When it returned to the world of street-legal automobiles a little less than a decade ago, McLaren's odds seemed, well, slim. Plenty of other nascent supercar makers had tried to dust off famous nameplates only to burn through investor cash too fast and sputter out; why would this be any different?
Yet through grit, determination and extensive (and clever) use of technology, McLaren has managed to thrive — at least by the low-volume standards of the high-end sports car world. Part of its success has stemmed from the clever decision to keep things as simple as possible, mechanically speaking; every new Macca from the 12C to the new Senna and 765LT has used a carbon-fiber chassis, a twin-turbo V8, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and rear-wheel-drive. The differences are all in the tuning and tech — and, of course, the design.
Yet even McLaren can't avoid evolution forever. So next year, the brand will roll out its first model of the new era boasting an engine that isn't a V8 of between 3.8 and 4.0 liters of displacement: a hybrid V6. And the car that it'll come in should be interesting, too.
McLaren isn't revealing much about the new engine's specifics, with the press release only going so far as to say it'll be "an all-new V6 internal combustion engine" with "medium-range EV-only drive capability." Still, we can likely infer a few things about it. As every other Macca motor since 2011 has been a twin-turbo job, there'll likely be two snails boosting the gas-powered portion of the powertrain. And the suggestion of "medium-range" electric driving means it'll need enough battery to cover at least, say, 10-20 miles without using gasoline. (Expect it to be at least enough to travel through London's low emissions zone.)
The car it comes in will be novel, as well. The new model will be the first built on the McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture, the new building block that'll serve as the basis of many a future Macca. It's been designed to play nicely with hybrid powertrains, as well as with what the company calls the "latest-generation driver technologies" — so expect more clever tech like the e-z-drifting Variable Drift Control to show up on future cars.
As for where this new hybrid will sit in the lineup, it will apparently replace the cars that McLaren calls the Sport Series but everyone else knows as the 570S, 600LT and their kin — the entry-level models in the lineup. (Indeed, squint a little and you can see a clear resemblance to the 570S in the camouflaged pictures above.) Expect it then to pack a pricetag of around $200,000 and somewhere in the range of 600-650 horsepower in inaugural form. Subsequent sportier versions with more power and loftier prices are sure to follow, because while powertrains and chassis may change at McLaren, some things never will.