It's not been an easy road to get here, but McLaren finally has a solid next-generation product.
At the recent launch drive of the McLaren Artura, CarBuzz spoke to Jamie Corstorphine, McLaren's Director of Product Strategy, about the teething issues that had plagued the car's early development and the reasons for its delay in coming to market. While much had been publicized about fiery incidents involving pre-production prototypes at the original press launch in Spain, the issues that caused that isolated incidents weren't the only bumps in the road to get to the point we're at today.
Jamie is exactly the keenly intelligent, soft-spoken, thoughtful person you would want to run product development for a supercar manufacturer that is still, technically, in its teenage years. McLaren hasn't been without its growing pains despite directly competing with mature, iconic brands like Lamborghini and Ferrari.
The Artura is the most important supercar yet for the young British manufacturer, as it arrives on its next-generation platform for McLaren's production supercars. Foreshadowed by the P1 hypercar from 2013, the Artura is a hybrid supercar that's technical developments don't stop with the drivetrain. It lays down the foundation in several areas for the next decade of McLaren supercars. As a transition from past to future, it also has to rectify problems that have plagued the brand.
Reliability is one area McLaren knows it needs to work on. Jamie told us there was a heavy focus on ensuring the Artura is robust. "We have had a few items on the car that have been more troublesome." He acknowledged software had been an issue generally, but it has been no secret that a pre-production press test car caught fire.
"At the press launch in Spain," Jamie explains, "we had a couple of specific instances related to the oil cooler, which was an earlier design with parts that failed, and we've subsequently ensured all the cars have the correct parts."
The incendiary incidents were only the headline-grabbing delay of the Artura, though. The rest of the delays went far deeper than that. "It was a combination of things. Firstly, we were developing the car during the pandemic, which didn't have an impact on moving parts and cars around, but people," says Corstorphine.
McLaren does a lot of its development in Italy, which was one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. "Even though our facilities were open, many suppliers were shut, and after that, we had parts shortages - particularly supercapacitors. Then working through the ethernet software. It's absolutely groundbreaking, and we're the first automaker to use it in a series production car. That took longer than anticipated."
The ethernet software he's referring to uses the "zonal domain-based ethernet architecture," which drops the weight of the electrical system in the Artura by 10%. The twisted pair ethernet network uses just four central controllers (the 720S uses 12) but increases processor power and future-proofs the platform for future features while allowing over-the-air updates.
So really, it wasn't just a case of a flaming supercar on launch that prompted the massive delays, but the complexities of the development as a whole. When the next 10 years' worth of supercars are to be built on the back of the engine and electrical architecture used here, these systems need to be right from the get-go. Otherwise, McLaren would forever be chasing its tail. The delays surrounding the car's development even resulted in McLaren selling select cars from its heritage collection to fund the final development fixes.
We're happy to report the Artura performed flawlessly in our time with it, and if McLaren can build on this success, the future looks brighter than ever.