It was presented at the Detroit Auto Show in January 1999 as “Tomorrow’s Silver Arrow”. The concept was converted into Mercedes SLR McLaren and joined series production in 2004.
In January 1999, Mercedes presented the Vision SLR at the Detroit Auto Show as “Tomorrow’s Silver Arrow”. Designed as a Gran Turismo for the 21 st century, the Vision SLR imbeds design elements from the Silver Arrow Formula 1 race cars of those times and from the SLR sport cars of the 1950s.
The front part with the V-shaped nose and the clear twin-airfoil design – an element which was also repeated in other points in the body and in the interior – was inspired by the Formula 1 race cars. The long and extended bonnet, the gullwing doors and the powerfully sculpted fenders are reminiscents of the design ideas of the legendary SL models of the 1950s and their SLR racing versions.
The chassis was made of fibre composites and aluminium, which save 40% of the weight compared with a conventional steel designs. Mercedes also introduced the Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC), an electrohydraulic brake system which would make its debut later on, in the SL (R230) in 2001 and bi-xenon headlamps with Active Light System, which started in the E-Class (W211) in 2003. If the Active Light System was a huge success, the Sensotronic Brake Control was not reliable and Mercedes took the system out the series production. The final series production of the Vision SLR used a classical brake system with fibre reinforced ceramics discs.
The Vision SLR was powered by the AMG 5.5 litre V8 engine supercharged with a mechanical compressor, which delivered 557 HP and 720 Nm at 4,000 rpm, meanwhile the 580 Nm were already available from 2,000 rpm. The engine was mated with a 5-speed automatic gearbox with Touchshift control. Vision SLR races from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds and reaches a maximum speed 320 km/h.
Later, at the Frankfurt motorshow in the autumn of 1999, Mercedes also presented the Vision SLR roadster, which featured a textile roof and classic doors.
To industrialize the concept, Mercedes decided to close a deal with McLaren, which was a partner of Mercedes-Benz at that time, in Formula 1.
But Mclaren and Mercedes-Benz are two completely different worlds and completely different cultures. Mercedes wanted a sport car which must respect traditional Mercedes requirements regarding safety and comfort. On the other hand, McLaren wanted a pure sports car. In the end, the result was not a hypersports car, but a powerful Gran Turismo, with a comfortable rear suspension and a front sports suspension. The series production engine delivered 626 HP/6,500 rpm and 780 Nm between 3,250 and 5,000 rpm.
The car joined production in 2004, for a price of around 450,000 euros ,almost the same as the Porsche Carrera GT, which was released at the same time. Mercedes and Mclaren planned to sell 3,500 units – 500 units each, along 7 years. But even including the roadster version and also the special versions, the final production figures did not meet the original plans. But despite this situation, Mercedes SLR McLaren remains the best selling hypercar in history.
After ceasing production in 2009 and stopping the cooperation with Mclaren, Mercedes decided to go on its own and to give the freedom to its AMG division to develop its own cars.
In 2009, Mercedes-AMG presented the SLS AMG, the first own designed car by AMG, which cost less than half of the price of the SLR McLaren, despite ther fact that the SLS AMG preserved the expensive to produce gullwing doors. With 189,000 euro, the SLS AMG was a bargain compared with the SLR. And it was very successful, as Mercedes managed to sell almost 6,000 units together with the roadster version with textile roof and classical doors in the whole lifecycle.