The well-travelled French striker moved to the Hawthorns on a one-year contract in early July, following an unhappy year in China with Shanghai Shenhua and a short loan stint with Italian giants Juventus.
It is 18 months since Anelka, 34, left Chelsea for China but McAuley feels his new cohort still has what it takes to succeed in the Premier League.
"In fairness, he's a real athlete," McAuley declared.
"He looks like he's cruising through. In training he's been sharp, his awareness is another level and he still has a turn of pace.
"He's been lively in training and he has that pace. He's only switched it on a couple of times when he needed to but, when he did, he was away."
McAuley feels that the unexpected capture of Anelka, who worked with Steve Clarke when the Baggies boss was coaching at Chelsea, will spur his side on in the forthcoming season.
"It gives everyone a lift, especially all the young players, to see someone of his level, who is still as sharp and hungry. It's a great signing and maybe he can score us a few goals."