McLaren came into the supercar/sportscar game back in 2009 with their Mp4-12C supercar, a name that sounds like a hair-dryer at first glance. The MP4-12C was a great car but lacked the "zing" as many people would say compared to the now legendary and one of the greatest supercars of all time, the Ferrari 458 Italia.
But over the years, McLaren have started to revolutionize the game, their cars are some of the fastest road cars ever to grace the tarmac with outrageous acceleration and UFO looks. Some of the best McLarens ever in my opinion like the 675LT, 720s and 570 GT (I like it, what's your problem?), have one thing in common up and until now, the Twin Turbo V8 engine.
Everything from the 2009 MP4-12C to their latest and greatest flagship Sports Series car, the 600LT, uses a reworked version of an engine called the M838T which is a 3.8L Twin Turbo V8. In fact, McLaren have used this engine in the P1 as well as the P1 GTR. It was such a flexible engine that it in its lowest state of tune it made 533 horsepower in the 540C and in its highest state of tune, it made 789 horsepower without any electrical assistance in the P1 GTR. What if I told you, all of this performance actually finds it source from the land of the rising sun? Yes, you read that right. The earliest version of this engine was first developed by Nissan to compete in the 24 hours of Le Mans. Nissan named it VRH35L and it was a twin-turbo 3.5 litre aluminum V8 which made its debut all the way back in 1989. This means the 2018 Mclaren Senna should the credit of its monstrous performance to an engine that's nearly 30 years old. The VRH35L was dropped inside the bodyshell of the R390 GT1 racecar which competed in Le Mans for both Nissan and Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) for three seasons, 1997, 1998 and 1999. But sadly, Nissan did not find success in all three outings which forced them to scrap the program all-together. Mclaren felt this engine could match the credentials they required to propel their MP4-12C prototype and bought the rights for the engine from aforementioned Tom Walkinshaw Racing team. But it has to be said, the VRH35L was heavily reworked by both Mclaren and their famed engine builder, Ricardo. So if I were you, I wouldn't take the 30 year timeline too seriously as these modern Mclaren engines have little to no similarities to the original engine.
Mclaren later introduced a highly reworked and revised version of this engine again in 2016 called M840T which is currently used in the McLaren 720S, 765LT, Senna and Elva. It is basically a M838T which is lighter, has bigger turbos and has bigger displacement.
But now, all of this is going to change. McLaren have revealed official pictures of their next-generation Sports Series car, covered in Camo wrap for obvious reasons and this car will play a significant role in McLaren's growth as a company. For the first time since the 1992 McLaren F1, McLaren has announced they will not use a Twin Turbo V8 setup in their car instead they will be using a V6 Hybrid which will also be supplied by Ricardo.
Dubbed the HPH or High Performance Hybrid, the new McLaren Sports Series will be one of the first cars since the McLaren P1 to also use a hybrid system. McLaren are very excited about this new engine and are making some very big claims about the driving experience of this new Sports Series model. Possibly the HPH engine will aided by a pair of turbos because c'mon, who doesn't like some spooly boys. This new car will be built on a brand new chassis architecture as well called the McLaren Lightweight Carbon Architecture (MCLA) which is the child of their brand new €50 million carbon composites factory based in Sheffield.
This new car is a reminder that even McLaren has to move with the times and cannot make inefficient and high emissions cars forever even if we want that. This car is the first look at McLaren's €1.2 Billion Track 25 business plan which will see 18 new hybrid powered McLarens by the end of 2025. The company says it is currently evaluating a new high-power battery pack for a full EV setup that will offer a claimed 30 minutes of electric range around a race track.
So is it the end of the world? I don't think so. Hybridisation is a really great way of keeping ICEs alive. I mean, ICEs are the soul of any car and whatever new era enthusiasts argue that EVs are faster, do they give you tingles through tunnels? Do they give you the satisfaction of changing gear? I don't think so. That's why hybridisation is the best way to keep supercars and sportscars alive for the long run. Ferrari has done it with the SF90 Stradale and LaFerrari, Porsche are doing it with the Panamera, heck, the next gen Lamborghini Aventador will have a NA v12 with hybridisation. As long as there are ICEs in cars, I am okay with some puny batteries helping them out. Long live the ICE.