The McLaren Artura Spider experience: Power up, top down

We’ve already track-tested the twin-turbocharged V6 hybrid McLaren Artura at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and ripped flat-out in one across the wilds of Idaho at 200 mph in one, so what’s the next act for McLaren’s second-generation super sports car?

A power up and the top down, that’s what. McLaren invited Popular Science to tour the French countryside in the 2025 Artura Spider, and I can confirm that this new drop-top version is the one to have. 

That’s because it delivers all of the performance, ride, and handling of the coupe, but with a folding hardtop mechanism that raises and lowers in just 11 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. That roof adds 136 pounds to the Spider compared to the coupe, but the difference will only show up on the stopwatch if you are qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix.

As a bonus, McLaren has boosted the hybrid system’s total power output by 19 horsepower for 2025, bringing the specifications to 690 hp. Better yet, because it is the result of a software update, everyone who already bought an Artura is eligible for the upgraded power, for free. Torque is unchanged, at 531 lb.-ft.

a sports car with the top down parked on the side of a rural road
That classic exhaust wail sound can be pumped directly into the cabin. Image: McLaren Patrick GOSLING

A cleaner sound

McLaren says that it has improved the sound of the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine with a tuned resonator and upward conical shape to the exhaust pipes that the company promises deliver a “cleaner” sound to occupants. An optional louder sport exhaust includes a sound symposer that pipes exhaust sound directly to the cabin.

V6 engines like the Artura’s aren’t typically cited for their sound, and at anything less than wide-open throttle the Spider’s engine sound is less than inspiring. At redline, the engine does produce an exciting, exotic wail. What’s better is the car’s ability to whisk silently along on electric power, which let me glide through the French town of Grasse. Grasse is noted for its perfume fragrances, so I’m sure its residents appreciated that I didn’t add any unwanted exhaust smells or sounds as I cruised through. 

Certainly the school children who shouted approval enjoyed the sight of the Artura. The 7.4-kilowatt battery pack provides an electric-only range of 21 miles, which nearly doubles the original range of only 11 miles so you can use this mode much more than in the original models.

Body talk

The Artura Spider, like the coupe, is built on a carbon fiber chassis called the McLaren Lightweight Architecture that McLaren swears is so strong that having the open top does not compromise its structural rigidity. I noticed no difference in the car’s behavior top up or down, which is different from many hardtop convertibles and a stark difference from my old Miata when the hardtop was on versus when it was off.

The ability to raise and lower the roof in just eleven seconds while cruising through villages makes the Spider’s drop-top feature easier to enjoy, because it is so easy to adjust in response to changing weather or when entering or leaving the Autoroute, where it is more pleasant to have the roof closed at highway speeds.

Putting the roof up doesn’t have to mean that you’re in the dark, however. The Artura’s folding hardtop roof panel incorporates an electrochromatic glass panel that switches between clear and dim. The dim mode blocks 99 percent of sunlight and 96 percent of solar energy, keeping the cabin pleasant. But, as anyone who experienced the recent total solar eclipse noticed, even with 99 percent blockage, there is more light than you’d expect from a mere one percent.

details of blue sports car
All the details elevate the experience. Images: McLaren

Tire technology

McLaren partnered with Pirelli for the Artura’s tires so it can employ Pirelli’s Cyber Tire technology. This is a combination of hardware and software that connects the Artura’s electronic systems to an electronic sensor inside each P Zero tire. The system provides real-time data that allows drivers to adjust tire pressure limits to fully exploit the tires’ potential. The tires also include Pirelli’s Noise Cancelling System (PNCS), which uses a sound absorbing device on the inside of the tire wall to reduce vibration and noise.

McLaren’s Alcon-supplied carbon ceramic brakes are always superb and that is the case with the Artura. The response to pedal pressure is progressive and predictable, without the abrupt grab that is typical of Ferrari’s brakes and without the squeak and squeal that plagues Lamborghini. McLaren says that tweaks to the Artura’s suspension programming contribute to even shorter stopping distances and longer brake life, though these were not aspects that I could put to the test while touring the Cote d’Azure. 

the tires of a sports car
Pirelli’s Noise Cancelling System reduces noise and vibration. Image: McLaren Stan Papior

In theory, I could experience the improvements to the transmission’s shifts, though in reality the claimed 25 percent faster shifts are difficult to discern because the car already changed gears rapidly in its 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. New software brings the disengaged clutch for the upcoming gear right to the verge of engagement in its friction point, so that when the driver clicks the steering wheel paddle to request a shift, there is less time lost engaging the clutch.

Electric switch

So, in real life, the shifts were imperceptibly fast before. Now they’re even more so. We’ll have to take their word for it, because on the road I couldn’t tell. Engineers have also re-tuned how the Artura starts its combustion engine when you’ve been driving on electric power and are ready to use the V6. When switching out of Electric mode, now the Artura has a recalibrated program for heating the engine’s catalytic converters for minimal pollution that McLaren says is 90 percent faster than before. 

Similarly, the Artura’s active shock absorbers have also been reprogrammed to anticipate changes. McLaren calls this “proactive damping” and says the shocks respond to the road surface 90 percent faster than they did on previous versions of the car. The shocks themselves also benefit from revised internal valving and the combination makes the Artura’s already-good ride even better. 

This is significant because as McLaren’s entry-level model, the Artura does not benefit from the sophisticated Tenneco cross-linked hydraulic damper system used on pricier models like the 750S. The Artura team’s ability to get so close to the amazing combination of comfortable ride and crisp handling provided by that system using more conventional components is commendable.

The new Artura Spider’s base price is $273,800 and there is a choice among three $9,400 optional themes to personalize the car. The Performance package lends the Artura a more sporting aesthetic, TechLux focuses on “technical luxury”, and Vision provides an avant-garde and adventurous look and feel.

man driving car
Comfortable and crisp. Image: Dan Carney/Popular Science

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