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McLaren lifts the lid on how its future road cars will look

With plans to enter new segments and all-electric power on the horizon, McLaren has reaffirmed its design strategy

McLaren design sketches

McLaren launched its first production car created entirely in-house only 13 years ago and a lot has changed since the MP4-12C was revealed to the world. Now the supercar-maker has given us an insight into its future, starting with how the next generation of McLaren cars will look. 

Auto Express went to McLaren’s Technology Centre in Woking to talk to Tobias Sühlmann, McLaren’s new chief design officer and the man responsible for McLaren’s future design direction. “There are five core principles, Epic, Athletic, Functional, Focused, and Intelligent”, says Sühlmann. Each is rooted in McLaren’s racing history, but also in its recent series of supercars. “We come from racing and it's inspiring for the future. I tell my team to walk down the main hall (where there’s a selection of historic McLarens) and gain inspiration.” 

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Key elements of McLaren’s design language were pointed out by Sühlmann. One of them being the low bonnet, combined with pronounced front wheel arches. Another common theme is a longer front end compared to the rear and the need to show-off technical details - as part of the ‘Functional’ design principle. 

In reference to the ‘open rear end’ seen on previous McLarens, where the engine is visible through a rear mesh - as on the McLaren P1 hypercar, Sühlmann said, “we need to make that a statement for the future”. 

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The interior design was also alluded to with an onus on creating space with concave surfacing and a wraparound cockpit for a driver-focused environment. A simple layout seemed to be the order of the day, too, “we don’t want buttons on the steering wheel” although Sühlmann conceded McLaren “needs to find a balance between analogue and digital”. Sühlmann made no mention of the first McLaren car that will sport his version of the brand’s design philosophy, although he has previously worked at McLaren, designing the wild, track-only Solus GT.

Speaking to Auto Express’s sister title evo back in 2022, McLaren CEO Michael Leiters said “I think the key measure for McLaren is potentially something with the ability to share with more occupants in the car. Not necessarily higher-riding, but it could be.” Sühlmann was able to back this up by stating McLaren could make “something that has more than two seats and more than two doors.”

The future of the McLaren brand seems somewhat more stable following news this week that Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund - already the biggest shareholder in the McLaren Group - has taken full ownership. We’ll soon see what this means for the future of McLaren road cars. 

Ready for a real thrill? These are the best supercars on sale...

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Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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