The hybrid evolution is underway in Woking, England

McLaren has never been bashful about its plans to go hybrid, and now, company CEO Mike Flewitt has pulled the curtains on plans to fully hybridize its entire lineup in the next three to four years. At the heart of this hybrid evolution is McLaren’s next-generation supercar, which will come with an all-wheel-drive setup that includes an electrically driven front axle.

McLaren also has plans to shake up its engine lineup to accommodate this shift. That could spell doom for one of the company’s existing engines, specifically the current V-8 unit that powers a lot of McLaren’s models. McLaren’s plans are already in motion as the company is expected to announce its next-generation platform and hybrid powertrain sometime in the first quarter of 2020. The first of these hybrid vehicles is scheduled to arrive by the end of 2020 with sales expected to commence in early 2021.

Future McLaren Vehicles Will Have Electric AWD

The Entire McLaren Lineup Will Be Hybrid by 2024 - Here's What It Means Exterior
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One of the more intriguing parts of McLaren CEO Mike Flewitt’s revelations to Car and Driver is what’s coming next.

McLaren plans to develop an all-wheel-drive hybrid supercar that can take on the Ferrari SF90.

Flewitt didn’t divulge details about the model, though he did say that, in addition to its all-wheel-drive hybrid setup, the next-generation supercar will also come with an electrically driven front axle that should help it accelerate off the line quicker than the 789-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive McLaren Senna, which can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds.

Electric all-wheel-drive will likely consist of a pair of electric motors powering the front wheels and a traditional V-6 or V-8 engine doing the deed for the two rear wheels.

As a reminder, the Ferrari SF90 comes with the same layout. The Italian hybrid supercar has a pair of electric motors on the front axle and a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine to power the rear wheels. The car produces a total output of 986 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. It can sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 2.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 211 mph.

McLaren isn’t limiting the new electric AWD setup on its next-generation Ferrari SF90-fighting supercar.

The company’s entire future lineup will come with the same setup, and that could mean the arrival of a stable of blisteringly fast hybrid McLarens.

All McLarens Will Have an All-Electric Range by 2024

2019 McLaren Senna Exterior
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McLaren’s hybrid endgame is to turn its entire lineup hybrid within three to four years.

That puts the timetable in the 2023 to 2024 range. A big part in achieving that goal is to use a plug-in hybrid powertrain with anywhere from 15 to 20 miles of range for the automaker’s entire lineup.

Granted, this goal isn’t as simple as dropping the plug-in hybrid powertrain into all McLaren models. Compromises could be made to accommodate the added weight brought about by the powertrain. Flewitt claimed that the hybrid models will only be around 65 pounds heavier than current-generation McLarens, and while that doesn’t sound like a big deal given the performance gains provided by a hybrid setup, it’s still something that McLaren needs to address to maximize the performance potential of its future hybrid exotics.

Either way, the new plug-in setup opens the doors for future McLaren models to offer as much as 20 miles of range running on pure electricity. That's what you call baby steps.

Electrification Means McLaren May Ditch the Turbo V-8

2018 McLaren 720S
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The new hybrid platform isn’t just a fad that McLaren is trying to dip its toes on. This platform represents the future of the company, and with that future comes a reshuffling of engines that the automaker will likely use in the future. Flewitt didn’t dive into the specifics on the engines that McLaren will use, but

it is expected that the entry-level models will adopt a new V-6 engine that McLaren has yet to unveil.

The higher-spec models, on the other hand, could still have the incumbent 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged, V-8 engine.

This setup would create a clear line of differentiation between McLaren’s affordable performance cars and the halo models that will compete against the best-of-the-best exotic cars in the segment.

The introduction of a McLaren V-6 across the lineup won't happen right away.

In fact, the company’s first hybrid, the all-wheel-drive hybrid supercar that McLaren is currently developing, will more than likely pair the common V-8 with the new hybrid system. This is what will allow it to compete against the likes of Ferrari’s SF90.

When Will McLaren Make an EV Supercar?

2014 McLaren P1 High Resolution Exterior
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Flewitt’s candidness about McLaren’s hybrid future also came with thoughts about battery-electric supercars, and if you’re one of those who are looking forward to an all-electric McLaren, don’t hold your breath.

There’s a good chance that a McLaren EV is potentially even decades away.

For what it’s worth, McLaren isn’t being a snob towards electric supercars. It already dabbled on the McLaren P1, which came with a 324-cell lithium-ion, high-density battery pack. But the P1 was a plug-in hybrid, and if McLaren wants to develop an all-electric supercar, it’s going to do so without compromising its performance values.

The fact that, in the company’s eyes, today’s lithium-ion battery technology remains too heavy and too expensive means that it’s not prepared to fully invest in the segment.

This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Flewitt had a similar discussion with Car and Driver three years ago about the development of an EV prototype. He even hinted that the company was already working with “two or three” potential partners on electric motors and batteries and that a few prototypes would be launched to gauge public interest. Well, those prototypes never went public and the closest McLaren got was a 720S that was turned into an EV test mule.

2018 McLaren 720S High Resolution Exterior
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That should tell you that in the three years since McLaren’s boss made those comments, the automaker’s plans for an EV supercar haven’t progressed to the point where an EV can uphold the automaker’s performance values.

That said, timetables like this are always in flux, especially if a new technology arrives that rewrites the way electric vehicles are built.

Flewitt remains hopeful that solid-state battery technology can progress to a point where it becomes a more feasible power source than the current lithium-ion batteries.

Just don’t expect it to happen anytime soon; even if SSBs hit the scene, that doesn’t mean McLaren’s going to dive in the deep end of that pool immediately. The automaker is one of the most meticulous performance brands in the business. It protects its name and reputation to the extent that new technologies aren’t rushed into McLaren models for the sake of being first-to-market. So even if SSBs unlock a lot of McLaren’s current issues with developing an electric supercar, don’t expect to see one anytime soon.

Final Thoughts

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For a company that has been proactive in protecting its stature and identity, McLaren’s move to go all-hybrid for its future models is huge and bold. I’m not saying that McLaren isn’t capable of making a move like this — it has shown in the past that it is — but it still counts as a significant shift for a company that has finally adapted to the times. I’m excited to see what an all-hybrid McLaren lineup will look like in the future. More importantly, I’m excited to see how McLaren approaches this shift in focus without compromising its core identity.

Source: Car & Driver

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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