AWD @McLaren

McLaren Exploring All-Wheel-Drive Alternatives
// Car and Driver BlogCar and Driver Blog

McLaren 720S

Racing drivers and rednecks might say that it’s impossible to have too much power, but supercar makers know that we’re getting close to the limits of adhesion. More specifically, those who still are making high-powered, rear-wheel-drive cars, where traction-limited sub-three-second zero-to-60-mph times have become commonplace, find that adding more power isn’t improving performance so much as it’s just making their traction-control systems work harder.

While McLaren has been one of the holdouts so far, preferring the dynamic purity and lower mass of rear-wheel-drive systems, the company is now contemplating an all-wheel driven future. If it happens, though, it’s some considerable way off.

“We’re not there yet, but I’d say we’re getting close to the limit,” CEO Mike Flewitt told us at the Goodwood Festival of Speed—coincidentally while standing next to the McLaren 720S (photo above), which sends its peak 710 horsepower entirely through the rear axle. “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.”

Don’t expect any conventional AWD system, though. Flewitt confirms that any integrale Maccas will use an electrically powered front axle in conjunction with a conventional mechanical rear end. “Our hybrid architecture will be flexible,” he said, “and from an engineering point of view there’s no point bringing a shaft down the center of the car.”

He also raised the fascinating possibility that some future McLaren models might gain lightness by losing the rear subframe entirely and mounting their engines directly to the back of the carbon-fiber chassis: “I’m always asking the engineers how to lose weight, and of course racing cars don’t use a rear subframe. I don’t know if you could do it with a road car, there would certainly be some challenges with refinement, but wouldn’t it be great to go tub/engine/gearbox?”

Yes. Yes it would.


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