Login | Register
SearchMy Stuff
My ProfileMy PreferencesMy Mates RSS Feed
Thursday 9th June 2005

Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR

Naumann Farooq drives Mercedes-Benz's supercar. Does it live up to the hype?


Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR
Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR

This is it folks, the Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR, the most expensive and outrageous Mercedes that you can buy. But exactly how outrageous is it really?

Here's the thing. Just a few weeks ago, I drove an SL55 AMG, aimed right at Ferrari and Porsche. It has the specs to strike fear in the hearts of other supercar owners, but my experience behind the wheel was rather disappointing. I found the car was too soft, the rear-end was not stable enough through tight corners, high speed jaunts were a floaty affair, and the traction control (when on) was a bit too intrusive.

All in all, it felt just like any other Mercedes, which is a bad thing if you want a sports car. So, if you can spend about £90,000 on a sports car, take my advice and buy yourself a Porsche 911 Turbo or a used Ferrari 360, and you’ll be much happier.

none
none
none
none
none
none
none
none
none
none

However, if you have about £250,000 to spend on a supercar, your choices are a lot tastier -- which is as it should be.

Walk into a Ferrari showroom, and you’d be tempted to go home in the SuperAmerica, the limited edition 575M with a unique rotating roof. Walk into a Lamborghini showroom, and you’ll be seduced by the awesome Murcielago Roadster, the one Nick Hall recently tested and fell in love with.

And in a Porsche showroom, the mind-blowing Carrera GT is almost impossible to resist. Just make sure that you are an ace manual driver before buying one though, since the clutch travels about only four-inches, and the gearbox has such short throws that while reaching for third gear, you’ll most likely slot it in fifth. Regardless, this is a superb supercar.

As you might be aware of Mercedes-Benz has a supercar too. So how does the SLR stack up compared to the very stiff competition?

The making of the SLR

Mercedes-Benz, a manufacturer that prides itself in making the finest luxury cars, has a division that turns those same fine luxury cars into faster luxury cars: AMG. However, while the engines are great, the cars are compromised due to their humble underpinnings.

So to extract the full performance potential that AMG can provide, Mercedes knocked on McLaren's door. Not only does McLaren make the fastest F1 cars on the grid, it also has the reputation for building the McLaren F1 supercar, the most iconic road legal supercar of the last decade, and the fastest -- until the Koenigsegg CCR and Bugatti Veyron came along.

So the result is an amalgam of Mercedes comfort and convenience, AMG engine and transmission, and McLaren chassis, body and design layout. Thus the front-mid engined layout, the carbon fibre body and chassis, fibre reinforced ceramic brake discs and an active spoiler that aids the car under hard braking are all McLaren’s ideas. And yes, just like the original F1 supercar, the project chief in the SLR program was Gordon Murray, a man who made his name in designing some of the most successful F1 cars of the 1980s.

Driving the SLR

The end result is on Mosport International Raceway for me to try out. I would like to tell you that I had pulled a few strings and managed to convince Mercedes’ press office to let me try their most expensive car on a race track. The truth is, I actually had no idea I would have the privilege of testing the car that day.

I was at Mosport by chance at a private event for providing on-track coaching to owners of some very exotic cars. On the grid were a Porsche 911 Turbo, a Ferrari F355 Spider, a Ferrari 360 coupe, a very modified Subaru STi, an even more highly modified Porsche 993 GT2 -- and a Maybach 57.

The star car was undoubtedly the SLR, which looks truly menacing in its high-gloss black paint finish. Images of Darth Vader came to mind.

As the day went on, admiring the sight of the SLR on the track, listening to its wonderful exhaust, something happened out of the blue. The owner offered me to take him around the track for a few laps in the SLR. I was in the car and tightening the belts even before he finished his sentence.

Press the flush button by the door to open the gull-wing doors, which have hydraulics powerful enough to lift the doors automatically. Getting in is a lot easier than I expected, since cars with unusual doors usually require the contortions of a ballerina. Just try to gracefully enter and exit a Lamborghini Countach and you’ll know what I mean.

Once in, you’ll find the power seat has limited but very useful settings available for you. The backrest stays fixed, but you can raise or lower the seat, slide it and tilt it. Plus, with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, finding the right driving position took no longer than 12 seconds, which is about the time this car takes to cover a quarter-mile from a dead stop.

Now, ignition time. Turn the key to On, lift the cover on the tip of the gear lever, and press the “Engine Start” button. The 5.5-litre, supercharged V8 awakens with an angry growl. This engine pumps out 626bhp and 575lb/ft of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox, which has SpeedShift manual shift modes, Tiptronic-style.

Now why does a supercar have an automatic gearbox? Because AMG for some reason only makes cars with automatic gearboxes. Why a five-speed auto instead of six speeds? Because this is the only transmission AMG has that can handle this much power.

So, I slide it into “D” and take off. Instantly it's clear that this is not like any Mercedes or AMG. The steering is beefy, the turn-in very sharp, the brakes can stop you on a sixpence, and the acceleration is just mind blowing.

My first lap was spent just learning how this car works, because it is so different to any car I have ever come across on this track. Mosport is a very tricky track, with hills, drops and off camber turns. But this SLR would just stick around corners like it was superglued to it. No matter what I did, it stayed very composed, pushing into understeer rather than oversteer.

Performance

Then the passenger-owner of the car pointed out the Sport mode, which transforms it from a comfortable GT car to an endurance GT racer. The suspension tightens up, the throttle response gets much faster, SpeedShift reacts instantly -- and the experience just gets better and better.

On the back straight at Mosport -- neither that long nor an actual straight since it has a slight turn in the middle -- I saw 150mph, over 15mph faster than I have driven in any car here.

The reason is simply the engine. The supercharger winds up instantly and punches you forward with a power band that seems endless. On a long runway, the SLR will top out at 208mph. That makes it the fastest car Benz has produced, and the fastest accelerating with a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds.

The speed is truly astonishing. When you press the accelerator, you feel it stopping at a certain point, but that is not the point where the pedal meets the floor. At that point, you press harder still, and it activates a switch behind the pedal, which must be the hyperspace button. Now that the pedal is totally floored, this car just eats up straights at eye popping speeds, all the while filling the cabin with the noise coming from those fabulous four exhaust pipes just aft the front wheels.

Even in sport mode, the handling never felt nervous, the car was always controllable, and an absolute hoot to drive.

I must say, this car positively surprised me. The reports I had read before had written it off against its competition. Yes while the brakes lack total feel, and the centre console is plastic, and both the Carrera GT and the Murcielago are more extreme machines to drive, the SLR is the only hyper-grand touring car on the planet.

A car that can cross continents like a Ferrari 612, yet plays ball with the likes of the Carrera GT on the race track, this truly is the best all-rounder I have come across.

All pictures except the top picture by Naumann Farooq

2
Reply to Topic
Author Discussion

NaumanF1

Original Poster:

48 posts

112 months

[news] 
Thursday 9th June 2005 quote quote all
"On the back straight at Mosport -- neither that long nor an actual straight since it has a slight turn in the middle -- I saw 150mph, 240mph, over 15mph faster than I have driven in any car here."

Sorry for the misprint readers, the 240 mph was suppose to read 240 km/h.
Thought I should correct that before I get shafted for it.

PascalBuyens

2,868 posts

162 months

[news] 
Thursday 9th June 2005 quote quote all
Hmmm... Some people have all the luck in the world LOL

alanc5

295 posts

123 months

[news] 
Thursday 9th June 2005 quote quote all
Great article- sounds like you had a lot of fun. Very nice of the guy to let you have a go as well!

Car looks nicer in black than I ever seen them,
Ta.

Frik

12,395 posts

123 months

[news] 
Thursday 9th June 2005 quote quote all
NaumanF1 said:
...and the centre console is plastic
No it's not. It's aluminium

FestivAli

954 posts

118 months

[news] 
Friday 10th June 2005 quote quote all
I want one. Damn they look good in black, can't say I think much of them in silver, but in black. Batman should drive that car. And seriously, when your car is that beef, who cars if it's an auto (may I note I am a fastidious manual fanatic)
Advertisement

dinkel

22,001 posts

138 months

[news] 
Friday 10th June 2005 quote quote all
Add my comments?

This is a car with the most roadpresence ever . . . Looks awesome in black. Check out those exhausts! Beautifull. It shows real power and real class without overstating.

The soundbyte - I guess most of us heard it on TopGear - is the best. Thundering V8 with a touch of refinement.

You must be one of the luckiest guys having the time of your life in that MaccaMerc.

Great article which I enjoyed very much. Thanx.

eein

179 posts

145 months

[news] 
Friday 10th June 2005 quote quote all
The sound bite of the exhaust note on Top Gear only scratched the surface of how good it really sounds - on two occaissons I've driven alongside one on the A3. I think it is the best sounding car ever.

And given that I will not be as lucky as the author to ever get to drive one, I'll have to base my assessment of it on how it sounds!

NaumanF1

Original Poster:

48 posts

112 months

[news] 
Friday 10th June 2005 quote quote all
Thanks to the positive remarks to the article guys, glad you enjoyed it.
The sound this car makes is just fantastic. At Mosport International Raceway, the back straight is lined with a concrete wall on both sides, so the sound resonating from it was just intoxicating.
Best sounding car in the world? I actually prefer the V12 growls of Lamborghini's more, and the Porsche Carrera GT was also simply astonishing. The SLR's sound is in the top five of my list, just not the top of that list.

Mithras264

2 posts

106 months

[news] 
Friday 10th June 2005 quote quote all
Nice article!

One thing though, if you're only hitting 240km/h at the top of the back straight, you aren't getting corner 5 very well... I would expect that kind of car to be getting up to about 290 at the hump.

caspy

1,789 posts

116 months

[news] 
Friday 10th June 2005 quote quote all
Best sound in world??

V Nice but too mechanical and whinney. Straight foward chevy V8 with decent exhaust.

Motor sound nirvana!!!

IMO

eein

179 posts

145 months

[news] 
Friday 10th June 2005 quote quote all
A Porsche GT is proably one of the only big cars I've yet to see 'in the wild' so I'm not sure how good it sounds. If someone would like to bring one by my house and make some noise, then please let me know!

lap_time

336 posts

107 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th June 2005 quote quote all
Sure it sounds nice, but as for keeping up with a Carrera GT on a track? Aaaaah...NO. In a recent supercar test in Aussie magazine Motor, The Carrera was quicker than the Enzo around the Levante circuit, posting a 53.9 against a 55.0 for the Enzo. As for the SLR? It clocked a 57.5, way behind the GT. In fact the only cars that the SLR beat around Levante was the DB9 (58.8) and Continental GT (61.7), both of which have substantially less power than the SLR. And don't say the SLR isn't a track honed car like the Carrera, because I know that, but you shouldn't have said the SLR could keep up with the GT around a track in the first place. I'd take the Carrera any day.

jellison

12,711 posts

157 months

[news] 
Saturday 11th June 2005 quote quote all
Bit of a lard bucket compared to the F1.

Great sound - but 354bhp/ton!

klassiekerrally

2,543 posts

135 months

[news] 
Sunday 12th June 2005 quote quote all
NaumanF1 said:
Best sounding car in the world? I actually prefer the V12 growls of Lamborghini's more


Or the BRM V16 MK2

dinkel

22,001 posts

138 months

[news] 
Sunday 12th June 2005 quote quote all
klassiekerrally said:

NaumanF1 said:
Best sounding car in the world? I actually prefer the V12 growls of Lamborghini's more



Or the BRM V16 MK2

www.gjt.bme.hu/autosport/motorhangok/BRM_V16_Mk_2.mp3

(Well Wim, I had my piece of soundbyte today. Pics are great but need a bit of tuning up.)

Look at those yummie exhausts btw. I guess it all depends on the track which car is the fastest.

jellison

12,711 posts

157 months

[news] 
Monday 13th June 2005 quote quote all
Ooooh Yes - High pitch vs low Grumble of the Fat Mac.

MidnightDriver

118 posts

108 months

[news] 
Monday 13th June 2005 quote quote all
Ive been lusting after this car from the moment i 1st laid eyes on it,i saw a black one driving through the crowded streets of putney one mornin,didnt getta chance to hear the sound of its exhausts tho traffic was ata stand still, earlier this year i saw a silver one late at night in kingston town,and another one pounding the A3 back in march, big up 2 mercedes and mclaren!!

Philbar

51 posts

106 months

[news] 
Monday 13th June 2005 quote quote all
I was lucky enough to see one of these "uber"merc's ( on Luxemburg plates, lucky rich bugger )last year whilst driving to Luxemburg, I wasnt hanging around, and it flew past me, and it was like a scene from a film, i got blown off line in its wake.. sound reminded me of the Spitfire fighter ... or my particular fave sound of a car has to be the Panoz... stonking!!!

Victor Good

2 posts

106 months

[news] 
Tuesday 14th June 2005 quote quote all
Now the V16 BRM - two V8 engines end to end with the geared drive to the camshafts in the middle....8 camshafts......centrifugal supercharger peaking at 77psi..... 13000 revs......once saw 540 bhp on the testbed - and all from 1.5 litres well over 50 years ago.......if only it had had a chassis and drive train......

Oh and the merc is nice as well

dinkel

22,001 posts

138 months

[news] 
Tuesday 14th June 2005 quote quote all
Victor Good said:
Now the V16 BRM - . . .l


You just cannot like that sound . . . I put it in my iTunes Jukebox and rated it a 5-star. So it pops up frequently
2
Reply to Topic