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Car and Driver: McLaren Starts Development of New Hybrid, V-6 Engine—and Prototype EV

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2016 McLaren 675LTMcLaren’s financial results press conference yesterday gave a chance to confirm that things are still moving in the right direction for the British sports-car company, but also gave some more insight into future model plans. Which, if we’re honest, is way more exciting.

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McLaren continues to expand, having recently recruited another 250 staff at its Woking factory in England to start a split-shift system and boost production. Last year the company made 1654 cars—and made its third year of profits, and although turnover dropped by around 5 percent we’re told that this was due to the end of P1 production reducing the revenue made for each car sold.

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But company boss Mike Flewitt was also happy to talk about product developments, including McLaren’s decision to develop an EV prototype and a downsized engine.

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We already know that McLaren is working on a smaller powerplant, which we believe will be a V-6 based on the same architecture used in the existing V-8 family. Flewitt dropped a very broad hint that this will only be offered in conjunction with the performance-boosting hybrid system the company has already said that it’s developing. “We will continue to downsize,” he said. “We’ve got to address emissions because markets are putting ever more pressure on us. We would design something with the capability to integrate hybrid in an efficient way, [so] rather than being a bolt-on system, it’s integrated from day one. That’s the focus.”

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2016 McLaren 570S

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He also said that work on the development of the EV prototype has already begun. “We’re working with two or three different partners on electric motors and batteries,” Flewitt said, “we’ll build it into an existing architecture, it may even end up being the 12C architecture initially, maybe with a conventional suspension system, because we want to learn step-by-step.”

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A single prototype will be built for initial testing, with this then followed by an ultra-limited run of what are likely to be ‘Ultimate Series’ EVs that will gauge reaction to a more mainstream version among McLaren’s customer base. “We’ll put it out there and see how customers use the car,” Flewitt said. “If you take the car out onto the track, for example, even with a power-dense battery then you’ll drain it in no time.”

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Despite this, McLaren still hasn’t committed to creating a full production EV yet—and if it does happen it will be outside the scope of its existing pledge to introduce 15 new models or significant variants before 2022. Flewitt admits that the EV prototype will be a voyage of discovery for McLaren’s engineering team, as well as its customer base.

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“One of things we debate all the time in-house is the noise and vibration. With our cars, we tune noise, we don’t just try to obliterate it. If you’ve driven a 650S and a 675LT back-to-back one of the things that communicates the difference, even at fairly low speed, is a little more vibration that comes through in the 675 from the way the engine is mounted in the car. Little things like that can be very important, but they all vanish when you remove the engine. From a personal perspective I don’t like fakery, I want it to be authentic, so what I’d love to do is create characteristics that are equally compelling. We won’t end up having a music system playing the noise of a V-8 when you’re driving on batteries. That would be crap.” Yes, it would be.

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