Forged your thoughts again to 2002. Covid-19 wasn’t something to anybody, Elon Musk was solely recognized for creating PayPal (and, after promoting it, shopping for a McLaren F1), and Porsche, Ferrari, and Pagani had been setting the automotive world alight with the Carrera GT, Enzo, and Zonda. It was one heck of a time to like vehicles, not least of which as a result of the Chrysler PT Cruiser was MotorTrend’s reigning automotive of the 12 months. However there’s one other, oft-forgotten member of the early 2000s supercar aristocracy: the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.
Born out of a partnership between Mercedes-Benz and McLaren that began with their joint Method 1 program, the SLR was each an homage to the previous and an exploration of the brand new. The McLaren F1 had been out of manufacturing for a number of years, and the brand new McLaren Automotive outfit that will ultimately produce the MP4-12C highway automotive wasn’t but a glimmer in Ron Dennis’ eye. So on the 1999 North American Worldwide Auto Present (NAIAS), Mercedes-Benz and McLaren proudly hosted the reveal of the Vision SLR, an idea impressed by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé, a roofless model of which Sir Stirling Moss piloted on his record-setting run of the Mille Miglia.
The idea was a carbon-fiber-clad slice of the long run powered by a 5.0-liter supercharged V-8. Lengthy, low, large, and searching as if it was hewn from a single, car-sized ingot of silver, it was an on the spot hit. Mercedes then turned to its Method 1 accomplice, McLaren, to assist develop the manufacturing model of the Imaginative and prescient SLR. Thus the Mercedes-Benz SLR (Sport Licht Rennsport, or Sport Gentle Racing) McLaren was born.
A handful of modifications had been made to the bodywork within the transition from idea to highway automotive, nevertheless it retained its front-mid-engine structure and chic form. A carbon fiber tub was used for the cockpit, which was bonded to an aluminum subframe that cradled the all aluminum 5.4-liter supercharged V-Eight that made 617 horsepower and 580 lb-ft of torque. Carbon fiber was additionally used for each physique panel of the SLR, and it was one of many first manufacturing vehicles to characteristic carbon ceramic brakes that Mercedes claimed would resist fade as much as temperatures of two,200 F.
However the ceramic brakes weren’t the one first. In line with Mercedes, the SLR was the primary manufacturing automotive to characteristic a full carbon-fiber monocoque, the primary manufacturing automotive to have a entrance crash construction manufactured from carbon fiber, and was the primary automotive to characteristic a V-Eight that was constructed fully in-house by AMG—one thing we primarily take without any consideration immediately. The consequence was a automotive that we timed from 0-60 in 3.6 seconds (in 2006) and was but usable every single day.
Mated to that mighty V-Eight was a transmission that acquired greater than its justifiable share of criticism from the automotive media. It was “simply” a five-speed torque converter automated. Twin clutches weren’t fairly prepared for the world but, and most stated this super-GT ought to have had a slick handbook just like the one within the aforementioned Porsche Carrera GT. Trying again, nevertheless, and the five-speed completely suited the long-legged, continent-crushing GT credentials of the SLR.
Small however splendidly nerdy particulars abound. The brake lights would glow at twice their regular depth below arduous braking to warn the drivers behind. There was a sensor that measured the angle, luminosity, and depth of the solar’s rays simply to ensure the HVAC system might preserve the cabin as comfy as doable. The only-piece carbon fiber seats had been positioned low within the automotive and set to precisely 28 levels to ensure the ensuing driving place was each sporty and cozy.
On the time its 208 mph prime velocity made it one of many quickest vehicles on this planet. It was a feast for each stat nerds and artwork lovers alike, and we even stated so in our preliminary evaluations of the 2005 SLR McLaren. We additionally thought that, regardless of its unimaginable straight line efficiency and unimaginable seems to be, the journey was a bit on the tough facet. That is as a result of the SLR was suspended by typical springs and dampers—no adaptive shocks or air suspension to talk of. Easier and extra dependable than air suspension, and maybe lighter than adjustable dampers … maybe Mercedes and McLaren made the proper name. The adaptive damping know-how we’ve got immediately would have made a world of distinction, although.
Over its six 12 months manufacturing run, a complete of two,157 vehicles had been constructed at McLaren’s Know-how Heart in Woking, England. The coupe was adopted by a roadster known as the 722 Version, its 722S convertible counterpart, and the roofless, windshield-less SLR Stirling Moss speedster constructed to honor Sir Stirling Moss and his 300 SLR from the 1995 Mille Miglia. It was a technological tour de pressure that managed to be alluring, futuristic, and exquisite all on the similar time. So why, within the annals of automotive historical past, is the SLR seemingly misplaced?
Possibly that is as a result of the SLR has been misunderstood by many because the starting. Infighting between Mercedes and McLaren on what the SLR was speculated to be led to separate improvement philosophies. Mercedes reportedly wished one thing luxurious and cozy and McLaren wished a light-weight driver’s automotive. These two sometimes do not combine, and the completely different approaches solely meant the SLR’s unique goal value of round $200,000 greater than doubled by the point improvement was over. Whereas that put it in the identical stratospheric value class as the Enzo, Carrera GT, and Zonda, the SLR was by no means speculated to be a rival for these vehicles. From the outset, the SLR was to be pitted in opposition to the likes of the Ferrari F430, Bentley Continental GT, and Aston Martin DB9.
The consequence was a automotive whose efficiency was leaps and bounds past the Bentleys and Astons of the time, however one with a price ticket that left it in some rather more hardcore firm. So whenever you look again on the SLR, take its unique promoting value out of the equation and consider it as a super-GT—one in every of only a few from that point—and never some world-beating hypercar that was speculated to take down the Enzo. Then and solely then will the SLR get the respect it deserves as one in every of historical past’s nice supercars.