2024 McLaren Artura Spider | PH Review

2024 McLaren Artura Spider | PH Review

Absolutely we should not think of the Artura as McLaren’s problem child. But it has undeniably had problems with its first series hybrid. And being a firm that tends to overcompensate for any perceived shortcoming, it is no surprise to learn that its engineers have used the introduction of the new Spider as an excuse to focus on other areas of the car they felt might have benefitted from improvement. As a result, and to varying degrees, the new Artura is more powerful, cleverer, bigger sounding and better riding. A bitter pill for anyone in possession of a two-year-old example perhaps (though current coupe owners can upgrade to the new output at no additional cost). Yet also potentially the cherry on top for those who’ve been patiently waiting for a convertible version of McLaren’s plug-in hybrid supercar. 

For anyone who still looks at that description as a contradiction in terms, you are not alone. John H professed himself a little underwhelmed by the coupe at the original launch back in 2022, and that feeling must be partly attributed to the 130kg hybrid system. This system has not changed. Whether you buy a coupe or Spider, the updated Artura incorporates the same 7.4kWh battery and 15.4kg axial flux E-motor, doing the same basic job: satisfying the vagaries of current and near-future emissions legislation the world over with up to 21 miles of electric range and combined CO2 emissions of 108g/km. McLaren, as it did before, deserves all the plaudits for keeping one eye locked on the scales as it navigates these waters, but the fact remains that the Artura is configured with a plug socket for reasons that aren’t necessarily integral to its performance as a supercar. Like Ferrari and Porsche and Lamborghini, the company needed a hybrid. This is it. Only now with a retractable hard-top. 

It’s worth remembering all this when you approach the new Spider, especially if you’ve previously purchased a McLaren based on the firm’s lack of tolerance when it comes to compromises. By definition, the Artura requires an open mind. Or at the very least one that can accept a six-figure, 700hp supercar that fires up to the default sound of silence. This noiselessness suits Monaco (the location chosen for the Spider’s launch) about as well as a city-wide tax audit. Gratuitous consumption – especially when burning petrol – is widely celebrated in the principality, meaning that the Spider’s battery-powered docility at low speeds seems mostly wasted on the populace. Its svelte look though, is not. McLaren has never botched a convertible derivative, and while the Artura isn’t as visually striking as the current 750S Spider, it certainly doesn’t start here. 

The transition to all-new carbon architecture (the Artura is underpinned by the next-generation MCLA platform) has not undermined a familiar strength: according to its maker, there is no difference in torsional rigidity between coupe and Spider, and no strengthening required for that to be true. There is a 62kg difference in kerbweight, but McLaren attributes that to the retractable hard-top and the eight electric motors required to raise or lower it in 11 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. Even with that imposition, at 1,560kg (DIN) the Spider is claimed to be the lightest convertible supercar in its class by as much as 83kg. Although, for a possibly more instructive comparison, it’s worth noting that the old 570S Spider, with its much heavier V8, was itself 62kg lighter when measured the same way. 

As well as sweating every gram, the engineers had to overcome the unenviable challenge of cooling a turbocharged 3.0-litre ‘hot vee’ V6 expected to run at full tilt for long periods with a single-piece hardtop stowed above it. Suffice it to say, the glut of additional ducts that the Spider has accumulated aft of the tonneau cover – or the air channeling flying buttresses atop it – are not merely for show. McLaren reckons the aerodynamic and cooling concept is one of its most advanced ever. Which seems fitting for a super-compact, wide-angle V6 that started out in life with 585hp and the capacity to rev to 8,500rpm – and now has 605hp atop a recalibrated power curve because its maker felt the need for a ‘more engaging driving experience at the upper end of the rev range’. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when McLaren talks about ‘driver engagement’ it sounds a bit like Lieutenant Commander Data discussing human emotions with Jean Luc Picard, as though the right combination of numbers and computational heft (the processing power of the Artura’s electrical architecture is further enhanced, by the way) will present an unambiguous solution. From any other manufacturer this approach would eventually start to chafe, but, much like Data himself, McLaren’s earnestness and never-say-die work ethic are disarming when encountered firsthand. So while you might not necessarily notice that the SSG’s gearshifts are 25 per cent quicker than before or ever learn to use the new ‘Spinning Wheel Pull-Away’ feature, rest assured they are among the features that distinguish new from old and were conceived with your enjoyment very much front of mind. 

It is rare though for a McLaren to ensorcel its driver inside the first minute, and with its knack for silence and a largely carried-over interior, it is beyond the Spider, too. As a driving environment, of course, it is mostly exceptional. The seating position, steering wheel, carbon paddles and offset pedals (and their relationship to each other) are all top notch. The seats themselves are note-perfect: comfy, clingy and rake-thin. And say what you like about McLaren build quality (and people say plenty) but to sit in, structurally, they feel like they’ve been blasted from granite and then sealed shut with Alcantara. Even with unfettered access to the heavens now available at the touch of an overhead button, the Artura’s shrink-wrapped cabin seems zeroed in on the driver’s seat. Little wonder it always feels in lockstep with your intentions. 

The downside to all this single-mindedness is that it ends up doing understated function a little too well. A dash more flair wouldn’t hurt. And nor would some sleeker integration. The impulse to extract the infotainment screen from the dash and turn it toward the driver was as a laudable one, but its gawky shape and giant bezel do it no favours. Nor does repeatedly clonking it with your phone while trying to access the new wireless charger located behind it. Moreover, because the amount of usable screen is limited, some of the icons – especially those assigned to the HVAC system – are smaller and closer together than they otherwise might have been. Also, full disclosure: for the first leg of the journey, the sat nav failed to relocate a signal after being programmed underground, despite a two-hour window of opportunity and no small amount of incredulous prodding. 

Still, with no GPS to help out with speed limit detection (a must-have standard feature begrudgingly installed alongside lane departure warning), the Artura was at least denied the chance to bong incessantly. Handy, when you discover the physical button to turn off the latter doesn’t automatically silence the reminder (you’ll be wanting a sub-menu for that). Although, for the first 20 miles or so – or for as long as you opt to stick with EV mode – most transgressions are genuinely accidental or else quite hard-won: with only 95hp and 166lb ft of torque to call upon, progress in the Spider is decidedly leisurely. Much as the lack of noise seems counterintuitive given the styling, so the absence of nerve-jangling speed is amusingly at odds with the rapier-like chassis the electric motor is connected to. When reversing, it’s like using wooden oars to manoeuvre an offshore powerboat.

While completing a short journey on battery power alone is perfectly plausible – the Spider’s EV range is displayed separately from the fuel tank’s – McLaren does not expect you to remain segregated from combustion for very long. And nor will you feel inclined to. As before, Comfort mode continues to favour the electric motor at low speeds, with wider throttle openings causing the V6 to chime in. This is achieved evenly enough, although it isn’t the way you’d necessarily choose to first encounter the engine powering your supercar. Especially one as strident as the Artura’s. Taking uncomplimentary comments about sound quality and coarseness on the chin is virtually a tradition at McLaren – as is not completely solving the issue with a revised exhaust design that promises a ‘more natural tone’. 

In response to previous criticism of the coupe, both the standard and optional sports exhaust (fitted to all the test cars) are said to feature modified active valves alongside new ‘upward conical-shaped tailpipes’ for a more refined engine note. Commendably, the purity of this note, even with the introduction of a symposer, hardly seems in question – but at no point does the result seem newly melodic. What the Spider does seem, once you’ve found your way to Sport or Track via the powertrain rocker switch, is irresistibly rapid. There is no additional torque from the V6, and thank goodness for that: despite the modest weight gain, the instantaneous quality of the mid-range performance, the result of the e-motor and V6 seamlessly collaborating up to 4,000rpm, is transferred wholesale from the coupe. 

While no previous open-top McLaren ever seemed inadequate at lower engine speeds, you’re left in no doubt about the Spider’s livelier throttle response or its capacity for surging effortlessly toward the horizon in a higher gear. Obviously, we’ve encountered a superabundance of torque in numerous petrol-electric settings; the Artura’s telling achievement is making the result not just manageable or easy to modulate, but sufficiently well measured to seem authentic even as the electrical assistance tapers and the turbocharged V6 comes on song. This supremely accessible, ever-ready enthusiasm also feeds into the impression that Spider is doing much of its best work at what seems like an imperturbable, yet totally absorbing, fast road supercruise.

This was a virtue of the coupe, as well, underwritten by a chassis that emphasised instinctive drivability and typically impressive vertical control. Yet here too McLaren has sought meaningful improvement, not just via revised valving on its three-stage dampers, but also by improving the response rate thanks to faster control software. With the suspension in Comfort mode, the Spider finds a terrific, fluid compromise between supercar poise and the edge-softening deftness you hope for in a seriously rapid convertible. Alongside other detailed alterations, its maker reckons new powertrain mounts play a significant part, allowing the Proactive Damping Control to manage the Artura as a single, contiguous mass rather than two closely associated ones. But whatever the source, the upshot is the same: the Spider doesn’t just carry big speeds effortlessly or willingly, or astound you with the quality of its bump absorption, or change direction very tautly – it audaciously marries it all together and then lets you choose. Sit back in wonderment – or lean even more aggressively into it. 

On the basis that the latter requires you to light the torch on the V6’s uprated final throes, you are assuredly going to spend more time (especially on roads that aren’t deserted stretches of the Route Napoléon) doing the former. And it speaks to the Spider’s gains – not least in the splendidly tactile hydraulic steering that seems pleasingly short on kickback and tremendously long on consistency – that you can spend hours away from the Artura’s outer limits and feel as sated as an urban fox that’s found its way into a KFC wheelie bin. It’s just that sublimely good at going very fast. But 700hp balanced on the end of what McLaren now terms a ‘performance crescendo’ inevitably means that ludicrous speed is there if you want it. Clearly this is to counter what John previously identified as an absence of ‘top-end explosiveness’, and it’s safe to say that while the 3.0-second-to-62mph time is unchanged, there is now a rabidness to the last 3,500rpm that well earns the (switchable) upshift buzzer that McLaren has installed to mark the vital moment. 

Whether or not this also nails down the missing piece of the Artura emotional puzzle is open to the kind of subjective interpretation that probably drives McLaren up the wall. That the V6 grows in presence and sonic boom potential is an additional string to its bow, although with the engine not radically more tuneful than before, the new crescendo relies a little too heavily on your need for speed than any specific tug on your heart strings. But to boil the Spider down to that rarefied split second is probably to miss the broader point: this is a remarkably complete new school supercar that exemplifies how ease of use and intuitive control surfaces and hybridised pace can be made to hang together in a way that seems not just remarkably cohesive, but uniquely rewarding too. Granted, for sun-warmed stretches of French fantasy road, it hardly threatens to overshadow memory of the lighter, louder, stiffer 600LT Spider. But for all the roads in between, McLaren has finally made the Artura seem like a wholly convincing solution. 

Specification | 2024 McLaren Artura Spider 

Engine: 2,993cc, V6 twin-turbocharged, plug-in hybrid
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 700
Torque (lb ft): 531
0-62mph: 3.0secs
Top speed: 205mph
Weight: 1,560kg (DIN)
MPG: 58.9
CO2: 108g/km
Price: £221,500

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