2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 14, 2008

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren rips off racetrack runs like a Ferrari -- at a similar pricetag.

TheCarConnection.com's car experts read road tests from the most reputable sources to compile this definitive review of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. TheCarConnection.com's resident enthusiasts also drove the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren and have added their driving impressions and more details, where they bring you better information and help you decide which reviews to trust when opinions differ.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is an utterly outrageous, unbelievably fast supercar with a huge price tag to match--this year, it's also a convertible.

The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren gets its interstellar power from a big V-8 displacing 5.4 liters. Horsepower peaks at 617, as does the sound and fury that comes when it's pushed. Coupled to AMG's Speedshift R five-speed automatic transmission, the roadster hits 62 mph from a standing start in 3.8 seconds. Top speed is a claimed 207 mph, and fuel economy is suitably dismal at 12/16 mpg.

The shape is something like a wasp-waisted Mercedes version of the Corvette, and that's no backhand compliment. It's beautifully executed in person, though the interior is a bit of a letdown. There's the cool Start button hidden under a perforated cover--but the SLR's gauges could have come out of the much cheaper Benz SLK. If you're spending $400,000, you want more than just the basic tach, speedo, water temp, and fuel gauges.
The newly added roadster version has a fully retractable roof, designed to blend with the SLR's smooth body. To open the roof, you must unlock it from the windshield frame, after which it folds away automatically. The semi-automatic roof will open or close in 10 seconds.

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The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR handles with the extreme precision required from a car that can shoot past 200 mph. On smooth surfaces, the SLR is almost glued to the road, tracking absolutely on-center with precise steering. Above 140 mph, it feels lighter and lighter, requiring more attention and correction.

Standard equipment includes leather-upholstered carbon-fiber bucket seats, dual-zone air conditioning, and a Bose premium sound system with integrated navigation system. There are also front, side, and knee airbags, as well as seatbelt tensioners and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

Styling

If ever there were a car that looked like it cost close to a half-million dollars, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is it.

When it comes to head-turning, jaw-dropping style, there are only a few cars that seem to top everyone's list. One such vehicle is the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster, a new convertible version of Mercedes-Benz's resident supercar.

The exterior of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster is like no other car on the road today, combining futuristic looks with stylistic throwbacks to the great Mercedes-Benz and McLaren racecars of the past. Edmunds raves about the exterior of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, finding it "sleek and stylish," especially on what Popular Mechanics calls the "soft-topped roadster version" of the "long-nosed, hyperexotic SLR McLaren."

In a nod to the SLR nameplate's rich history, the designers at Mercedes-Benz and McLaren have molded the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren to resemble Mercedes's "famed Silver Arrow F1 racer," and this Mercedes-Benz 2008 also "shares a passing resemblance with the Mercedes SL-Class," according to ForbesAutos. One distinct feature of the new Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren roadster is what Automobile calls "scissor-style doors." Those doors have become something of a Mercedes-Benz trademark, and the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren seems even more exotic when they open, swinging out and upward away from the car's body.

Inside the meticulously sculpted bodywork of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, occupants will find what Automobile calls a "sybaritic cockpit." Edmunds also approves of the interior styling on this Mercedes-Benz 2008 version, praising the "staid, definitively German cabin adorned in leather carbon fiber and aluminum. The centerpiece of the interior is an engine starter button hidden beneath a flip-up cover on the gearlever." The clean layout and uncluttered center gauges, along with a judicious amount of carbon fiber, complete the 2008 SLR McLaren's interior, which Edmunds describes simply as "tasteful."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

Performance

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is blazingly fast, has sharp handling, and boasts virtually unmatched stopping ability.

Individually, both the Mercedes-Benz and McLaren nameplates are invariably associated with some of the highest-performance cars on the planet. When the two joined forces to produce the original Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, it seemed inevitable that it would immediately vault to the front of the pack in terms of high-performance production cars, and the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren didn't disappoint. Despite adding a few pounds in roadster trim to the Mercedes-Benz, 2008’s version of the SLR McLaren continues the performance tradition established by its predecessors.

When it comes to performance, most cars seem to favor either speed or handling, but only a small number manage to excel in both aspects. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is one of those select few, combining "eyeball flattening" acceleration, "abundant" grip, and "mongoose quick" responses into one stylish package, according to Car and Driver. In road tests, Popular Mechanics reviewers "were quite frankly blown away by the neck-snapping acceleration," while ForbesAutos finds the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren features "blazing acceleration," thanks to its "AMG-supplied supercharged 5.5-liter V8 that generates more than 600 horsepower." Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com similarly lauded the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren's big, supercharged V-8 engine and the supercar performance it allows. Edmunds says the standard automatic transmission features "steering-wheel-mounted buttons" for manual shifts, should the driver choose to take over from the car's computers. That transmission on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLR features "three programs (Comfort, Sport and Manual) with different shift characteristics," according to reviewers at Cars.com.

While those who are willing to part with upward of $400,000 for a car rarely worry about such trivial things as fuel economy, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is not for the environmentally conscious. On the road, the car burns through fuel at a rapid pace, and Edmunds says that EPA estimates for the SLR McLaren, "should one worry about such things, are 12 mpg city and 16 mpg highway."

On twisting and turning roads, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is just as much at home as it is on the wide-open Autobahn. Popular Mechanics feels that "the steering is very quick and nicely weighted" on the 2008 SLR McLaren, and the stiff carbon body provides excellent stability. However, reviewers at Edmunds disagree, writing that the "exaggerated dimensions make for cumbersome maneuvering." One performance feature that unanimously receives high marks from reviewers is the stopping ability of the SLR McLaren. Edmunds writes that the 2008 SLR McLaren features "carbon ceramic brakes" that "are capable of stopping the car from 62 mph in 114 feet." Adding to the stopping power of the big SLR is an airbrake on the rear that Popular Mechanics says "pops up at an angle of 65 degrees to put pressure on the rear tires in emergency braking."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren delivers high quality, but nothing extraordinary in terms of comfort.

If there is one area where faults appear on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, it's in the comfort and quality section. To put it simply, it's nearly impossible to live up to the expectations that accompany a $400,000-plus price tag in this category.

In terms of interior comfort for the two occupants of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Popular Mechanics appreciates that "the cockpit is all leather and carbon fiber" but also finds that "unfortunately, interior space and the bucket seats...are not suited for very tall drivers." Speaking of those seats in the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Edmunds finds them to be "very supportive, but [they] lack the adjustability most drivers expect." Headroom can be made virtually unlimited by removing the top on the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, though as mentioned earlier, some reviewers find that tall drivers may have some difficulty on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 with the top up. ForbesAutos also notes that "getting in and out of the SLR McLaren Roadster can be a problem for all but the most limber enthusiasts (it's much easier with the top down)."

When it comes to storage space, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is obviously not the car to use for a Costco trip or IKEA shopping spree, though Cars.com does list "Full floor console with covered box," "Mini overhead console," and "Interior concealed storage" as standard. Car and Driver raves about the "generous trunk space compared with other cars of the genre" and "the three interior storage compartments." Edmunds, however, says that with "only 7.2 cubic feet of trunk space, don't expect to fit two sets of golf clubs and luggage for a trip to Pebble Beach."

As far as other interior quality elements go, Edmunds loves the "Alcantara suede" seats, but they don't hesitate to point out that the interior "feels too much like a standard-issue Mercedes sedan." ForbesAutos reports that the "leather-trimmed carbon-fiber sport seats ...come with interchangeable pads for customized comfort" and that the range of "amenities includes dual-zone climate control." MyRide.com notes the lack of "fancy polished wood or chrome inside the SLR"; instead, the "very sporty interior" of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is "mostly black, with brushed finishes on most of the metallic pieces that don't flare back into your eyes in bright sunlight with the top down." They say the interior is "put together perfectly, with the accent on delivering necessary data to the driver as quickly and clearly as possible through two central instrument pods up high on the dash panel."

On the road, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren suffers from the age-old convertible drawback of excessive road noise. Edmunds says that "road noise can be intrusive," but Motor Trend finds that "at U.S. cruising speeds, the open cabin was quiet enough to enjoy the Bose stereo." While this may be true when driving at a constant cruising speed, as soon as the engine begins to spool up, drivers and passengers are more likely to hear "the basso profundo of the sidepipes or the supercharger's shrill shrieks" than tunes from the sound system.

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

Safety

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster is designed to withstand crashes at even the top end of its speed envelope, but no independent testing has been done.

Racecars are designed to run long distances at very high speeds, but automakers know that high-speed races mean high-speed crashes. To protect their valuable drivers, racecar manufacturers incorporate some of the most advanced safety features in their designs, and many of these have found their way into the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have not performed crash tests on the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, reviewers expect that, in the event of a crash in this Mercedes-Benz, 2008’s SLR will perform well.

Unlike most cars, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren's body is made almost completely of carbon fiber. Popular Mechanics notes that this is "the same kind of lightweight, high-strength, carbon-fiber technology as the Formula One race cars" that McLaren builds. Edmunds feels that this construction on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 "promises a very high level of occupant protection," and ForbesAutos thinks the carbon fiber body will "afford exceptional energy absorption in a collision." In a further testament to the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren's safety credentials, when AMG executive Wolf Zimmermann claimed that "the SLR is the safest roadster in the world," Automobile finds "no reason to doubt his assertion."

For the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster, Mercedes has built steel bars into the vehicle's A-pillars, along with a pair of fixed rollover bars. Edmunds finds that "other standard safety features include side and side curtain airbags, knee-protecting airbags, TeleAid, stability control, traction control and carbon ceramic antilock brakes." Hurting overall safety and drivability on the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is the "limited" rear visibility, thanks to the "high rear deck," which becomes "nearly nonexistent when braking at higher speeds when the spoiler deploys upward," according to reviewers at the San Francisco Chronicle. Motor Trend also complains that "Apexes are obscured by the hefty A-pillars."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

Features

Customization is not one of the hallmarks of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, but its features are ample enough.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren doesn't offer much in the way of optional features, but it does boast a respectable number of standard features.

About the only choices that prospective Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren owners have to make when purchasing their new Mercedes-Benz 2008 is what colors they want for the interior and cloth top. Other than that, everything else on the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is standard. Edmunds lists those standard features as including "bi-xenon HID headlights, 19-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport tires...carbon fiber sport seats," and "a Bose surround-sound system with a trunk-mounted six-CD changer." Rounding out the features list for the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren are the "five-speed automatic transmission" and "carbon-fiber sport seats which come with interchangeable pads for customized comfort," as mentioned by ForbesAutos. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com also frequently mentioned the dual-zone climate control on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 as one of the best-liked features.

New for 2008, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster offers a retractable soft top. Edmunds notes that "unlike Mercedes' SLK and SL roadsters, the SLR features a semiautomatic soft top." While that top folds neatly away in about 10 seconds, many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com disapproved of the need to manually unlatch the roof of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren before the automatic folding could take place. This top nicely complements the car's styling, but as mentioned earlier, some reviewers find fault with its execution.

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8.6
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 9
Performance 10
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 9
Features 8
Fuel Economy N/A
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