Mercedes-Benz joined the supercar segment for 2005 with its new SLR McLaren super sport GT coupe, which uses a supercharged 617-horsepower V-8 engine. The SLR features full carbon-fiber monocoque, crash structures and body panels. Mercedes-Benz claims the SLR can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than 3.8 seconds and can top 200 mph.
Bringing the supercar to a halt are ceramic composite brake discs and an innovative air brake. Actually an adaptive rear spoiler in the trunk lid, the air brake pops up at a 65-degree angle when the driver brakes hard above 59 mph.
Celebrating the legendary SLR racecars of the 1960s, Mercedes-Benz called the new coupe a "futuristic interpretation of styling elements" of the original 300SLR, the SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe and the company's Formula One Silver Arrow racecars. Originally, "SLR" stood for "sporty, light racing." The McLaren organization has been Mercedes-Benz's partner in Formula One competition.
Initially offered in Europe, the limited-production SLR McLaren reached American dealerships in summer 2004. Little has changed for the 2006 model year.
Mercedes-Benz claims the rigidity and strength of the SLR's carbon-fiber composite construction was "never before achieved in road-going vehicles." It's the first production vehicle to use a front crash structure made entirely of carbon fiber, designed to absorb energy at a constant, predetermined rate.
Ceramic brake discs are made of a composite material that promises astounding stopping power, high heat resistance and long service life. Eight-piston brake calipers are installed in the front, and four-piston calipers are featured at the rear. Using the brake system alone, the SLR can decelerate at up to 1.3g.
Side strakes ahead of each front door recall some of the most potent Mercedes-Benz models of the past. The three-pronged Mercedes-Benz star insignia sits at the front edge of the hood dome and extends into a small triangular lower panel. Flanking the insignia are twin air intakes with single-slat grilles that sit next to round bi-xenon headlights. An immense air intake is closer to the ground.
Two occupants sit on individually padded carbon-frame seats. Special "Silver Arrow" leather upholstery is available in red, as in the 1950s SLR racecar. Chronometer-style instruments are installed. Interior convenience features include a navigation system and automatic climate control.
Under the Hood
Hand-built by AMG in Affalterbach, Germany, the supercharged and intercooled 5.5-liter V-8 engine sits behind the front wheels in a front mid-engine position. The V-8 generates 617 hp and 575 pounds-feet of torque. Dry-sump lubrication includes a remote oil tank that eliminates the conventional oil pan or sump. This permits the engine to sit lower and results in a lower center of gravity. Dry-sump systems also prevent oil starvation during extremely hard acceleration, cornering and braking.
The five-speed-automatic transmission has three programs (Comfort, Sport and Manual) with different shift characteristics. In Manual mode, the driver can use steering-wheel paddles or the TouchShift function on the gearshift lever.
Safety features include innovative knee airbags and door-mounted head and thorax side-impact airbags. The automaker's Electronic Stability Program is standard.