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The sun is slowly sinking into the Atlantic Ocean, a fire in the sky matching the color of Lanzarote’s volcanic shores. My hair is blowing in the brisk breeze, even before I slip key into ignition, but perhaps that’s appropriate, for even parked on this craggy bluff, the Mercedes-Benz SLR seems a car in perpetual motion.
Busloads of tourists surround us, drawn more to the machine than the stunning scenery. But that’s been the case since Mercedes’ supercar debuted at the 1999 North American International Auto Show. Sleek, silver and wantonly sexy, the SLR coupe — and the roadster that followed a year later — bear the unmistakable stamp of Mercedes’ wildly successful Formula 1 race program. Coupe and roadster share a dramatic, knife-edged nose lifted almost whole from the Mercedes-powered McLaren F1 racer. The Silver Arrow has captured both Driver’s and Constructor’s Trophies for two years running.
The automaker’s goal is to take that heritage and technology and translate it into street form with an automobile only a few could ever imagine owning, never mind mastering. While production is still three years away, The Car Connection was given the rare opportunity to take the SLR roadster for a run down the winding shoreline roads of Lanzarote, the eastern-most spit of volcanic rock in the Canary Islands chain.
One doesn’t need to drive the SLR to fall in love with it. The double-winged front end is unmistakably F1, even without the open wheels. The entire vehicle flows like a scarf in the wind, delicate and yet impressively aggressively. Often, when a coupe is transformed into a roadster, there seems to be a compromise in character, as if the conversion was accomplished with a blunt instrument. Yet both SLR designs seem complete, if familial, with their own character, like confident, fraternal twins.