good – the original Honda NSX and the Ferrari Dino 246GT spring readily to mind – but few that are turbocharged. The Artura’s voice is as urgent as the V8’s, but it lacks an engaging timbre. It’s not just blood and thunder, there’s some music there too. No one’s ever going to call it symphonic or even close but if you can avoid the temptation of the sports exhaust and the 1,800rpm boom period that comes with it, I don’t think many will be disappointed with the sound of their Artura.
Or the way it changes gear. The new transmission is so seamless the biggest criticism is that at times it can actually feel too smooth: in the racier powertrain modes, just a small bang in the back as the next ratio engages would add a little sense of occasion.
As for the way the Artura gets down a difficult road, it is so capable that at times you find yourself genuinely gasping at its ability. The standard tyre is a Pirelli P Zero with a Corsa option that is absolutely not needed unless you’re going on track with it. The grip is simply phenomenal. As is traction now that, for the first time, McLaren has fitted one of their cars with an electronically controlled limited slip differential. Effectively open on turn in to avoid understeer, it then starts to lock as you apply the power, providing cork from bottle journeys from apex to exit.
But really it’s the damping and steering that set this car apart. Lacking the clever interconnected suspension of the 720S, it still finds a way of providing an ideal primary ride where the body is allowed to move in all three dimensions to allow decent ride quality, yet never letting it feel under anything other than iron-fisted control. And the steering, which is still hydraulically assisted, provides a level of feel and driver involvement the electric systems of rival cars could barely imagine.