Legend and sophistication – these two hallmark characteristics of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren stand out immediately, and are the essence of the scintillating styling radiated by the new high-performance sportscar, which is due to make its world debut shortly.
The precept underpinning the Gran Turismo (GT) body design takes the classical styling elements from the legendary SLR racing cars of the 1950s and blends them masterfully with the sophisticated, avantgarde design language of both the latest Mercedes passenger car models and of the modern-day Silver Arrows race cars which took the McLaren Mercedes team to F1 World Championship glory. The design’s concept therefore spans the divide between past and present, whilst at the same time showing the way forward for the sports car designs of tomorrow.
The new SLR McLaren bears witness to the tremendous expertise of Mercedes-Benz and of its F1 ally, McLaren, when it comes to the development design and manufacture of high-performance sports cars. Know-how and knowledge are blended into a harmonious whole, resulting not only in pioneering new features, stunning power development and sensational on-road performance, but also in extremely high levels of safety and suitability for day-to-day use.
Such a thorough grounding has given rise to a vehicle blessed with inimitable charisma, where legend and sophistication melt together in a thoroughly masterful Mercedes synthesis.
It’s the long, sweeping lines of the bonnet, the succinctly-styled air gills in the wings, the eye-catching sidepipes, the compact tail and, last but by no means least, the gullwing doors which breathe life into the SLR legend. These design
features first caused a sensation back in 1952, and have remained the hallmark of thoroughbred Mercedes sportscars ever since.
These and other styling elements rooted in the SLR tradition are harmonised smoothly with the latest Mercedes design traits: these include the “twin-headlamp face”, which has been in use since 1995, and the interplay of soft contours and taut lines, a characteristic which runs through many of the models in the current Mercedes portfolio.
The body styling of the SLR is also modelled on the McLaren Mercedes Silver Arrows. The arrow-shaped nose, which encompasses the Mercedes star at the front and gives the bumper as a whole a bolder, more powerful look, stems from the F1 racing car, as does the twin-fin spoiler in the front bumper. Again, this is more than just an identifying design feature as it is also crucial to the vehicle’s aerodynamics and engine cooling.
Seen from the side, the eye is immediately caught by the flat, wedge-shaped form of the new high-performance supercar. This is created primarily by the long bonnet, the steeply raked front windscreen, the rearwards positioning of the passenger cockpit, the large wheels and the compact tail. Thanks to these proportions, the side profile lends further emphasis to the sense of forwards surge which courses through the new SLR.
The designers have incorporated a further SLR element in the form of the finned side air gills in the front wings, although they do far more than recall just the design of the legendary racing cars from 1955: today, as indeed back then, the side air outlets serve to ventilate the engine compartment. The designers have underlined their practical function by the use of sweeping lines which continue into the gullwing doors.
The design of the SLR McLaren’s rear end marks a breakaway from that of its legendary predecessor. Whereas the tail of the original racing cars sloped gradually downwards, the boot lid of the new GT model continues straight backwards at the same high level. As well as increasing the luggage capacity, this also serves to reduce lift and aerodynamic drag, translating into enhanced roadholding ability. The new 6-channel diffuser in the rear bumper also has an important role to play here.
It is the very high levels of practicality and luxury that truly make the high-performance sportster’s interior stand out. Individually padded bucket seats combine with a multifunction steering wheel with race-car-type buttons for manual gear selection and clearly arranged chronometer-style gauges to ensure that drivers can keep the SLR comfortably under control at all times, and that they have all the information they need conveniently at their fingertips.
High-grade materials set the interior tone: aluminium, carbon and supple “Silver Arrow” leather, which was specially developed for the sportscar and sets benchmark standards in terms of its quality and its material thickness.
The SLR McLaren has been in the making for four years – ever since the concept was first shown at the 1999 Detroit Auto Show with the promise that it would be offered for sale as a production model by 2003. Mercedes-Benz has met the deadline as it will be in the showrooms this September.