Written by Eric Becker
A drive from the English town of Woking to the German city of Stuttgart takes roughly 10 hours. Selecting the right car for the 590-mile journey is a bit tricky. There are plenty of cars more than capable of taking you the distance in speed and style, even more that offer a luxurious embrace. But what about both? Sure, there are dozens of options but, there’s really only one correct answer: the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. A car described by its designer, the great Gordon Murray, as “a long-distance continental cruncher.” Later, legendary racing driver and motoring presenter Tiff Needell would pronounce the SLR as “defining a new category,” the Super Tourer.
The “McMerc,” as it affectionately became known, began life as the 1999 Mercedes Vision SLR Concept. The concept was an homage to the history of Mercedes’ mid-50s Silver Arrow, the W196 300SLR racer piloted by Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. Aware of the gravitas the SLR name carried, Mercedes tapped their Formula 1 partner McLaren. With F1 ace Gordon Murray overseeing the project, the SLR quickly evolved into a world-beating performer, able to cruise to the circuit in style and comfort, effortlessly keeping pace with its rivals – the Ferrari Enzo and Porsche Carrera GT – besting them in civility and practicality on the drive home.
Offered at the Barrett-Jackson 2020 Fall Auction with No Reserve is this 2006 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. One of only 2,157 produced over the six-year production run, this SLR is rarer still as a 2006 example, of which only 261 exist. In true Silver Arrow fashion, the Super Tourer is finished in the brilliant metallic hue of Crystal Laurite Silver, with the aptly named 300SL Red leather interior contrasting wonderfully and mimicking the race cars of the ’50s.
The unmistakable profile of the SLR makes for a wonderful addition to any collection of modern supercars. Even when stationary, the SLR’s curves and contours make it look as if it was tearing through the air at full tilt. The long, pronounced hood and raked rear end radiate presence, enough to captivate the eye for hours. The wedge-shaped profile helps reduce aerodynamic lift at the rear, and the entirety of the car’s belly is flat to help carve through the air with ease.
The front-mid-engine layout places the cabin just ahead of the rear axle- with the engine sitting well behind the front wheels. This gives the SLR incredible balance and near perfect (49:51) weight distribution. Packaged neatly in the carbon-fiber monocoque chassis is all the various and assorted luxury trimmings you’d expect from Stuttgart. Power seats, a seven-speaker Bose sound system, electric mirrors and door locks, climate control and wonderfully theatrical “start engine” button perched atop the gear lever. And then, of course, there’s the engine itself.
During development there was a bit of an argument between McLaren and Mercedes on what the supercharged 5.4-liter V8 sounded like. To the Germans it was like a Messerschmitt; to the British, a Supermarine Spitfire. To the rest of the world it sounds like 575 ft/lbs of weapons-grade twist.
The hand-assembled 617hp AMG V8 is fed via a Lysholm twin-screw supercharger nestled low in the valley between the cylinder banks to help centralize the mass, and the 5-speed automatic was strengthened to handle the surge of torque. The signature side-exit exhausts are a deliberate nod to the famous SLR racers of the ’50s. The butterfly-doored Super Tourer is all about ferocious speed and brutal acceleration. Open the taps and you’ll disappear into the horizon, pinned to the carbon-fiber bucket seats as you rip from 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds through to a top speed of 208 mph. Shedding speed is a non-issue, as eight-piston carbon-ceramic brakes will bring you to a screeching halt along with the deployment of the rear airbrake.
Powered by Stuttgart and built by Woking, the SLR boasts engineering so meticulous that even the windshield wipers function flawlessly at 200 mph. Two of the most well-regarded manufacturers in motoring history came together to build the ultimate in this Tourer. The SLR sits poised, ready to devour the open road and show the winning bidder just what the first-ever Super Tourer can do. Bid well.