Spy shots

McLaren SLS: Baby McLaren set to rival Gallardo

£100,000 Mercedes-McLaren SLS to take on Lamborghini, Ferrari and Audi R8

These pictures prove that early development work is well under way on the 'baby' McLaren, with plans to sell as many as 2000 cars a year to rival the likes of the Ferrari 360 Modena, Lamborghini Gallardo and all new Audi R8.

Although McLaren engineers are remaining tight-lipped about the project, it is believed that feasibility studies are currently being carried out on the car at one of Mercedes’ secret test-centres in Germany.

McLaren is hoping to use carbonfibre construction for the new car, although there are doubts about the economic viability of using the material for a car with a projected price tag of about 150,000 Euros.

Sources wouldn't be budged on whether the new car, thought to be code-named P8, will have a three-seat arrangement similar to that of the F1, but equally our source refused to confirm the new car as a conventional two-seater. One possibility is that the third seat would be mounted centrally towards the rear, the reverse of the F1's layout. It will be mid-engined though, partly to make it distinct from the front-engined Mercedes SLR McLaren.

And it’s already certain that the car will have to be built by Mercedes, as McLaren's new Woking factory is tied up producing the SLR and doesn't have the spare capacity. It seems that the SLR, the brainchild of Ron Dennis, was originally designed to be the definitive GT car. Ferrari's 550 Maranello was the original target car for the project but it became clear that the SLR would be in a different league when the first projected performance figures were calculated using the higher-than-expected output from the supercharged Mercedes V8. This would in fact leave space for a smaller car, probably called the Mercedes SLS McLaren.

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