McLaren might not just be a supercar manufacturer for much longer.
At the recent American first drive event of the McLaren Artura, CarBuzz talked shop with Jamie Corstorphine, McLaren's Director of Product Strategy, about the future product plans of the McLaren brand, prodding for details about the Artura Spider, electric McLaren supercars, and even the rumored McLaren SUV.
The brand is in the midst of a changeover with ex-Ferrari man Michael Leiters at the helm and developing a new electrical architecture for the Artura that will underpin the next decade of McLaren cars. But as interesting as the minefield McLaren has to tread through in these changing times, there are other pressing questions, like will there be an Artura Spider next?
"We're obviously focusing on the coupe, but we want to be clear and consistent and predictable for our customers and what's going to happen in the lifecycle," James said, choosing his words carefully, likely so as not to upset the PR department, "and, if you looked at our previous production dates with models and variants of the car, that will give you reasonable indication of what might happen."
While he was treading the PR line carefully, that sounds like confirmation to us, as McLaren has typically produced convertible versions of its core series of supercars, including the 12C, 650S, 675LT, 720S, and 765LT, meaning it's just a matter of time before McLaren has a rival to the Ferrari 296 GTS.
McLaren has been one automaker to shun the SUV trend so far. But even Ferrari has entered that segment, and with the aforementioned Leiters heavily involved in the decision to build the Purosangue. So naturally, we had to ask if a volume-selling McLaren SUV could be in the cards.
"Our Chief Executive has been on the record that it is something we're looking at," James tells us. "You can just look at the commercial success of other brands. I think it's appropriate of us to examine the opportunity, but nothing has been signed off on or approved or progressing at this point, but we're assessing the opportunity."
Given how much development of the Artura has cost McLaren Automotive with the pandemic's timing and its sheer ambition in driving the supercar forward and forcing the company to seek extra funding and sell assets, it must be a wake-up call to management. At this point, we wouldn't understand anybody criticizing McLaren for producing something for the mass market that would give a safety net in profitability so it can continue making amazing supercars like the Artura. But it might not be an SUV, and the rumor mill has even suggested a Taycan-rivalling sedan could be in the cards.
However, even if a McLaren SUV were to be built, there's still the question of electrification. Is McLaren going fully electric? Or is it simply biding its time and relying on hybridization in the hopes that the world finds other ways to keep the internal combustion engine alive?
"It's really interesting, but our plan is to electrify our product range," says Corstorphine. The benefits are obvious, as the torque-fill ability of electric motors goes hand-in-hand with combatting turbo lag, and all of McLaren's engines - except the race-derived V10 in the Solus GT - are turbocharged.
"We like the driving experience it provides," he explains, but also details some of the problems the brand faces, as "the regulatory framework is going to be very diverse by country, and we see opportunities for the combustion engines in markets where customers want to enjoy, and we're permitted to sell it."
Hybrid McLarens are here to stay, but it seems that a fully-electric model might still be some way away.
Not everyone has been happy with McLaren's design language. While the change from 12C to 650S was revolutionary, most models that have come since have been variations of one another, built around a common architecture with power outputs being the biggest differentiating factor. The Artura is much of the same - less of a clean-sheet design and more of an adaptation to suit its purpose.
Corstorphine says that's all part of the plan, even likening McLaren's philosophy to that of Porsche. "We want the cars to be recognizable," he explains. But it's not just about brand identity, and Corstorphine highlights a 'keeping up with the Joneses' mentality among supercar owners. "Customers may also have just bought a car, and you don't want them to feel embarrassed that it's not the latest thing."
For McLaren, it's a way of not alienating its existing clientele, something which Corstorphine believes is vital if a high-end sports car maker is to succeed. "Brands are very good at doing that. Look at Porsche and the incremental changes they make to keep it fresh without leaving those customers that just bought a car behind."