McLaren’s all-new hybrid supercar, due for launch next year, is now wearing camouflage and testing on public roads. We catch up with Steve White, Principal Engineer, to find out more
Every new model launch is important, but McLaren is building up to one of the most significant unveilings in its history. When it arrives in early 2021, this brand-new supercar will pioneer a raft of new technologies, including a new carbon fibre chassis (called MCLA) and an all-new, high-performance, V6 hybrid powertrain.
This month sees a key moment in the car’s development, because for the first time it’s going out on public roads wearing only a ‘soft camo’; in other words, a vinyl wrap that will disguise the car’s dramatic new shape.
It’s a big step for Steve White, Principal Engineer within McLaren’s Vehicle Development Team. Until now, the new car has either been kept out of sight inside top-secret test facilities; or it’s been disguised as something else entirely.
‘We have 45 prototypes on the test fleet,’ Steve explains. ‘These include eleven ‘mules’ which have been disguised to look like other McLaren models, though underneath they’ve got the new powertrain, chassis, and electrical architecture, all hidden under the body. We’ve also had a modified 600LT driving around with new parts on it, which has allowed us to go out and get some really good tyre testing done before the rest of the car is ready.’
Now, however, more ‘mature’ prototypes will be out on the roads in their camo wraps, as the testing moves into its final stages. We meet Steve with just such a car, at a secret automotive proving ground in the English Midlands. With its giant concrete bowl for high-speed testing and its challenging road circuit, it’s been home to the test team for most of 2020.
‘The Development Team normally has between five and ten people here each day,’ Steve explains. ‘We run the tests and support other functions when they’re doing their own testing, whether it’s electric specialists or powertrain. Over the whole programme, the prototypes will rack up hundreds of thousands of miles. We’ve got three durability cars based in Spain,’ Steve adds, ‘One of those alone recently reached 50,000 miles.’
The programme has to be rigorous to match the scope of McLaren’s ambition: the new high-performance hybrid system alone is a huge project. ‘Our EDT – the Electrical Drive Team – that’s the function that looks after developing the hybrid parts,’ Steve explains. ‘They’ve grown massively over the last couple of years; but we also have hybrid experts in our domain, in the Development Team. We’ve now assembled a world-class team of hybrid experts, including a lot of home-grown talent.’
Drawing on such expertise across the company, the new car truly represents the cutting edge. As McLaren Automotive’s CEO Mike Flewitt put it, ’This all-new McLaren supercar is the distillation of everything we have done to date; all that we have learned and achieved. We see this as a true ‘next generation' supercar and we cannot wait to show it to customers.’
In other words, there’s a lot going on under that camo.