“In two hundred yards, merge onto Highway US 101,” instructed the female-generated navigation voice. The hybrid supercar sailed forcefully forward as the pedal descended. For the first time, the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine switched from its soothing electric transmission hum. A crescendo from the combustion engine let out a guttural roar, unlike anything I’d ever heard. My 10-and-2 white-gripped knuckles tightened around the cushy leather steering wheel, and a prolonged “O” face lasted more than I care to admit. Am I good? I thought.

McLaren, the English luxury supercar manufacturer and racing legacy company seen driven by celebrities like Post Malone, David Beckham, and Will.I.am to name a few, has also made cameos on the big screens of Netflix’s Emily in Paris and The Weeknd’s “Starboy” music video.

via Netflix, Emily in Paris

Recently, the home of the Formula 1 team’s Automotive sector released the Artura, their first-ever series-production High-Performance Hybrid supercar, and invited seven journalists to test drive it among the peaks of the Pacific Coastal Highway and the lush valleys of Sonoma County’s wine country vineyards. The interesting caveat of this particular group was that the majority were women, including myself, who do not typically cover motor vehicles and have no expertise in supercars, yet love to drive.

Growing up driving my mother’s Lincoln Navigator, despite being a confident driver with an appreciation for cars, I knew this was going to be a whirlwind of a difference. The only thing loosely comparable to driving a supercar was test driving a speedy-ish hybrid German-made sedan, whose brakes were so responsive it gave me whiplash, had a jarring e-motor lag that terrified me, and a steering wheel with such resistance that I could easily forgo a gym membership. Overall, I never felt fully in control or safe driving anything fast.

Leading up to the test drive, my thoughts raced while I teeter-tottered between excitement and apprehension. Was it going to be a hard ride? If it’s in electric mode, will it lag? Will I lose control operating 671 horsepower? Will I feel safe? And lastly, on a serious note: Am I capable of handling this car?

It turned out my insecurities were not unfounded and, in fact, shared amongst the collective of first-time female supercar drivers the night before. I was overcome with a sense of imposter syndrome, but I couldn’t understand why.

Courtesy of McLaren

That morning, it felt like walking into a “first date, kinda nervous” scenario. I selected the enigmatic color Serpentine, an amphibious, oceanic hue that, when cast in sunlight, glimmers gemstone cerulean. The sleek sculpture of the Artura’s aerodynamic silhouette from the McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture, strikes a harmonious balance between functional form engineering–dubbing it the lightest in its class at just 3,000 lbs. Through the butterfly doors, I cautiously slid into the camel-colored leather upholstered seat with the same teal detailing as the exterior.

After an encouraging and thorough tutorial from the McLaren team, I was off settling into the first of four Powertrain modes, the completely emission-free, electric-only, “E-mode”–the perfect introductory setting. With a soft, almost non-existent buzz, the car glided down the winding hills of Sonoma, highlighting the electro-hydraulic steering adaptability for navigating lower speeds with less resistance. This felt too easy.

Courtesy of McLaren

Surprisingly, the interface of the car’s handling and technology is simple for a luxury vehicle. The cockpit is centered around accessibility and ease of the driver and the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system made for a user-friendly experience. Keeping my hands on the wheel, I switched the toggle to the second mode, Comfort, which marries electric and petrol engineering in a cohesive experience favoring the battery power. Another casual powertrain mode best for running errands on a Sunday, optimizing the most economical, smooth and quiet ride possible.

At the halfway point, the group made a pit stop at The Bird’s Cafe in Bodega Bay and debriefed our experiences so far. Before I walked further than a few feet, the Artura gave a quick honk, kindly alerting me that my door was open, exemplifying its many gracious foolproof features.  Each with a range of gleaming reviews from the impressive instant torque to the butter-smooth turns, we chatted like excited children playing with a new toy. Still, I couldn’t shake the undeniable disconnect between the anxiety underlying the idea of driving the Artura versus the personal fulfillment, joy, and appreciation while actually doing it. 

The electric battery dwindled to 39% and before the car alerted me, I was instructed to switch powertrains. “Track mode you go,” said the McLaren representative, skipping over the third mode, Sport, and straight into the fourth. I was in the setting quite literally for the racetrack, now making 0-60 mph appear glacial. This level clocked 0-186 mph in approximately 21.5 seconds.

Courtesy of McLaren

Ironically, Track mode, along with its grumbling engine, turned out to be my favorite. Feeling confident testing 0-60 mph in three seconds, I said, “I’m just going to gun it,” to the camera mounted on my dashboard. I had waited for the perfect condition: a straight shot, an empty road, and full visibility. It was now or never. With a deep breath, I pushed the pedal the furthest I had and gritted my teeth. The engine growled, and I let out a nervous howl that sounded like the early aughts cartoon Courage the Cowardly Dog. It felt so taboo, yet unbelievably exhilarating, and second nature.

During the drive, it became evident that our presence as women behind the wheel of a supercar attracted attention. At a stoplight, I caught the gaze of a man in the adjacent car, his glare hard to ignore. Meanwhile, crossing the intersection, a work truck filled with men stared and honked. Although a McLaren will naturally turn heads, it made me wonder if the attention was because I was a woman driving it.


Somethings we learned when women drive a @McLaren supercar @McLarenauto #mclaren #artura #supercar #fyp #foryou #cars #supercars #supercarlife #luxury

♬ original sound – Dania

After sharing my experience on social media, I faced backlash from some male users. They questioned my motives, poked fun at my appearance, and dismissed the significance of gender in the conversation. But the reality is: I wasn’t alone in facing such reactions. In 2020, three high-ranking businesswomen shared their stories of prejudice and harassment due to their love for luxury supercars. 

The lack of female representation and respect in the male-dominated automotive landscape exists.

I spoke with Professor John Groeger, an expert in applied psychology and cognitive aspects of driving, who also happens to be a Formula 1 fan. “I suppose how we behave to other vehicles depends on who we think is driving [it] and whether we feel superior or not to them. Unfortunately, I think often male drivers have odd and largely incorrect ideas about how good or bad female drivers are,” says the Nottingham Trent University academic.

Courtesy of McLaren

He continues, “There’s another element now we get onto, the very expensive, beautiful car: ‘Why is she in it?’ That’s a status thing. It’s sexism, of course.”

Though few female aficionados are chipping away slowly at the barriers, they’re debunking the notion of women as an accessory of a supercar and instead acting as tastemakers operating them. 

Acclaimed Aussie supercar vlogger Alexandra Mary Hirschi, also known as SuperCar Blondie, was bullied for approaching reviews from an educational angle. “Not only was I judged as a woman in this space, but I also wasn’t a car expert. I was talking about cars in layman’s terms so that we could all understand and be a part of this world,” she told The Sun. Despite the initial pushback, Hirschi has ultimately garnered dedicated supporters, amassing well over 70 million followers on social media respectively, by being inclusive. 

Hanan Mazouzi Sobati, the founder of Arabian Gazelle, created the female-only supercar owner club in Dubai, making it her mission to prove misconceptions, especially to men. She states in an interview, “I love meeting people who have difficulty accepting the presence of such a group. I believe it’s my responsibility to banish whatever misapprehension they harbor in their heart.”

These sentiments were fed to the collective, including myself, based on the projection of men hoarding a hobby they deemed “masculine.” And perhaps in some convoluted way, us women subconsciously believed that approaching the experience. 

“Follow this road for six miles, and then turn left on Old Redwood Highway,” chimed the navigation as I approached my destination. 

Courtesy of McLaren

The McLaren Artura’s cutting-edge design and upwards of $255,000 price point may look intimidating, but operating it is an easy and supportive grasp for people who just enjoy driving. Breakthroughs were had, and fears were left in the rearview mirror, but the work for women carving out space and ushering each other into the world of supercars has just begun.

McLaren is opening their lanes for women, whether the industry chooses to get on board or not. As more representation of women in the supercar space grows, this inclusion will encourage women to confidently hop in the driver’s seat navigating their own journey. 

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