McLaren Artura - Sonoma Drive Event - June 2023 - McLaren-Artura-Sonoma_June2023-078.JPG



Words by Viktorija Pashuta

My experience test driving McLaren’s very first next-generation, high-performance hybrid supercar.

When contemplating supercars driven by women, the only images that come to mind are strong, badass characters from movies like Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, and Atomic Blonde. These fierce female leads take the wheel of powerful machines on the big screen, but in reality, how often do we actually see women taking the reins of exotic high-performance vehicles? It’s not even just about the cost, which can easily surpass $150,000, but the unfortunate fact that many women don’t even consider themselves as potential drivers of luxury supercars.

As I settled into my ultra-comfortable first-class seat on a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, I received a thrilling yet nerve-wracking invitation from Sarah Gargano. She had invited me to test drive the new McLaren Artura, the next-generation, high-performance hybrid supercar amidst the picturesque Sonoma landscape. Initially, I toyed with the idea of bringing along a male friend to handle the driving while I enjoyed the scenery. But then, a moment of clarity washed over me and I thought, why shouldn’t I take the wheel myself? I was incredibly hesitant about taking on such a powerful vehicle worth over $250,000, but I quickly learned that my apprehension was not unique.

To truly understand the hesitation that I, along with many other women feel, a quick glance at the cars disproportionately owned by men is all it takes. Consider Lamborghinis for instance, where a staggering 93 percent of owners are men. It’s no wonder women often feel intimidated by fast cars, and not just owning them, but sitting in the driver’s seat.

I spent a relaxing morning savoring a delicious breakfast at the Olive Terrace at Haze Hill, part of the five-star Montage Healdsburg Hotel, emotionally preparing myself for the McLaren Artura test drive. Many questions swirled around in my head, “What if I end up crashing it?” As if reading my mind, Roger Ormisher, the Vice President of Communications and PR, included a reassuring note, “Oh, by the way, the cars are fully insured, but still be careful.” Roger also explained that the McLaren Artura has exceeded ambitious targets in terms of weight, driver engagement, quality, and usability. It’s a technological game-changer that embodies McLaren’s DNA of being incredibly engaging to drive while showcasing the highest levels of dynamic ability.

He then shared an anecdote about a journalist’s dramatic fall off a cliff in a McLaren, taking it to 200 miles per hour. Miraculously, he emerged unscathed due to the vehicle’s superior durability. The incident happened on a steep slope in California, as the car veered off the road, barrel rolled two and a half times, and eventually came to a stop 300 feet down the hillside. Both the driver and passenger escaped unharmed due to the rigidity and strength of the car’s carbon fiber construction. “Well, that’s a relief,” I thought.

But all jokes aside, I was still nervous as I settled into the luxurious sports leather seat and wrapped my hands around the curvy steering wheel. The Artura’s interior is a testament to its commitment to both comfort and performance. The Artura offers a combination of Alcantara and leather, creating a unique and functional interior. Alcantara, a very lightweight technical fabric with a haptic feel synonymous to suede, adds a grip-like effect that enhances the driver’s connection to the car as well as the overall driving experience.

Beneath its sleek exterior, I could sense how effortlessly the Artura blends power and technical innovation, while paying close attention to even the finest details. The steering wheel mirrors these attributes, making you feel secure, gripped to the wheel, and in full control, ultimately enhancing the driving experience as if the car itself is embracing you. I even discovered that a woman is behind these stunning interior designs, a pleasant surprise that added another layer of sophistication to the Artura’s already impressive package.

Thanks to Jo Lewis, McLaren’s Head of Color and Materials Design, whose vast back- ground in the fashion industry alongside renowned names like Stella McCartney, the vehicle doesn’t just embody technical advancements but also exudes breathtaking beauty through its custom fabrics, textures, and intricate design work.

I chose the ocean blue Artura, and within the first five minutes of driving, I felt an instant connection to the car and we formed a bond like the Na’vi and their mountain banshees in Avatar. I also learned that there have been quite a few partnerships between McClaren and luxury fashion labels like Hermès. In honor of Charles-Émile Hermès, son of the company’s founder, a Hermès edition speed tail was built and painted in deep Abyss Blue, one of Hermès leather colors. In addition, the brand’s ‘H’ pattern is replicated on the engine cover and hand-painted on the exterior of the di-hederal doors while the interior is clothed in its bespoke gold leather and white fabric. Other partnerships include brands such as Tumi, APL Sneakers, and Castore.

One of the most intriguing parts of my experience, however, was that when I pressed down on the gas pedal, the engine emitted nothing more than a quiet whisper. Because Artura is a hybrid supercar, it runs on both fuel and electricity, giving it more subtleness rather than the deafening roar often heard from Ferraris and Lamborghinis screaming for attention. Countless times I have endured the cacophonous, vexing noises of these engines as they blazed through beach cities, all the while silently musing, “Get a room, attention seekers!’” But as my deep blue Artura gracefully glided along the road, I was in awe. “So, this is what it feels like to float on the road at God’s speed,” I thought to myself.

The Artura’s innovative design features the all-new McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture (MCLA). Its hybrid powertrain combines a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine with an industry-leading axial flux electric motor integrated into an eight-speed transmission and a lithium-ion battery pack.

With slight hesitation, I crept away from the Montage Healdsburg parking lot at 25 miles per hour, but I could feel the beast beneath my feet, urging me to unleash its power. Within the first 3.5 minutes, I decided to trust myself and I pressed down on the gas pedal with force, propelling me into a whole new world of experience. The truth is, no matter how trivial it sounds, freedom comes when you let go of your fears. It might sound romantically poetic talking about a car in this way, but it’s true. Freedom does not come to us by default. We acquire it by the choices we make and it felt amazing to drop my guard and dive into the unknown. The McLaren Artura was my dream road companion—fast, quiet, easy to maneuver, and undoubtedly a showstopper. In this moment, I understood that driving the Aurura was not just about controlling a machine, but rather mastering an experience. I may have contemplated a cautious, leisurely drive, but instead, I took a daring leap of faith in myself. I cast aside my preconceptions and without a single ounce of regret, I continued my drive, gripping the throttle and pushing it to 100 miles per hour.

I was truly tempted to let loose entirely, but my inner voice spoke up and a sense of responsibility crept in. In hindsight, I question whether I should have gone all in. However, as I drove through Sonoma’s serene farmlands and witnessed the breathtaking ocean vistas along Route 1 to Bodega Bay, my adrenaline soared. With a playlist blasting through the powerful subwoofers, featuring classic 90’s tunes like Madonna’s “Forbidden Love,” Lenny Kravitz’s “I Belong to You,” and George Michael’s “You Know That I Want To,” I was enveloped in a simultaneous blend of euphoria and melancholy—a rather beautiful dichotomy of emotions

And let’s be real here—when people say, “Don’t be materialistic. Money doesn’t buy happiness,” it’s pure nonsense. Money brings experiences that in turn, weave a tapestry of happiness. While navigating the winding roads of Bodega Bay towards our first rendezvous, an indescribable sensation swept over me. It’s inexplicable how a car, or better yet, a supercar, can elevate you to a point where the world feels limitless, leaving behind any lingering guilt, fear, and remorse. In that very moment, I lived without inhibition and a solitary tear welled in my eye. Perhaps it was the remnants of a breakup or maybe the overwhelming sense of safety and beauty that engulfed me once more. With those emotions still coursing through me, I pulled into our first pit stop at the illustrious Bird’s Café, the very same place where Hitchcock captured his cinematic masterpiece The Birds. It’s a twist of fate that one of my all-time favorite writers, Daphne Du Maurier, penned the short story that inspired Hitchcock’s film. The connection between literature, cinema, and this magnificent McLaren experience was simply surreal.

Amidst this adventure, I forged bonds with a small group of fellow journalists, a camaraderie that crystallized the McLaren team’s commitment to intimate partnerships. This ethos, woven into every fiber of their cars, extends to the cherished clients who own these magnificent vehicles. At McLaren, the art of crafting experiences is not merely a marketing ploy, but a way of life. Unlike other automotive giants with colossal marketing budgets, McLaren relies on the magic of public relations to create awareness and consideration. Marketing then seamlessly transforms prospects into fervent customers through immersive, unforgettable experiences with their cars.

As our set two-hour route breezed by, our team reconvened at the breathtaking Aperture Cellars. Here, amongst thousands of grape trees that stretched into the horizon, we embarked on a gastronomic journey prepared by our chef, Jamil Peden. The open-air patio offered the perfect backdrop for savoring the finest flavors while reflecting on the splendid drive that had brought us here.

The experience reached its grand finale with the culinary crescendo at The Single Thread, a three-Michelin starred restaurant with an extraordinary 10-course dining experience titled “Late Spring in Sonoma.” The menu showcased an array of delec- table dishes, each a culinary masterpiece in its own right. From shima-aji with apricot, gyokuro tea, sea lettuce, and ice plant to rooibos-glazed Sonoma wagyu accompanied by asparagus, bloomsdale spinach, and rakkyo, every course was a symphony of flavors, textures, and artistic presentation. The dining journey also featured inventive dishes like green strawberry infused with matcha, olive oil, and farm herbs, and aka amadai adorned with atlas carrots, broccoli, and Meyer lemon. The dessert included wagashi, a delightful blend of huckleberry, star anise, chamomile, strawberry, guava, pineapple, chocolate, and miso, the perfect end to the palate. This journey had not only been about speed and power, but also about savoring the finer things in life.

So, I challenge every woman out there to let go of her reservations, conquer her fears, and dare to experience the thrill of the unknown. And if you get the chance, this car is definitely worth a test drive. The McLaren Artura set my spirit free that day, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity.