Future McLarens may be AWD to cope with power increases

2018 McLaren 720S

2018 McLaren 720S

The all-wheel-drive Bugatti Veyron ushered in the era of the 1,000-horsepower hypercar more than a decade ago. Today, its successor, the Chiron, also an all-wheel-drive car, is encroaching on the 1,500-hp mark.

Getting 4-figure power levels to the ground in a controllable fashion via the rear wheels only is no easy task, though exotic marques such as Mazzanti and Koenigsegg are coping for now.

As McLaren continues to push the performance envelop with its own cars, the automaker’s CEO concedes that the extra traction of all-wheel drive may become a necessity.

“We’re not there yet, but I’d say we’re getting close to the limit,” McLaren Automotive CEO Mike Flewitt told Car and Driver while discussing power levels and traction limits of rear-wheel-drive cars. “We’re not planning [all-wheel drive] right now, but we’re conscious it’s a direction that we may well want to go in.”

Mike Flewitt

Mike Flewitt

McLaren’s most powerful road car at present is the 710-hp 720S. Its most powerful road car ever is the 903-hp P1.

Don’t expect to see a McLaren with a conventional mechanical all-wheel-drive setup, however. Flewitt said if McLaren ever were to launch an all-wheel-drive car it would come with an electric drive system for the front wheels, something Porsche implemented for its 918 Spyder and Mercedes-AMG plans to do with its upcoming Project One hypercar.

Flewitt also said that McLaren’s next-generation hybrid system developed as part of the company’s Track22 plan was a flexible design, hinting that an all-wheel-drive McLaren might not be too far away. The Track22 plan calls for 15 cars to be launched by the end of 2022, starting with the 720S, and half of them to be hybrids.

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Separately, Flewitt told Car and Driver that McLaren was looking at the possibility of further weight reduction by eliminating a car’s rear subframe and instead integrating the engine, transmission and rear suspension with the carbon fiber tub housing the passenger cell. Such a configuration is common in motorsport but is currently too unrefined for road cars.

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