The past takes on the future. But the past isn't going without a fight.
It's not just for economy-minded commuter cars anymore; even sports cars and supercars are going hybrid. The roster of hybrid supercars has grown yet again with the introduction of the 2021 McLaren Artura, an all-new model that slots in above the GT but below the 720S in McLaren's lineup. The Artura boasts some mind-blowing performance stats, putting it directly in the sights of another hybrid supercar icon, the 2021 Acura NSX.
On paper, the new Artura looks poised to take on (and possibly surpass) the NSX, which has been on the market since 2016 and was updated in 2018. But McLaren doesn't only have to dodge punches from Acura; it will also draw attention from the biggest icon of them all, the Porsche 911 Turbo. Does the McLaren Artura have what it takes to defeat these supercar mainstays? We check the specs to find out.
McLaren cars are often striking to look at, and the Artura is no exception. Though the Artura is nearly the same length as the 720S, it's narrower and has a shorter wheelbase. Like its big sibling, the Artura features oodles of curves, vents, and ducts, all of which serve the aerodynamic mission to make this car faster. It's functional artwork, dedicated to form and function without compromising on either.
By contrast, the NSX is much sharper, accentuating the differences between Japanese and British design. Both feature beautiful flying buttresses above massive air vents, but we think the Artura pulls them off with slightly more grace. As for the Porsche, the 911 Turbo sits at a disadvantage in terms of pure beauty.
The Turbo looks like most other 911 models (aside from the air vents behind the doors), and if it's ordered in a boring color, most casual onlookers won't be able to tell it from a base Carrera model. If your goal is to drive fast without drawing too much attention, the Porsche is the ideal choice here.
Old school supercar interiors were extremely minimalist; we wouldn't want to spend more than a few hours in one. Today's supercars are no less comfortable than an average luxury sedan. McLaren's cabins (particularly its technology) have lagged behind competitors recently, but the Artura seems like a leap in the right direction. The steering wheel continues to remain free of controls, but McLaren has placed numerous rocker switches nearby. We will have to play with the new eight-inch touchscreen in person to see if it has improved over the outgoing system, but McLaren has finally made Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available.
Porsche's cabin looks more conventional than McLaren's, with more of a Germanic organized feel. We feel that the 911's cockpit will be the most comfortable of the three on long journeys due to its spacious feel and premium build quality.
While it's no farmhouse, the Acura NSX is at a clear disadvantage in the interior department. Acura had no choice but to borrow many of its cabin controls from Honda, and those components look cheap when pitted against a McLaren and a Porsche. There are plenty of solid materials in the NSX's cabin, but it still trails the other two.
The Artura is the first McLaren to use a new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6, which produces 577 horsepower and 431 lb-ft all on its own. When combined with an electric motor, it dishes out 671 hp and 531 lb-ft. McLaren quotes 0-62 mph in 3.0 seconds, 0-124 in 8.3, 0-186 in 21.5, and a top speed of 205 mph. Enthusiasts may mourn the loss of McLaren's 3.8-liter V8, but this new V6 still revs to an impressive 8,500 rpm and the hybrid assistance should mean there's no dearth of performance here.
The Artura has another trick, as unlike the other two, it's the only plug-in hybrid. The NSX might have electric augmentation, but the Artura can be plugged in, charged up, and driven for 19 miles on electricity alone
The NSX packs a similar twin-turbocharged V6, but three electric motors combine to produce 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque. McLaren has Acura pegged on power, but two of the NSX's electric motors sit on the front axle to create an all-wheel drivetrain. This enables the NSX to hit 60 mph in just 2.7 seconds, though its top speed is lower at "only" 194 mph.
Compared to the Artura and NSX, the 911 Turbo is kind of a dinosaur with a conventional 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged flat-six. But remember, dinosaurs are still vicious. The 911 Turbo produces 572 hp in base form or 640 hp in Turbo S guise. With an eight-speed PDK transmission sending power to all four wheels, the Turbo S is the quickest to 60 mph at just 2.6 seconds. It also matches the McLaren with a 205 mph top speed.
Supercars aren't designed with practicality in mind, but one of these three cars clearly paid more attention to livability than the other two. McLaren quotes a 160-liter cargo capacity in the Atura's front trunk, which translates to roughly 5.65 cubic feet - though European trunk measurements are not always comparable - falling well short of the McLaren GT's combined 20.1 cubes.
Since the NSX has electric motors in the front, it's limited to a tiny trunk with only 4.4 cubic feet of space. Also, that trunk sits atop the exhaust, so it tends to get hot in there. But at least the NSX boasts AWD, making it a bit easier to drive in the rain or snow.
Porsche holds the clear advantage here with practicality. The 911's front trunk isn't massive with only 4.5 cubic feet, but it is the only one of the three to boast back seats, albeit tiny ones. Should those seats prove to be too small for passengers, they can also be folded down to open up 9.3 more cubic feet of storage space. Like the NSX, the 911 Turbo also drives all four wheels, meaning it can be driven in inclement weather.
There are no bargains among these three supercar competitors, so most buyers will likely choose one out of personal preference. McLaren priced the Artura at $225,000, making it the most expensive of the three before options. Although it comes from the least prestigious brand, the NSX makes up for its Acura badge with the lowest starting price of $157,500. With options, the NSX can surpass $200,000, but McLaren and Porsche aren't exactly known for their reasonably-priced add-ons, so we'll give Acura a pass here.
Porsche prices the base 911 Turbo at $170,800, but if you're already spending that much, we think the $203,500 Turbo S is worth the upgrade. While the McLaren is still pricier, Porsche's extensive options list will likely create some overlap between the two cars.
For our money, the affordable Acura has seemingly already fallen from grace and has lost the limelight. On paper, the 911 Turbo and Artura stack up as the cars that will steal the most attention. The final decision will be a tough choice for buyers, but McLaren has future-proofed the super sports car and the Artura seems a shoo-in for high performance motoring glory.