The 2020s warmed up this week with revelations of two polar opposite supercars, one pointing the burn time to new heights and the other taking a bold step towards an electrified future. Amazingly, for all the differences, they are still rivals
What a match we have on our hands. It is the old school against the new order in what promises to be a titanic scrap that will only happen once in this time, right now. In the blue corner, the champion prize maker, the famous crowd and the established fan base are the hero, while in the red corner, a new challenger has stepped up, a little heavier and with an even stronger blow helped by smart technology. It’s the new boy and he has to prove himself, but he has all the tools to take down the champion.
Coincidence brought the releases of the 992-year-old Porsche 911 GT3 and McLaren Artura together on the same day, but it is the exact opposite that made them so different. Porsche is conscious – after a good deal of steering – and stays true to the formula it alone has mastered: rear engine, rear-wheel drive and a mesmerizing flat-six with 9000 rpm. It’s not a scent of electric propulsion or an environmental conscience, and buyers like it that way.
On the contrary, McLaren has thrown its own rulebook out of the window, retrieved a flamethrower from the shed and burned it to ashes. Artura has a new chassis, a completely new engine, a new semi-electric driveline and accessories, a new interior and of course a new model designation. The starting price is almost £ 60,000 more than the GT3, and it’s much more complicated in some ways, but the customer base will still overlap Porsches to some extent.
This is not a normal period for the industry; it is absolutely extraordinary. At no other time in history do you get such a glorious dichotomy as when one technology completely replaces another such electric power would do for combustion. Like horses became recreational animals, not work, combustion will be kept alive as a hobby by those who have the means. When that happens, it will be a completely different lens to look at in the 2020s, but right now as the market begins to spread its efforts to almost all of its countless corners, we are offered some incredible contrasts.
Take the 911’s pretty straightforward mechanical and chassis adjustments that pull the phenomenal 17 seconds more out of the 20.6km long Nurburgring lap compared to the old one. Moving to motorsport-type dual-leg suspension front, adding width and GTE-inspired aero features has made a significant difference without changing the formula so loved by the press and customers. It must be a wonderful thing; furiously aggressive and powerful electric without ever having to connect, and with rich heritage dating back to the mid-20th century.
Artura’s brand new 120-degree V6, built to be as compact as possible when all the extra parts such as turbos, gearboxes and exhaust are added, are completely opposite. Brand new, with an unusual and rarely built V-angle and a conscious focus on hybridization, there are many things GT3’s flat-six is not. About the only thing they share is the number of cylinders. For the extra £ 60,000, McLaren gives you a significantly more powerful internal combustion engine despite giving away a full liters with cubic capacity.
That is before you even take in electrical help. Suddenly, the people’s champion starts to look very much like 168 hp and a big big torque through midrange. In what sounds like another minor miracle performed by the Woking brand, the Artura is also only 60 kg heavier than the Porsche. Remember that our gobs were beaten on it.
GT3 contains pure analog ICE adrenaline in salable form. You can get it with a manual gearbox, it will go to 9000 rpm time and time again without popping, it will crush laps in a given circuit until the tires need to be replaced, and like previous GT3s it will also be easy to Live with it if you are a real enthusiast and want to use it every day. It is the very best manual super sports car that people can reliably build for the road at a price that enough people pay.
Artura is a lot for McLaren to go into its new reality. More power than the frighteningly fast 650S not so long ago, the ability to cruise 18 miles on electric power and a hybrid setup designed for performance as much as emissions, it’s a miniaturized P1 for less than a fifth of the cost. That it was unveiled the same day as the 992 GT3 is remarkable; that it exists at the same time in history to meet largely the same everyday supercar goals is a testament to the enormous power the automotive industry is living through.
A hell of a battle between GT3 and Artura, despite the obvious performance disruption in McLaren’s favor. In more ways than one, it’s a battle GT3 can not win, but still we hope with every fiber of our beings that someone finally gets them together for fights we all want to see. We suspect that it will depend on the tester about which of these two legends in his own time comes to the top, but when it comes to summarizing CT’s highlights from 2021 in ten months, we know we will talk about both.