Tuesday December 5, 2023

McLaren’s Mercedes-Driven Redesign

  • McLaren is using a Mercedes engine in an effort to catch up to its most dominant rival.
  • By 2026, all of McLaren's luxury cars will use a hybrid engine.
Photo: McLaren/Design: Alex Brooks
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Repeatedly left in the dust by top race car maker Mercedes, British competitor McLaren redesigned its Formula One 2021 contender using the German automaker’s engine.

Mercedes won 13 of the 17 races in the 2020 Formula One World Championship. McLaren wants to compete more effectively with the current champion going forward.

McLaren’s MCL35M, the successor to the MCL35, required a redesign to accommodate the Mercedes unit: it features a new chassis, gearbox, and fuel, hydraulic, electrical, and cooling systems. 

The U.K.-based racer hopes the new model can eventually end its Formula One losing streak, which dates back to 2012.

McLaren is also making major changes to its luxury cars, spurred not by losses at the track, but by goals and mandates of European countries and U.S. states. All new McLaren’s will be hybrids by 2026, with plans to produce all-electric models by the end of the decade.

  • In February, McLaren released the Artura, its latest hybrid model.
  • McLaren developed a carbon composite chassis in-house, has plans to make its own batteries, and is looking to monetize both technologies with other automakers. 
  • In 2018, the company committed $1.67 billion to research and development through 2025. 

McLaren, defined by its light weight, faces new challenges in designing an EV, due to the heaviness of today’s car batteries.

Vehicle mass is the enemy of performance whether a car has a conventional internal combustion engine or a fully electrified powertrain, so winning the weight race is an absolute priority for us,” CEO Mike Flewitt said last year.

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