McLaren has begun final testing of its first production electric hybrid supercar before it goes on sale early next year.
The new “high performance hybrid” is part of the company’s move to incorporate electric power into its portfolio. Its arrival was delayed by six months, partly because of the pandemic.
It will be the first McLaren to be built around the carbon-fibre lightweight chassis made at the company’s new composites technology centre in Sheffield.
As well as a V6 petrol engine, the hybrid will have an battery electric powertrain to give the car a “medium range” capability on electric power only.
The hybrid system can also work with the internal combustion engine for even greater performance.
McLaren is several years into its £1.2bn Track 25 programme, which originally aimed to launch 18 new models by 2025 but has been scaled back due to a Covid-induced sales plunge.
About a quarter of the total investment has gone into the hybrid-electric platform, contributing to the company reporting a £243m half-year loss. Sales of cars to dealers plunged to just 584, compared with 2,335 in the same period in 2019.
The disastrous results forced McLaren to lay off almost a quarter of its 4,000 staff. The company has been raising money from shareholders and is also planning a sale-and-leaseback of its base to shore up its finances.
The hybrid needs to be a success to justify the heavy investment and Mike Flewitt, chief executive of McLaren’s car division, called the new vehicle the “distillation of everything we have done to date”.
The automotive veteran is a vocal proponent of “lightweighting” cars, saying that stripping out excess baggage not only produces better handling needed for the type of vehicles his company produces, but also helps with electrification where heavy battery units need to be accommodated.
He added: “Lightweighting and high-performance hybrid technology go hand in hand to achieve better performance as well as more efficient vehicles.
“Our experience in lightweight composites and carbon fibre manufacturing, combined with our battery and hybrid propulsion systems, makes us ideally placed to deliver levels of high performance electric driving that until now has been unattainable.”
McLaren has built hybrid cars before, but these were limited-edition, top of the range vehicles with £1m-plus price tags.
The hybrid will sit towards at the lower end of McLaren’s range, between the GT which starts at £163,000, and the 720S at £219,000.