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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster Preview

2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2007
Critical Knowledge:
  • First convertible version of the SLR McLaren

  • Built with a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis

  • Structural rigidity is unchanged from the coupe

  • Seats are leather-clad carbon-fiber buckets

  • Supercharged V8 engine is rated at 626 hp

  • Mercedes-Benz claims a 0 to 62 time of about 3.8 seconds

  • Top speed is an estimated 208 mph, the same as the coupe

  • The rear spoiler doubles as an "airbrake" at speed

  • North American sales start in 2008

Introduction
The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster is the result of a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and its Formula 1 partner, McLaren. Inspired by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR of 1955, the first SLR was a coupe introduced as a 2005 model. Offering exotic looks, build materials, and powerplant (with a price to match), the SLR quickly vaulted to the top tier of the exotic sport/GT class. For 2008, the SLR's roof can be replaced with a folding convertible soft top-without any reported loss in structural rigidity-to create the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster.









Model Lineup
The SLR Roadster is based on the SLR Coupe, a vehicle that blends motor racing technology with the touring capabilities of a classic gran turismo car. Identical to the Coupe except for the removal of the roof, the Roadster shares a supercharged AMG V8 rated at 626 hp (at this time, the Roadster is not being offered with the 650 hp engine found in the SLR McLaren "722 Edition").

Striking in appearance, the SLR Roadster follows the stylistic elements of many great historical racing cars, including the Formula 1 Silver Arrow. The lightweight, but extraordinarily strong, carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) body has distinctive lateral louvers, side pipes behind the front doors, and wide-opening gull wing doors. The most prominent feature is an arrow-shaped contour that flows down the hood to enclose the Mercedes star at the nose. Small wings, between the headlights, reinforce the racing heritage-a theme that continues throughout the Roadster.


The SLR McLaren Roadster's top is cloth, with aluminum structural reinforcements. It opens and closes semi-automatically in less than ten seconds. Inside the richly finished interior the classic retro-racing theme continues. The dashboard and center console are simple in design, and devoid of large digital displays. Prominent instrumentation is analog, with large round dials comprising the main instrument cluster. The twin leather-upholstered carbon-fiber seats can be adapted to the anatomy of the driver with special cushions and padding. Standard dual-zone climate control, GPS navigation, and a sport steering wheel complete the package.

Hardware
The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster's platform is traditional front engine, rear-wheel drive. However, the similarities with nearly all other road going vehicles ends there. A powerful 5.5L V8 is nestled in the front of a carbon-fiber monocoque chassis (the only pieces of metal in the body are two aluminum engine frames). The rated output is 626 hp, thanks in part to a screw-type supercharger and two intercoolers. Torque is massive, with nearly 575 lb.-ft. available from just 3,250 rpm. Power is transferred through a 5-speed automatic transmission, equipped with three shift modes, while Acceleration Skid Control (ASR) keeps everything pointing straight ahead. Mercedes-Benz claims a 0 to 62 run takes just 3.8 seconds. Top speed, with the cloth top up, is drag limited to nearly 208 mph.

Suspension is a race-derived double-wishbone design both front and rear. Suspension arms are cast, or forged, in aluminum for strength and light weight. To preserve the aerodynamics under the vehicle (critical for a car capable of exceeding 200 mph), the anti-roll bar has been positioned above the front axle, as is common in a Formula 1 car. With race-like negative camber under most driving conditions, and a relatively long wheelbase, the handling and ride are said to be exemplary. Braking is done by an electrohydraulic system comprised of multi-piston calipers and fade-resistant ceramic brake discs. Complementing the brakes is the pop-up rear spoiler, often referred to as the "airbrake." It is designed to rise to a 65-degree angle during deceleration from high speeds. Standard wheels are 18-inches in diameter, with "turbine design" 19-inch wheels optional.

Safety
Carbon-fiber reinforced plastic is an amazingly strong composite with an impact absorption capacity nearly five times higher than metallic materials. As the SLR McLaren Roadster has a monocoque chassis built nearly entirely of this exotic material, its rigidity and crash safety are of the highest order. As a convertible, the roadster is equipped with high-strength steel tube reinforcements in the A-pillar, and fixed rollover bars behind the passenger seats. In the SLR Roadster, the occupants are offered the utmost level of protection even in the event of a rollover.

Driver and passenger are also protected by six supplemental restraint airbags, seat belt pretensioners with roll-over protection, and belt force limiters. The front airbags (accompanied by single-stage knee airbags) deploy from the steering wheel and dashboard in two stages, based on the severity of the impact. The side airbags are labeled "head/thorax bags" as they are designed to inflate up from the armrest and prevent the head from hitting a window or any penetrating object. The front passenger seat is equipped with an "automatic child seat recognition system" that can deactivate the front passenger airbag when used with a special Mercedes-Benz child seat.


Technology
While an enthusiast cannot help but be impressed by the advanced components in the SLR McLaren Roadster's chassis and engine, the technology does not stop there. Inside, passengers are pampered with the Audio 30 APS (a navigation system with integral radio, CD player, and GSM telephone) playing through a Bose sound system. To prevent theft, the standard ELCODE locking system offers an electronic immobilizer in conjunction with an infrared/radio-frequency remote control. Lighting is high-tech, too: dash illumination is automatically controlled based on ambient light, and the start button (discreetly hidden on the shift knob) glows red when the key is inserted into the ignition.

More information on the 2008 Mercedes SLR McLaren Convertible
Ratings and details for all Mercedes models
Read More Previews
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