The British supercar company finally admits it needs a family-friendly SUV to challenge Lamborghini and Ferrari.
The SUV that had to happen at McLaren looks to be finally on the radar for the UK supercar brand.
McLaren has concentrated entirely on mid-engined, two-seater supercars since it was established as a top-end carmaker in 2010 — focused on creating British rivals for Ferrari and Lamborghini — but a change of leadership has also brought a different attitude to SUVs.
Just as the Porsche Cayenne saved Porsche and provided the financial success to continue with the 911, the new CEO of McLaren Automotive is in favour of adding an SUV to the company’s range.
Michael Leiters also has the right experience as he helped develop the Cayenne during his time at Porsche and was recruited to McLaren from Ferrari, where he led development of the upcoming Purosangue SUV.
“I think it’s a really important market. It still is, and it continues to grow. It’s very attractive as a market segment,” Leiters told Autocar in the UK.
“I developed an SUV at Ferrari. I developed an SUV at Porsche, so I love SUVs. But we won’t do it for me.”
Leiters only joined McLaren Automotive at the start of July but, even then, news of a future SUV project was an open secret during a factory visit by Drive.
“It’s never been completely off the radar,” a senior executive said at the time.
According to Autocar – as reported by Drive – the McLaren SUV is not likely to be seen until the second half of the decade and, because new petrol-powered cars will be banned in the UK come 2030, it could also be the company’s first fully battery-electric model.
As yet, the only potential teaser is the McLaren-badged racer in the Extreme E off-road racing series. It’s already electric, and painted in McLaren’s traditional Papaya racing colour, but it’s a purpose-built single-seater with nothing connected to a road car.
The obvious approach for the McLaren SUV would be to build a family-friendly four-door, but with more of a ‘crossover’ body design than mainstream SUVs with their big-box styling.
Leiters only has to look at the sales results for its supercar rivals to see the financial advantages of a McLaren SUV.
Lamborghini sold around twice as many Urus SUVs as Huracan supercars last year and the new DBX SUV is already accounting for half the global sales of Aston Martin.
Even so, there is one big challenge for McLaren and it was one of the toughest hurdles for Ferrari on the Purosangue project.
“What we have to understand, as McLaren, is ‘How can we find a product that is in line with our DNA?’,” Leiters said.
“We shouldn’t do a classic SUV.”