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First Drive: Can McLaren’s Artura Spider achieve drop-top excellence?

The Artura Spider has all manner of go-faster touches but what do they combine to create? Jack Evans finds out.

(McLaren)
McLaren Artura Spider (McLaren)

What is it?

(McLaren)
(McLaren) (Stan Papior)

McLaren is hot-footing it to update its entire range. Its bombastic 720S has been given a power boost and transformed into the 750S, while the cross-continent GT has been updated into the GTS. The Artura, which was only recently introduced, is also getting a freshen-up to coincide with the release of this model – the Artura Spider.

Rather than just lopping off the roof, this Artura has been given a range of modifications and upgrades over the original car and they’ve been applied to all Artura models built from now on, too. We’ve been out to drive it in the south of France to see what’s what.

What’s new?

(McLaren)
(McLaren) (Stan Papior)

The Artura was a car plagued with difficulties in its early stages, but McLaren has looked to finesse the formula with both the Spider and the equivalent coupe. It’s not just a couple of visual tweaks, either; the hybrid powertrain has gained a power boost – more on that later – the transmission has been revised for faster shifts while the suspension and damping has gained a big revision to make the Artura even sharper to drive than before.

As always, McLaren’s focus with the Artura has been weight – or lack of it. At 1,560kg with fluids, it’s incredibly light. It’s no mean feat, either, given the complex folding metal roof system that raises or lowers in 11 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. You can even specify the roof with electrochromatic glass which can go opaque or transparent at the touch of a button.

What’s under the bonnet?

(McLaren)
(McLaren) (Stan Papior)

As before, the Artura uses a combination of V6 petrol power and an electric motor. However, McLaren has managed to squeeze some extra boost from that engine, bringing the Artura Spider’s total output to 690bhp, up from 671bhp previously. The good news is that if you’re an existing Artura owner, McLaren will upgrade your car to this power output for free.

Performance, as you might expect, is impressive. Zero to 60mph comes in three seconds flat while McLaren claims a top speed of 205mph. However, with an electric-only range of up to 21 miles, it’s still very usable in battery-powered mode and when combined with the petrol engine, McLaren claims that you could get up to 58.9mpg. Unlike other hybrid models, there’s no regenerative braking – McLaren says it didn’t want to go down that route – with the petrol engine being the primary source of charge for the battery.

What’s it like to drive?

The Artura Spider instantly feels like a more focused affair than many of its rivals. Pushing off under electric-only power, it’s sharp and taught underneath though it does remarkably well to shrug off the worst of the potholes and road imperfections. Increase the pace and the Artura Spider remains impressively flat and level, darting through corners with increasing hunger. The V6 engine may not sound all that impressive – though better than the original Artura – but you can’t fault its effectiveness. Combined with the electric motor, this is one rapid drop-top.

It’s actually the more everyday driving situations where the McLaren particularly impresses, mind you. During a slog through some rush hour French traffic, it felt as easy to manage as a conventional hatchback with an easy-to-judge throttle and a gearbox which shifts intelligently ensuring that this is one supercar that you could use every day. There’s a real lack of buffetting at speed with the roof down, too, and while this is taken away when the roof is in place, there is quite a lot of road noise to deal with – particularly at motorway speeds.

How does it look?

(McLaren)
(McLaren) (Stan Papior)

McLaren models have always had quite a similar approach styling-wise and there’s some of that carried through on the Artura Spider. It’s still very much recognisable as one of the Woking brand’s cars, that’s for sure, but it does what you want a supercar to do when it comes to looks – make an impact and turn heads.

However, the details in the roof area are what make this car stand out. The buttresses are a particular stand-out touch as they’re incorporated into the roll-over structure but also incorporate a glazed section which makes it a little easier to look out of the back. When the roof is folded away, it’s all very neat and tidy while when it’s back in place the Spider is hard to pick out against the ‘standard’ Artura.

What’s it like inside?

(McLaren)
(McLaren) (Stan Papior)

It’s all very stripped-back inside the cabin of the Artuta. The materials are good, mind you, and while it’ll come as no surprise that this isn’t the most practical of cars, the two occupants do get a decent area to stretch out in while headroom isn’t bad when the roof is in place – and near-infinite when it’s folded away.

In terms of practicality, the Artura Spider does better than you might think for this type of car. The 160-litre boot in the nose of the car might be smaller than the boot you’d get in a Hyundai i10 city car, but it’s deep, square and ideal for two soft weekend bags or some coats and jackets. A week’s worth of clothing for two people might be a bit of a stretch, mind you.

What’s the spec like?

(McLaren)
(McLaren) (Stan Papior)

Prices for the Artura Spider start from £221,000, making it considerably more expensive than something like a Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet. But McLaren has certainly pushed harder to increase the level of on-board tech inside its cars and that’s evident in the Artura Spider. The main forward instrument cluster – which is framed by easy-to-use rocker controls for the various driver modes – is clear to use and can be configured to show different readouts. We’re still fond of McLaren’s approach to leave the steering wheel completely free of any buttons and while that does mean some controls aren’t quite as easy to hand as in other cars, it does make for a purer-feeling driving experience.

McLaren has equipped the Artura with the latest driver assistance systems, too, and while there’s a quick shortcut button to deactivate the lane departure warning, you still need to head into the screen to switch off others – it would’ve been nice if they’d all been tied into one button. The main screen itself works reasonably well but still lags behind rivals in overall usability while it’s quite badly affected by overhead sunlight – which isn’t ideal in a convertible.

Verdict

The McLaren Artura Spider has arrived as one of the sharpest convertibles around. While it can quickly play the full supercar role at the drop of a hat – delivering a sharp, exhilarating and measured driving experience that will thrill those behind the wheel – it’ll just as easily transform into a docile A-to-B drop-top that could be used for even the most mundane of journeys.

While it might be nice to have a touch more flamboyance from the engine note, you can’t fault how effective the McLaren Artura Spider is.

  • Model as tested: McLaren Artura Spider
  • Price as tested: £221,000
  • Engine: Twin-turbocharged petrol V6 with electric motor
  • Power: 690bhp
  • Torque: 720Nm
  • Max speed: 205mph
  • 0-60mph: 3.0 seconds
  • MPG: 58.9mpg
  • Emissions: 108g/km
  • Electric-only range: 21 miles