Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster (2007): first official pictures

Published: 04 May 2007

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster: that's quite a mouthful

It certainly is. But then this is no normal car. Let's call it the SLR, for brevity's sake - and this new roadster derivative is designed to inject Merc's exclusive, low-volume range-topper with a new lease of life after three years on sale. The engineers at Mercedes and McLaren didn't merely take a tin-opener to the SLR's carbonfibre bodyshell. SLR stands for Super-Leicht, Rennsport (super-light, racing), and that philosophy has continued with the Roadster, whose roof is made from yet more carbonfibre.

Go on, whet my appetite. What are the technical highlights?

This car is based on the standard SLR, not the limited-edition 722, so it boasts merely 617bhp from its supercharged V8, not the full-blown, upgraded 650bhp. That's enough to propel it instantly towards the top of the rapid roadster brigade, with a maximum speed of 207mph. As if any owners will actually get anywhere near that in typical use. Mercedes counters that its bespoke engineering is important here; of course your typical buyer isn't going to drive three-and-a-half miles a minute, but if you've spent £350,000 on an open-top version of a super coupe you don't want to surrender a single mile per hour, thank you very much. With its composite roof, the SLR's body is made almost totally from carbonfibre reinforced plastic; two of the body frames are aluminium, but the rest of the monocoque is composite. Result? Light weight and wobble-free strength are claimed.

So there's still the same SLR qualities? Sledgehammer speed and a slightly soulless character?

We haven't driven the SLR Roadster yet, so we'll have to reserve judgment for a few more weeks yet. But there's little to suggest the Roadster will vary enormously from its hard-top brethren. It should be a stiff structure though, so we expect it to be more rigid than some open-top ultra-expensive convertibles. That roof is available in three colours and Mercedes claims to have marshalled the airstream to guarantee normal conversation is possible at speeds up to 125mph. Handy for the high-speed dash to the French Riviera. Surprisingly, roof operation isn't fully automatic. Yes - this car is set to cost £350,000, but you'll have to unlock the roof from the header rail and lift it slightly (by hand!) at which point electric motors take over. It then flops elegantly out of sight under an aluminium roof cover in less than 10sec.

Does it lose anything over the SLR coupe?

Not really. You still get the sexy side-exit exhausts, and the airbrake function is cleverly retained, despite the addition of a bulky folding roof mechanism. Speaking of brakes, the discs are carbon ceramic, which is handy to rein in the AMG engine. We know from our drives in the coupe that this V8 is brutal, with a neck-snapping 575lb ft of torque available. Which helps explain the 3.8sec blast to 62mph. There is a useful amount of extra security built in, too. The A-pillars are reinforced with steel, and there are two fixed rollover hoops behind the seats. Airbags for most parts of the body, including the knees, are standard fit, as are the usual niceties for three hundred grand (carbonfibre seats, gadgets galore). Naturally, the SLR is built at the Woking McLaren factory in England, and the first customer cars will arrive in September. The company has already built more than 1000 SLRs and the Roadster will doubtless expand sales in this uber-expensive elite market segment accordingly.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet