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This week in 2003: Mercedes-Benz SLR prototype first drive review

This week in 2003: Mercedes-Benz SLR prototype first drive review

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Published by AutoweekUSA
This week from our June 30 2003 issue finds us putting the SLR prototype through its paces
This week from our June 30 2003 issue finds us putting the SLR prototype through its paces

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Published by: AutoweekUSA on Jul 01, 2013
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07/04/2013

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1
MERCEDESBENZ
SLR
PROTOTYPE
I
FIRST
DRIVE
v
TOP-ECHELON
-I
..,-
SUPERCAR
OFFERSEVERYDAY
BY
GREG
WLE
t
e
premiere
of
the600hpMemde3BenzSLRattheFranldun
motorshowinSeptember
will
be
a
laudmark
moment in
the
evolutionofthe hesupercar.
Designed
andwered n cooperation
with
Mercedes'
FL
pvmerMcLpren,whichwllldethecahn
fiber-bodied
mupe
at
a
new
kmyinEn&nd,
itsmissioniemDmlthrmdafrolntheIl&sdAsmnMmiQFenari,bmheand
Lambo&m.
.
PorMemdes~the
SLR
repmeno
a
long-soughtgraduation
into
the
supac~l
mlcsafteraseriesofbamting-
ly
fast
AMG
balmstormasand
even
wilder
mncept
canr
McLarm,
of
uwse,
eached
supercar
fame in 1992 with itssublime
PI--a
m
till
unbeat-
en
for
d-going
dormancea decade
after
ia,
launch.
Me&Benz aud McLaren
h't
mention the
SLR
n thesame bmth
as
he
Ferrari
Euw,
Porache
CluRn
GT
and-Murci*,
thougb
wermgbt.
instead,
they
pointto
its
inhuent
layout,
with
the
engine
up
fnmt,
and
aayitismacaGTrivaItothe
likes
ofthe
Asmn
Mvtin
Vanquish
and
Fermi
75
Mardo.
BY
all
m,
though,theAogl*-parme=hip
forged
ocreate
a
statedthe-
art
supercar
via
the
successful
F1involvement
has
been
any-
dung
but
harmonious.
Rumom
of
idightinpbeoueenmginea-
ing
teams,
diftering
cqiuiom
onstgkandexpW
buagets
have
dogqd
he
ds
hree-yeal
edopmentThrougbitnlZ-theqecwukdy
styled
SIR
has
md
o
the
pomt
where
W'R
MW
h~en
UW-prO-
duuial-~pnomcgp.
After
much
menion
m
rmrmged~paauedethepow-
athotbeinStuttgartandWohng to
let
usget
bhd
thewheelforanacluslveteat
dnve.
?he emphasls
heze
la
on
the
wnd
"protMgpe"
'Ihe
car
we
hammed
mound
the
 
OTOPlPE
I
FIRST
DRIVEMERCEDES-BEN2SLR
PR
sundrenchedldia&prmringgroundsnearBaMlona
is
notquiterepresentativeofthe SLRthatwill
go
onsale
this
fdininuqxandintheUnitedStatesnextsummer. "It'sclose,butnot
LM)
percent,"saysAntonySheriff, McLarenmanagingdirector.
AU
theessential
ingredients-
thep~rtshat
will
ultimatelymoldtheSLR'son-roadcharac- ter--arealready
in
place.Thesciawrdwdn'tletanyonetellyou
they
are
guUwing
dam,
ecause
they
ain't-providea
wide
apemuetoclimb
through,
utgettingabdheSLR
is
not
as
easy
a
itIwks.Thesillsarewide
and
with
abigtransmissiontunnel
nuYling
hmughthe
cabin,
itprovesatightfitit.Thethinly
upholstered,
carbonfiber-back-
ed
seatsareelectlicallyadjust- ablefortravel
and
height.'I%ethree-spokesteeringwheelalso adjusts
for
rakeand
reach.
Once
enswnced,
thedrivingpositionisfimy
sp~rty,
thoughtallerdriverssaythe near-verticalposition
of
thewheel
hampers
wmfart.
Insidethe
pmmtypc
it'sdark,
befause
Mercedes-Benz
has
mered
various
areas
withathickblackfabric
so
as
nottogivetwmuchaway
three
monthsbeforetheofficialunveding. Productionversiom
will
fea-
turealuxurious leather-faced
dashbaud
along
with
alum&
num-looksurfaces.The
parts
on
showlookfamiliarinanSL55kindof way.Theinstrumentsare
simi-
lar,
butwiththeinclusionof boldMcLareninsigniasand anextension
of
thespeedome-terto
360
km/h
[agood
22.3
mph)andthetachredlineupat 7000rpm.Simpletemperature andfuel
gauges
flank
these.
Strangely,
ioo
a
car
ofsuchexaltedperformance
creden-
tials,thereisnooilpressure oroiltemperaturegauge. StartingtheSLRis
an
event
in
itself.Fhtyou
trigger
heignition
via
atraditionalkey.Thenyouflip
up
afighterjet-like8apatopthegearleverto
reveal
thestarterbutton.
Press
itlightlyandtheSLR'sengine instantlycatches.There'sno untamedshrillasthethree. valve-percylinderunitignites.We
hope
theproductionver-sion
will
benefitfmmabit
ridmg
impression,atleastat lowerrevs,isoneofpolished refinement.TheSLR'ssupercharged5.4-literVB
is
best
desuibed
as
adistantcousintoasimilarly specifiedengineusedinthe SL.55.Thetwostemfromthe
I
air
inletdold,ncreasedsuperchargerboostpressure,as wellas
dry
sumplubricationformorereliahlescavenging
of
theoil.Mercedesongmallyplannedasolid550hp,butanexploeion inpowerratingsformanyof theSLR'srivalsultimately forceditto
nise
this
to"around
MX)
hp."The
real
acwmplish-mentisitstorque.There'sa reputed575lb-ftofthestuf- 141lb-ftmore
than
the
575Maranelloand175lbftupon theVanquish.There'sanincrediblepush
all
thewayfmmits500rpm idletothe7WOrpmcutout.
In
thefirstthree
gears
theacceler-ation
is
rampant.Itfeelsquick- moreacousticmuscleatidle. Thepmtotypewe're
assign-
ed
isdeckedout insilver.It's oneof
just
twocolors,alongwithMcLaren'scorporateblack metallic,inwhichthenew
car
will
be
sold.
A
shortstabon
the
throttle
unleashes
ameanersoundhamthoseside-exit exhausts.However,theover- samefam~lyutsharefew components.
Among
the
changes
madebyMercedes-Benz's
AMG
d~vls~on,hch
d
ssembletheSLR'sewes
m
Germanyandshpthemto
McLaren
III
England,
IS
astdfenedblock,lncluslon oflargeheatextractorsforeach cyhderhead,acomplexnew er
than
didtheCLK
GTR
used
tohomologatethewmpany's 1998
Le
Maw
race
car.
NeitherMercedes.BenznorMckenispreparedtodivulge acceleration
hgures.
"There'sstillafewtweaksbeforewe
can
getdowntothebusiness
of
final
validation,"saysSheriff.Hesaysproductionversions
will
hit
M)
mphfromstandstill
in
fractionallyless
than
fourseconds.Itmaynotgetasfar underfourseconds
as
the
Enzo
orMurcldago,butbyway
of
compansonmththesupposed appasluon,the575Maanello needsafracuonallylonger
4
2
secondswhletheVanqush requresawhole
4
8
secondsShenff
also
reveals
11
d
kely&punder10secondsforthe dashto
uX)
km/h
112.5mphlandnudge
30
xwnds
m
the
11
AUTOWEEK
JUNE
30.2W3
 
run
up
to3M
km/k
1186
mph).
throughthebanked
mers.
MucdesBenis
policy
of
No
chance!
TheSLR
doesn't
limiting
its
mad
can
to
a
mpn-
do
deunum.
Its
acceleration
mum
speed
d
55mph
has
is
savage,
but
in
a
saPngely
ban
~onvenientlyidestepped
culhvated
kind
of
way.
Nudge
fortheSLR.We
can't
sayforthethrottle,
bra
orthe
cmain,
but
all
indications
BIT
violent
surge
and
thm
it
will
runm
about
UW
mphat
as
your
body
is
s&cted
m
descnbe
as
"theme."
From
an
mmcated
240
km/k
1150
mph)
we're
shot
like
a
bullet
from
a
bad.
My
helmet
wob
bles
around
the
wh
kea
bobblehead
doll
as
cry
to
am-
tain
the
effects
of
a
IuUy
mm-
presscd~onagainstleas
the
engine's700arpm
redline
in
fifthgear,
making
t
the
hat
mad
car
ever
to
wear
the
three-pointed
stu.
We're
out
on
Idiada'shigh-
speed
test
crack
inamvoy
behind
Mucedes-BedsCL55P1
pace
w.
We've
heen
old
tokeep~dmvnto155mph
on
he
suai&ts
and
75
mph
(!)
lamidable
force.
Ifs
wcmder-
ful,fli$lteuing.laaddictive
allinone.
Cominghighoffthebnnlriag
onm
the
hr9traight
m
founh,
aflick
d
he
hrmn
Mmd
he
right-hand
spo&
on
the
steer-
ing
wheel
smds
us
up
a
gear.
I
nail
the
hrottle
hard
and
we're
mto
what
Sheriff
wouldIatu
than
smooth
road
surface,
the
8peedo
&y
mduatmg
z90...am...3iohqmii9~
mph),
and
theSLR
is
still
accelerating
At
these
sp.ods
t
is
appar-
emthecsr's~w
haveheenurelullyhoned.
Those
side-mounted
exhausts
don'tlust
look
pmty
and
so~md
antastic.
They
niso
ham
allowed
engineus
m
pmide
theSLR
with
a
flnt
undpPny
and
a
complex
six-channel
diffusaatthereushihm
thosefoundonLeMansm~.
Coupled
with
the
automatic
spoiler
m
back
they
endow
the
SLRwith
awenome
high-speed
stabiliy.
Push
a
switch
onthe
center
console
to
raise
the
spoiler
toitshighat
position
and
you
can
actually
fed
the
reu
end
ofthe
CRI
oad
up
with
added
downfom.
Ediaut!
Afterfourlapsofthe4.6-miledFcuittheIuUfloodof
sensations
leaves
me
gasping
forbreathandcravingmore.If
Mexedes-km
and
McLprm
really
think
he
SLR
is
P
rivd
forthe
MataueUo
d
Pnpuisq
theyare
selling
it
shon
by
miles.
Itmight
iwk
like
a
GT,
ith
tbat
lcmg
bormet
and
all,butithnsthcgueda
we==.
Helping
it
scale
such
heights
of
pedormurcc
is
areworked
veciionofthehveqd
automatic
used
m
the
pPlotinllinmusine.It
gains
remote
hift
buttws
bchind
thcshedngwheelaswdaa
ahmharevixdversionof
AMG's
Sjkdehih
electronics.
The
ddva
an
thane
bmveen
aummacic
or
whu
Mac&s
Benz
describes
as
a
sporty
mno-
matic,
as
well
as
manual
mode
via
mtq
witches
011
the
un-
sole.
In
manual,
the
gearbox
holds
on
to
the
driver's
chosen
Pa,
rdusinp
to
change
UP,
even
at
the
redline,
1
the
rev
limiter
pmtect
the
engine.
What's
more,
he
driver
can
choosethe~venensof
the
shift
in
three
distinct
steps.The
and
decisivmem
ofthe
shifts
up
and
down
the
gearbox
n
the
fastest
manual
setting
is
amelation,
making
thoseintheSLS5snmslav
and
ague
y
mmpmbm.
This
makes
he
decision
not
m
offa
theSLRwith
atraditional
manual
gearbox
of
anykind
seem
justified
It
also
begs
the
questim:
s
this
he
world's
fastestautomatic!
JUNE
30,2003
UIIOWZEK
1s

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