As automotive companies build faster cars, it will come to a point where horsepower will exceed the grip level of even the best and most expensive tires. Though there are a couple of ways to improve traction, from trick differentials, traction control, and torque vectoring, the next step would be changing the setup to an all-wheel-drive.
At the recent 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed, CEO of McLaren Mike Flewitt spoke to Car and Driver magazine. And during their interview, he said that the company might come up with all-wheel-drive variants of their current lineup very soon. This means that they will veer from their rear-wheel-drive strategy that works best for power and 0-60 superiority.
Though he made it clear that it isn’t what the company is focused on right now, he said that they are “getting close to the limit” and that they will have to transition to an all-wheel-drive setup after reaching the limit. Here, Flewitt is referring to the limits of what a tire can handle - the best tires I must say.
This may not be the best way to do it, but what if there’s no other direction to go to? Also, all-wheel-drives should not be so bad as sending power to all the wheels generally improves performance.
He then added that when this happens, the company’s engineers will not stick to the conventional setup and instead develop a hybrid system. This means that the front axle will be electrically powered, while the rear axle will work mechanically. Flewitt also said that there will be no point bringing a shaft down as the hybrid architecture will be flexible, from an engineer’s point of view.
What’s good about this is that they could develop a setup like that of a race car, by losing the rear subframe and mounting the engine directly into the rear of the carbon fiber chassis. If this all-wheel-drive setup can be done, it will shed a lot of weight off the car too, which will even help improve the car’s performance.
In fact, he would always ask his engineers to always try and reduce the weight of their cars. Though this can be done with race cars, it will be different when the same treatment is applied to a road car, and engineers will definitely face challenges during the refinement.
As of today, customers will have to bear with McLaren’s rear-wheel-drives, not that they aren’t awesome. Some of McLaren’s new models include the 562 horsepower (419 kilowatts) 570S and the beefier 720S, that produces 710 horsepower (529 kilowatts).