Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster: An open-air adventure for all the senses
By Mike Hanlon
May 4, 2007
May 5, 2007 Mercedes-Benz has opened up a new dimension in refinement for open-top super sports cars with the news that it will release a roadster version of its SLR McLaren super sports car in September. Using carbon fibre technologies developed from its Formula 1 cars, the roadster will be endowed with a high degree of safety as well as extreme torsional stiffness at the same high level as the coupe version. Performance will also be identical to that of the coupe, with a maximum speed of 332 km/h and an AMG V8 compressor engine delivering 460 kW/626 bhp. Developed and built at the McLaren Formula 1 complex in Woking (UK), the company refined the aeroacoustics of the new car in the team’s wind tunnel to ensure conversation is still possible at well over 200 km/h with the top down.
Like the coupé version, the new Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster once again unites the legend of the successful SLR racing models from the 1950s with the innovative technology of modern Formula 1 vehicles from the Vodafone-McLaren-Mercedes team. Typical stylistic elements, such as the arrow-shaped tip of the Formula 1 Silver Arrow, establish a visual link with the racing cars. The SLR leg-end of the 50s lives on stylistically in the distinctive lateral louvers, side pipes behind the front wheels and the wide-opening gullwing doors.
The new Roadster benefits technically from the many years of experience of Mercedes-Benz and its Formula 1 partner McLaren. Apart from two aluminium engine frames, its body is made entirely of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) materials, making the vehicle an exception among high-performance sports cars. Especially for the Roadster, complex carbon-fibre technology has been intelligently further developed for the monocoque chassis. The result is low weight, exemplary energy absorption and, therefore, extremely high occupant safety as well as a degree of torsional stiffness hitherto unattained in open-top vehicles. This leads to outstanding ride characteristics of the kind otherwise found only in closed-top super sports cars.
The exceptional qualities of the Roadster are attributable also to the fully retractable top, which blends harmoniously into the flowing lines of the SLR McLaren. Its newly developed roof material, which is available in three different colours, not only guarantees complete suitability for everyday use in all weathers, but also endows the high-performance sports car with characteristics that are exception-ally unusual in a roadster. For example, at 332 km/h, the maximum speed is at the high level of the coupé version. Conversation is still possible at well over 200 km/h on open-air journeys thanks to the favourable aeroacoustics.
The roof opens and closes semi-automatically in less than ten seconds, thereby combining the desire for convenience with the puristic character of the roadster. To open, the roof merely needs to be unlocked from the windscreen frame and be briefly raised, after which it folds away electrically. Since an aluminium cover is integrated into its front section, the roof elegantly closes off the top when retracted.
In the wind tunnel, the Roadster has been optimised for high speeds with regard to handling, aeroacoustics and aerodynamics. It likewise employs the aerodynamic concept already known from the coupé version, featuring an airbrake integrated into the access lid and a diffuser in the rear bumper to provide increased downforce on the rear axle.
The open two-seater is equipped with a racing-type chassis featuring high-performance carbon-ceramic brake discs, thereby setting extremely high standards. Its front-mid-engine provides for optimum weight distribution. With 460 kW/626 hp and a maximum torque of 780 Nm, the AMG V8 compressor engine, which is coupled to an AMG Speedshift R five-speed automatic transmission, accelerates the Roadster from zero to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds.
A high degree of safety is ensured by unique carbon-fibre crash elements, steel-reinforced A-pillars and two fixed roll bars. The comprehensive specification also features adaptive airbags, knee and side airbags as well as seat belt tensioners and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
The exclusive standard equipment includes semi-aniline-leather-upholstered carbon-fibre bucket seats which can be individually adapted to the driver and front passenger by means of differently sized seat pads; dual-zone automatic air-conditioning; a high-quality BOSE premium sound system; a multifunction sport steering wheel with gear-change paddles, and a navigation system with integral radio and CD player.
The new Mercedes-Benz SLR Roadster, like the coupé, is produced at McLaren's Formula 1 factory in Woking, England, in accordance with stringent Mercedes-Benz quality criteria and will be available as from September 2007.