So, that happened. At the start of this week, I was super lucky to drive one of the legends, one of the heroes of my childhood. A car that I had on my walls on all types of posters. And, to be honest, one of my favorite vehicles of all time.
While it’s not the fastest, the prettiest, or the most luxurious, and it’s not driving in the best way, this car represents so much more. It’s the emotion behind it, what the SLR makes you feel. I mean, even now, writing this article, I feel the chills. And I think this is the most important thing. When a car scares you but makes you feel like you are in heaven when all you want to do is to sit in it, even sleep in it.
Let’s start with the beginning. This particular 2005 SLR McLaren was kept in a garage somewhere in a very isolated place. It was the most countryside location you can ever imagine. And then the garage opened, and the beast was unleashed—a beast disguised as a piece of art. After a good wash and some tiny revs to wake up the sleeping 5.4 liter V8, it was time to take a closer look at the exterior design.
The first thing you will observe it’s definitely the bonnet, which starts in Los Angeles and ends up in Miami. It has two massive air vents and another air vent which is cleverly introduced in the front logo. Of course, you need all the help in the world to cool down the beast. Besides that, the four exhaust pipes are placed right after the front wheels, two on each side.
That was the idea of the genius Gordon Murray. As a result, the underfloor is completely flat, so the aerodynamics of the vehicle is so much improved. As a funny thing, on every side of the car, when you open the door, you have some warnings, saying where you shouldn’t place your hands on the car (mainly the bonnet and the sides) after the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is stopped. That is because the exhaust is on the lateral parts, and those specific elements are getting dangerously hot.
The SLR McLaren is such a unique vehicle because it is full of weird and exciting quirks and features. When you pop the gas cap, you have a reminder to verify the oil level every time you refuel. The hood opens quite differently from any other supercar. Firstly, you pull a lever like in any normal vehicle. Then you pull two elements under the bonnet, raise the hood a little, and pull it towards you.
After that, the hood opens from the front window. And that is how you create the Batman logo because the SLR McLaren with the bonnet opened looks precisely like the Batman logo. Open up the butterfly doors as well, and you have a vehicle straight up from the Transformers movies.
The rear end of the SLR is just as captivating as the front. The turn lights are interesting because, when you signal, the lights can be seen if you are behind the car. From a lateral angle, you cannot. The massive wing that helps with the aerodynamics and braking the vehicle can be modified from a switch inside. The button from the interior looks exactly like the actual wing, and you can choose three different angles.
The interior is entirely red, with some black elements, creating this sporty but at the same time elegant feeling. As with any other supercar, entering the SLR is hard, and you immediately feel that everything is close to you. It had the original Nokia mobile phone fitted with the armrest and probably the tiniest ashtray in the world. Oh, and I almost forgot. This particular SLR was perhaps the most used one because it had 65,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) on the clock, which is quite a lot for a supercar.
You don’t have ten types of different driving modes like in the new cars. You can put the transmission in comfort, sport, or manual. After that, you have another switch specially created for the manual transmission option. The number one setting is for sporty driving, number two for very sporty driving, and number three for track driving.
In order to fire up the engine, you need to go through a satisfying process. First, you place the key in the ignition, turn it, and then you have a start button placed on the gear selector under a cover—something you will find on fighter jets when you want to launch a missile. The controls for the window and the handle for opening the door are placed really down, right next to the chair. The SLR is also equipped with a Bose sound system, but let’s be serious; who needs that when you have a furious V8 supercharged under the hood?
Now, let’s go to the real fun part of driving the SLR McLaren. It’s wild. Driving the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is a truly exhilarating experience that is hard to put into words. This car is not for the faint of heart, but for those who are looking for a powerful and thrilling ride, it is truly unmatched.
The steering wheel is so hard and stiff, and seeing how long the bonnet is creates this feeling of a speed boat. However, the way this car handles is incredible; it is so glued to the ground that you can go through corners at mesmerizing speed without a problem. Still, the driving systems help a lot because I would have been in a tree from the first acceleration without them.
The gear changes are pretty weird. First of all, the 626 hp (635 PS) and 780 Nm (575 lb-ft) are sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed automatic gearbox. It’s the same one used by Mercedes on Maybach, S-Class, and other luxurious cars, which were not sporty. As a result, there are moments when the shifts are lazy, but you can always go to manual gear changes. Still, instead of paddles, you will find buttons behind the wheel that are very weird.
The whine from the supercharger is incredible and sometimes scary. However, it is not as sharp as the one on a Hellcat. It sounds better and more aggressive on the Mercedes SLR McLaren. Another thing you need to get used to is the brakes. The SLR has ceramic brakes, and the pedal is stiff and rigid, like in a racing car.
The brakes were unique at that time for Mercedes, being electro hydraulics. A computer is doing all types of stuff to calculate how much brake pressure should go for every wheel. Unfortunately, it was a failure for the German manufacturer, with many service recalls being made over braking issues.
Mercedes declared that the 0-62 mph (100 kph) time is only 3.6 seconds. In reality, I did it in 4.0 seconds, but I was pretty scared to launch this car hard in the first gear. Without a doubt, someone with greater experience would have done a better job.
Driving around town, the SLR McLaren feels surprisingly comfortable and easy to handle. The steering is precise and responsive, making navigating through traffic and tight spaces easy. The brakes are powerful and responsive, bringing the car to a stop quickly and smoothly. At the same time, when you find yourself on country roads, then you really understand the SLR. On these roads, the SLR McLaren is a blast to drive. The car feels nimble and agile, with quick reflexes and sharp handling. The suspension is firm but not overly harsh, giving you a comfortable and controlled ride even on bumpy roads.
Overall, driving the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is a thrilling and unforgettable experience. The SLR is a true masterpiece of engineering and design. It’s not just a car; it’s an emotion, a feeling, a way of life.