The Mercedes SLR was the child of a troubled marriage and appeared when the partners were preparing to part ways. Mercedes wanted to stay true to the (sort of) promise it had made with the Vision SLR Concept of the late ’90s and offered a Marvel Comics-esque super-GT.
McLaren followed in his own F1 footsteps, an impossible feat; and no one, certainly at McLaren, ever claimed that the SLR would be its successor. That would be weird and stupid too. Still: Gordon Murray insisted that the SLR have a flat bottom plate, which is the reason for those eye-catching renderings.
‘The SLR was launched in a world that had been turned upside down by the Enzo and the Carrera GT’
And it claimed a 50/50 weight distribution, forcing the 5.4-liter V8 to sit front of center, stretching the car’s shape slightly. Don’t forget: the SLR was launched in a world of supercars that had only been eclipsed by the Ferrari Enzo and the Porsche Carrera GT, both full of high-end racing DNA; and the crazy but beautiful stranger, the Pagani Zonda.
The SLR felt very analog for its time
The SLR couldn’t compete with their superior handling, despite its carbon-fibre chassis and greater structural rigidity, and test reports boasted of tricky brakes, quick steering and sloppy behaviour. It felt like analog, like the digital age had begun its unstoppable march.
What might have been a problem then is now an opportunity, and one that is fully embraced by McLaren’s Special Operations (MSO) department. In a little-known industrial area in Woking, 100 workers manage the world’s largest number of McLaren F1s, producing one-off specials (the X1 and X, among others) at the same time.
But it also responds to the new interest among SLR owners in introducing modern innovations to an old car (it is almost twenty years old, unbelievable) and gives the insight that with a short stay in a special clinic the wild sides can be renewed. .
Most owners don’t have one
“SLR owners really love their cars,” says Tom Reinhold, legacy manager at McLaren and the designers and business elite behind this MSO line of work. “Usually they don’t have one, but three or four. Then there have always been us for some things.
Some have owned an SLR before, sold it and now want it back, because it’s the kind of car you love. And then there are people who might have the 300 SL Gullwing and the SLS, and now they want to complete the trilogy.’
Now they can select modifications and updates from McMenu that can affect all parts of the car. For example, you can talk about an extensive aerodynamics package, a completely different suspension setup, a new exhaust, a new, more efficient intercooler, different wheels, a new color (the SLR’s carbon fiber body was very difficult to paint well) or absolutely. new upholstery for the interior.
The same people are working on improvements
The Mercedes SLR McLaren is thus once again in the spotlight, as it has qualified for retro status. It helps that several people on the MSO team were heavily involved in the design and development of the car at the time, so they know it inside out.
In fact, the whole idea of a new or updated SLR comes from the MSO Special Edition that the original version said goodbye to the world stage in 2009. The amazing analog aspect of the SLR hits you in the face (and other parts of your body) immediately. when your eye looks at it.
We mean, when was the last time you saw him? The proportions are crazy, but time and fashion may have finally collided: a production designer with an eye for cars could easily use one as a perfect and convenient means of transportation for a hero – or better yet, a villain – in a dystopian, cinematic a dark future.
Mercedes SLR interior
The doors sweep upwards in ‘almost but not quite’ Gullwing style, and you climb in over wide overhangs. There is a beautiful woven carpet, the seat tube is also woven, and the whole thing looks warmer and less technical than before.
I don’t remember thinking so at the time, but the interior is actually very impressive for a car that already cost 6t for the euro in 2004. That huge center console mount houses the rotary controls for the driver and the large horizontal switch for the air brake. .
Apart from the fact that it all looks like a modern SL, the climate and transmission control buttons are the same as those of the 1999 Mercedes C 200. The SLR came just before USB connections were a thing and went out of production. when the iPhone started to become a symbol of connectivity.
You don’t need your phone for good sound either
MSO is still working on adding Apple CarPlay, but the old radio in this test car doesn’t work at all. That is not a problem at all; there is more than enough entertainment to hear. The SLR’s supercharged V8 and new MSO coated ceramic exhaust system eliminate any other form of noise.
It’s 30 kg lighter than the standard system and the new intake ensures that around 15 extra horsepower is delivered that way. Almost always, but not central to the story here, not when there’s a lot of torque and thunder.
There is an adjustable butterfly valve – on the edge, next to the door unlock button, there is another small button where ‘ff’ (as in ‘fortissimo’) is up to it – and the result is arguably one of the best sounding cars ever built.
Driving a Mercedes SLR
Even driving quietly out of Woking and onto the M25 without gas is already a celebration; The SLR vibrates and rocks (is that a word? It looks like an SLR sounds…) like a top American Muscle car from the 1960s.
Through the tunnels of the northbound clockwise route – one of the few blessings of London’s hideous ring road – the sound is loud, as if a squadron of Spitfires or P51 Mustangs had just joined us on our journey. You can change the bass frequency with your right foot, and the effect is not surprising.
The SLR has always been a good long-range GT. It was on narrow winding roads that did not come naturally. The MSO upgrade features a new power steering pump and third universal joint to eliminate the awkwardness that plagued the original.
No, no one will confuse it with a Caterham or BAC Mono, but the modifications mean you can steer the car in and out of corners with more precision. The handling quality is also greatly improved thanks to the new springs and dampers, although it is still far from the magic that the latest Ferraris, for example, can achieve.
Reinhold says extensive aerodynamics work – a new front spoiler and diffuser, among other things – means the SLR is now three seconds faster than the Dunsfold per lap. That’s a big step and shows how worthwhile all the changes are. Most of all, you wonder why they weren’t implemented back then.
The ‘aero plus’ package adds slats to the wheel arches to release air pressure above, and a large spoiler behind the tailgate. ‘A world of possibilities has opened up for SLR owners, who can make their car unique and have more fun with it,’ says Reinhold.
“This carbon fiber rod feels more alive than ever”
The brakes work, but not before bringing a strong sweat to the driver’s brow. Mercedes’ problematic and well-known SBC (Sensotronic Brake Control) from the early ’00s, a. brake by wire system, was finally thrown out completely in 2006; but he lives in SLR and Maybach.
The final verdict on the Mercedes SLR
The five-speed automatic transmission and torque converter – the only box that could handle such a large amount of torque at the time – also produce a few frustrating sensations. It’s a very rough way to help you realize how far we’ve come with our DCTs.
The raised cover on top of the poker, which you have to open with your thumb to get to the start button, pleases us again. So it’s not perfect yet. No, but this carbon fiber feels more alive than ever, and is the antidote to raw meat for increasingly vegan cars.
SLRs now cost three hundred euros to the euro, which is very cheap compared to (admittedly: very rare) Ferraris and Porsches – Enzos make at least two million, the good Carrera GT easily one and a half.
‘SLR by MSO’ products are definitely not cheap; a lick of new paint will cost you £42,000, a new interior trim £36,500, the maintenancethe package should cost £18,695 plus VAT for everything. But owners can easily afford that – and more – and do so happily. But hey, what’s a good price for one of the most iconic cars of all time?