McLaren Artura Spider road test: Spacious supercar makes light work of dizzying speeds

The Route Napoleon, winding across the Alpes-Maritimes in the south of France, is so named as Napoleon Bonaparte and his troops marched across it in 1815 after returning from exile on the island of Elba.

Today, I'm making much more rapid progress across a section of this route than the former French emperor could have imagined two centuries ago. The reason? Rather than a horse, my steed is the McLaren Artura Spider, which is the latest addition to the British marque’s supercar line-up.

The newcomer follows in the tracks of the recently released 750S and GTS, which are helping McLaren to work its way back to profitability. The company posted a £3 million ($3.8 million) profit for the first quarter of the year, having sustained heavy losses for the past few years.

Unlike other members of the McLaren family – which rely on twin-turbo V8 power – the Artura is the first rung in the brand’s gradual transition to electrification, as its propulsion comes from a mid-mounted 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, supplemented by an electric motor that’s housed in unison with the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The new Artura Spider’s peak power is bumped up by 20hp to 700hp, while the max torque figure remains unchanged at an already robust 720Nm. In addition, the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission shifts 25 per cent faster, and the adaptive suspension has 90 per cent quicker responses.

Now available to order in the UAE, from Dh1.14 million ($311,000), the newbie claims to be the lightest drop-top in its segment at a lithe 1,560kg (including all fluids), and it’s also one of the fastest. McLaren quotes a 0-100kph split of three seconds, 0-200kph in 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 330kph, and it feels every bit this quick out in the real world.

Departing from my overnight digs overlooking Monaco, my first impressions are of how unlike a supercar the Artura Spider feels in terms of spaciousness. The dome-shaped roofline means headroom is cavernous, so much so that even a two-metre-tall driver can be comfortably accommodated.

Most mid-engined supercars are highly compromised in the visibility they offer, but that’s not the case here as the Artura Spider’s goldfish-bowl-like glasshouse means there’s a panoramic view out in almost all directions. When I lower the roof – which takes just 11 seconds at speeds of up to 50kph – I can take in even more of the surroundings and the sky.

Schlepping my way out of the urban environs of Nice and its surrounds, the McLaren makes easy work of the stop-start traffic and congested motorway. The hybrid powertrain and eight-speed dual-clutch auto are seamless in their power delivery and the Artura Spider is as cossetting as one could expect of a hypercar that’s this rapid.

McLaren’s chassis engineers are particularly adept at marrying scalpel-sharp handling dynamics with supple-riding qualities, and this is particularly evident in the Artura Spider as it glides across some of the lumpy roads I traverse with silky grace.

mclaren artura spider road test: spacious supercar makes light work of dizzying speeds

The elegant, yet sporty interiors of the Artura Spider. Photo: McLaren

One of the upgrades for the latest Artura is an exhaust system that’s more vocal, and the optional sports exhaust is even more so (in a good way) as some of its acoustics are piped into the cabin so I can savour the twin-turbo V6’s sonic signature to the fullest.

As the roads turn twisty, the opportunity arises to test McLaren’s claim that the Artura Spider makes no sacrifice in terms of tautness or agility despite the loss of a fixed roof, which is a key structural element in maximising a car’s torsional rigidity.

It doesn’t take long to discover that this isn’t an empty boast as the Artura Spider voraciously devours the sinuous stretches of tarmac that comprise much of my drive route. Tight hairpins and fast sweepers are dealt with disdain as the McLaren rockets from one corner to the next. Even mid-corner bumps fail to upset the car’s composure – proof that the Spider makes no perceptible dynamic compromises vis-a-vis its coupe sibling.

There are few topless rivals that come close to matching the sheer pace, tactility and exhilarating nature of the McLaren Artura Spider. Ferrari’s sublime 296 GTS is arguably the only competitor in the same league as Lamborghini’s ageing Huracan Evo Spyder, which is on the way out, with a next-gen replacement at least 12 to 18 months away.

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