A-Z Supercars: Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

When Merc and McLaren combined forces, the results were flawed but still fab

How the SLR ended up as an object of mild ridicule associated with desperate, attention-seeking celebrities rather than a serious sequel to the phenomenal McLaren F1 is a long and painful story. It’s also one that Gordon Murray – captain and opening bat for McLaren at the beginning of the project – would probably rather forget. Suffice to say, it wasn’t the car he envisaged.

Murray’s dream of a V12 was canned early on in favour of a supercharged 5.5-litre V8 mated to a five-speed auto. What’s more, the production car had to remain true to the extraordinarily dramatic Vision SLR concept of 1999, lousy aerodynamics included. This necessitated quite a bit of ‘correction’, some of it out of view (the flat underbody) and some of it not (the rear diffuser and ‘air brake’-style active rear wing). McLaren’s chief contribution was the hugely rigid carbon tub, adapted from its F1 expertise and, indeed, the F1 road car.

The SLR’s signature scissor doors that swung out and up on massive hydraulic struts gave easy access to cabin space that checked in somewhere between cosy and cramped. Those who held off for the subsequent roadster arguably got the better car. With the powered fabric hood stowed neatly in the space behind the seats, it was a fabulous looking thing and still a fireball of presence with dragster overtones and stubby, side-firing exhausts snorting shockwaves of infrabass venom. Pure theatre.

Whichever the model, the SLR covered the distance between one corner and the next like a striking cobra covers the distance between itself and lunch. For all its foibles, driving the SLR was an event that lingered in the emotions hours after you’d walked away. The car F1 partners Mercedes and McLaren built may not have been a great supercar but it was a phenomenon all the same.

Specifications

Years made 2004-2007 Engine V8, 5439cc, superchargedMax power 617bhp @ 6500rpmTorque 575lb ft @ 3250rpm0-60mph 3.7sec Max speed 208mphPrice £313,565 new, c£120-£250,000 today

Most Popular

2022 Nissan GT-R model year update revealed
MY22 Nissan GT-R T-spec – front quarter
Nissan GT-R

2022 Nissan GT-R model year update revealed

Two new special editions and the return of some iconic colours are the highlights of the Nissan GT-R’s MY22 update
14 Sep 2021
A dead Ferrari F40 in Switzerland – evo Archive
Ferrari F40
Ferrari F40

A dead Ferrari F40 in Switzerland – evo Archive

The story of a Ferrari F40, a flat battery, Swiss chocolate and sex toys…
7 Sep 2021
Tesla Model S Plaid breaks EV Nürburgring record – beats Porsche Taycan Turbo
Tesla Model S Plaid
Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S Plaid breaks EV Nürburgring record – beats Porsche Taycan Turbo

Tesla has now recorded a Nürburgring lap time with its Model S Plaid, if that matters
10 Sep 2021