Used 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
Edmunds' Expert Review
Is it a highly capable grand touring car or a super-luxurious sports car? Once you pass 200 mph, does it matter?
Even though the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is entering its third year of production, don't be surprised if you haven't seen one yet. Priced at close to half a million dollars, the car isn't exactly accessible to the average buyer. Nor has Mercedes been moving a whole lot -- only about 350 had been sold in the U.S. as of the end of the 2006 model year.
So what's the plan for the 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren? Make it even more exclusive! For 2007, the SLR gains a new 722 Edition moniker. Any guess as to what this year's "722 Edition" addition to the name means? Horsepower? Torque? Top speed, maybe? No, no and no. As any Benz buff worth his three-pointed-star polo shirt will tell you, it refers to the 7:22 a.m. starting time assigned to the original Mercedes-Benz SLR racecar for the 1955 Mille Miglia road race. The SLR won, of course (hence this celebration half a century later), driven by race legend Stirling Moss.
Compared to last year's SLR, the 722 Edition upgrades with 24 more horsepower, larger brakes, an adjustable rear spoiler, firmer suspension dampers, a 10mm-lower ride height, a carbon-fiber front splitter, carbon-fiber seats and cockpit trim, red accents (including seatbelts, stitching and instrument faces) and "722" badges and embroidery.
The rest of the car is pretty much as it's been since inception. With this being Mercedes' performance flagship, no expense was spared in its development and production. A joint venture with McLaren (Mercedes' Formula One partner), the SLR boasts extensive use of light but strong materials, such as carbon fiber and aluminum, in its construction. Still, at nearly 3,800 pounds, this ain't no Lotus. Actually, the SLR is more of a GT than a hard-edged sports car, though it is still capable of performance that can shame many of the latter.
The SLR's long-nose styling seems, and perhaps is, exaggerated. But there's a reason for that big schnoz: The engine is located behind the front axle for optimum weight distribution. And what an engine! Developed with AMG, the 5.4-liter supercharged aluminum V8 delivers well over 600 hp and allows the SLR to hit a top speed of over 200 mph. Keeping all that kinetic potential in check is a massive braking system that consists of ceramic rotors fitted with eight-piston front calipers and four-piston rear calipers. In a nod to the old racecar, the SLR McLaren also boasts a rear deck-mounted airbrake that automatically deploys under hard braking conditions.
In the quarter-mil-and-up price range, the 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren 722 Edition effectively splits the difference between grand tourers (such as the Aston Martin Vanquish and Ferrari 612 Scaglietti) and pure performance machines like the Lamborghini Murciélago. On one hand, this means stronger performance than the Aston and Ferrari and more amenities and features than the Lambo. However, serious driving enthusiasts will find the lack of a true manual-transmission option unforgivable, whereas those expecting a quiet ride will be unpleasantly surprised at the amount of wind and road noise that infiltrates the cabin, even at moderate speeds.
With only two dozen 722 Editions coming to the states, we doubt that any of the preceding is going to sway potential buyers one way or the other. But were we lucky enough to be in a position to be making such purchase decisions, Ferrari's new 599 Fiorano would seem to be a less expensive and more enjoyable choice for a dual-purpose exotic.
2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren configurations
The 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR 722 Edition is an exotic two-seat performance coupe. Standard features include bi-xenon HID headlights, 19-inch wheels with high-performance tires (255/35 in front and 295/30 in back), carbon-fiber sport seats wrapped in leather and Alcantara, real aluminum trim, a Bose surround-sound system with a six-CD changer, automatic dual-zone climate control and adaptive cruise control.
Performance & mpg
A supercharged 5.4-liter V8 sends a stupendous 641 hp and 605 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. A five-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shifting features manual-style shifting via steering-wheel-mounted paddles. According to Mercedes, the SLR McLaren 722 Edition can sprint to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds and top out at 209 mph.
Although no crash tests have been performed on the 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, its construction promises a very high level of occupant protection. Light yet extremely strong carbon fiber (the same material used for Formula One racecars) makes up a large percentage of the vehicle's structure. Other standard safety features include side and side curtain airbags, knee-protecting airbags, TeleAid, stability control and carbon-ceramic antilock brakes with brake assist.
The 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren delivers exactly the type of excitement one would expect of a half-million-dollar exotic built by a company known for technological prowess. Its sophisticated suspension, long wheelbase, low center of gravity and wide track provide stability and predictability under extreme driving conditions. At high speeds in long, sweeping corners and through rapid transitions, the SLR feels as buttoned down as any other exotic. Acceleration is explosive and strangely drama-free -- just stand on the throttle and go. The SLR's only real weak points come down to its excess road noise and electronic brakes that are difficult to modulate during normal driving.
Swing open the semi-gullwing doors (a nod to the 300 SLR racers of the 1950s) and a dramatic entry or exit is assured. Some car enthusiasts may be somewhat disappointed by the look of the interior, as it's similar to that of the less prestigious SL-Class. But the cockpit features simple controls and plenty of carbon fiber, aluminum and leather trim to provide the proper exotic car atmosphere.
The SLR's seats are unusual in that they don't provide much adjustment. Instead, Mercedes offers special upholstery modules to specifically tailor seat comfort for each individual owner. Out back, the SLR's trunk can swallow nearly 10 cubic feet of cargo, significantly better than the capacity of most other exotic sports cars.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
What do Paris Hilton and Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso have in common? Both have owned a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. Actually, Hilton handed hers back after a couple of "incidents."
This joint patronage of the Mercedes flagship strikes at the paradox at the heart of the 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster. For all Mercedes-Benz's talk of F1-derived technology, McLaren know-how and outrageous performance, the SLR has always been a different type of supercar than the Ferrari Enzo or Porsche Carrera GT. With its automatic transmission and all-around civility, the SLR has been perceived as a car for poseurs, not pole-sitters.
The new SLR Roadster invites further comparison to celebrity jewelry, but there's talk of subtle improvements beneath the new canvas convertible top. An uprated carbon-fiber monocoque promises open-air speed without the dreaded shakes, and different dampers are meant to improve the car's occasionally wayward handling.
Could it be that in its latest (and perhaps final) iteration, the 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster finally delivers a drive worthy of the McLaren badge?
Always a Vision of Top-Down Speed
The idea for an SLR Roadster is nothing new. When Mercedes first revealed the Vision SLR concept in 1999, it showed both a coupe and a roadster. The coupe appeared as a production car in 2003, the track-ready 722 model followed last year, and now the SLR Roadster goes on sale this fall. "We wanted to do the coupe first because we wanted to draw a clear association with the world of GT racecars," says Klaus Nesser, the man in charge of the SLR and Maybach vehicle programs.
Like the coupe, the Roadster remains true to the original concept. This is a source of pride, but also a clue to the car's early problems. The McLaren engineers freely admit that the show car's aerodynamics were awful. In order to create a car capable of 200 mph, they had to engineer a flat underbody culminating in a dramatic rear air diffuser and then add an active rear wing. Even then, the rear end of the car felt disturbingly light at very high speed.
For many SLR owners, such imperfections have been a small price to pay for a shape that is pure theater. The SLR has a sense of occasion that no modern Ferrari other than the Enzo can match. The SLR Roadster enhances the glamour with its sleek, roofless shape, as the electrically powered fabric top stows neatly behind the front seats, leaving intact the car's trademark scissor doors.
Once More With Feeling
The cabin is shared with the coupe, which is a mixed blessing. There's some nice detailing — the instruments look terrific and Mercedes must use supermodel cows for the leather — but too many of the plastics feel low-rent. The SLR flap that hides the stereo is naff and the CD-based satellite navigation system feels like a 1990s throwback. After all, you expect more for a half million dollars.
Cabin space is also tight. The carbon-fiber seats can be specified in several different sizes, but even if you find one to fit your derriere, anyone taller than 6 feet will want for legroom.
At least your luggage will be well catered to. Even with the convertible top folded down, there's a useful 7.1 cubic feet of trunk space — enough for a weekend away.
It's Got the Power
The protocol for starting the SLR's engine is straight out of a James Bond movie. You flick open the cover on top of the shift lever. Prod the starter button beneath and it glows red as 5.5 liters of supercharged V8 spring to life. Developed by AMG, this is one of the world's great engines.
A huge volume of air — more than 2 tons per hour, Mercedes tells us — is sucked through the three-pointed star on the front grille, compressed by the belt-driven supercharger and stuffed into the V8. The supercharger is mounted on an aluminum brace because the heat it produces would decompose a carbon-fiber piece.
The V8's output figures are otherworldly. The 617 horsepower at 6,500 rpm makes headlines, but let's not forget the 575 pound-feet of torque available from between 3,250 rpm and 5,000 rpm that really determines this car's character. This real-world power is what distinguishes the SLR from supercars such as the Ferrari 599 (448 lb-ft) and Lamborghini LP640 (486 lb-ft).
The mighty torque is also why the SLR works so well with an automatic transmission. Shared with the Maybach, this automatic requires just five widely spaced ratios to take this car from zero to 206 mph — a top speed just 1 mph less than that of the SLR coupe. The transmission has Sport and Comfort modes, and the shift paddles on the steering wheel do the work.
Power and Style
In some ways, the SLR is a throwback to a bygone age. The rich, melodic sound from the quartet of side pipes recalls an old Can-Am racecar. You find yourself playing the throttle like a musical instrument, thrilled as the engine revs melodically rise and fall.
Of course, the SLR Roadster is brutally quick. Mercedes claims 0-62 mph (100 kph) in 3.8 seconds and 124 mph (200 kph) in just 10.9 seconds, and you can achieve them just by extending your right boot and hanging on. On an unrestricted but busy autobahn, we briefly saw 186 mph, and the Roadster accelerated above 100 mph much like a Porsche 911 does between 50 and 100.
With the top down, the Roadster is also remarkably civilized. A tiny screen between the seats helps minimize the buffeting and the cockpit is not uncomfortable, even at three-figure speeds. To compensate for the structural rigidity lost with the roof, Mercedes added another layer of carbon (it's now tri-axial) to the tub. The result is a car with almost no scuttle shake, even on bumpy surfaces.
Driving the Blitzen Benz
Yet for a true driving enthusiast, the SLR is still something of a disappointment. There is nothing wrong with the stopping power of the brake system's ceramic discs, but there's little pedal feel, and it seems as if you are pushing against an artificially weighted brake booster. As a result, it's difficult to modulate braking effort — a key concern in a car this fast.
There's plenty of mechanical chatter through the steering, but it tells you little about what the front wheels are up to. It is also too reactive. Instead of making single, measured inputs, you find yourself instinctively making lots of little corrections throughout a turn. We've driven almost 3,000 miles in various SLRs, and the steering still undermines our confidence.
Since the SLR's introduction in 2003, Mercedes has replaced the original Bilstein dampers with Koni units in a bid to improve the car's high-speed stability, and there is an improvement. But although the SLR has a surprisingly cosseting ride for such a sharply focused performance car, the balance between comfort and command still isn't right, perhaps because 200-mph capability compromises feel and sensitivity.
Poseurs, Not Pole-Sitters?
It's no secret that the relationship between McLaren and Mercedes was strained during the development of the SLR. McLaren's desire for ultimate performance didn't prove perfectly compatible with Mercedes' insistence on civility, safety and practicality. Significantly, no member of the McLaren team was present at the introduction of the 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR Roadster.
For a car that's likely to cost $500,000, the SLR Roadster is too compromised. A Porsche 911 Carrera is a more satisfying drive, and a Ferrari 599 is in a different league. But we suspect that for the 1,100 or so people who've already bought an SLR, the subtleties of steering and braking feel don't matter a jot.
For drivers like these, the Roadster will simply enhance the SLR's appeal as one of the most spectacular, theatrical cars of this or any other generation.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Overview
The Used 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is offered in the following submodels: SLR McLaren Coupe. Available styles include 722 Edition 2dr Coupe (5.4L 8cyl S/C 5A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.