Mercedes McLaren SLR Speedster (2009): spyshots

Published: 12 August 2008

The SLR is going out with a bang – this radical stripped-out Speedster version is the swan song for the fraught McLaren Mercedes collaboration. And it’s some farewell model – based on the hardcore 722 version, the Speedster is lighter and harder, delivering white-knuckle 200mph performance. And at around £600,000 plus local taxes, it’s rather dear too, with only 75 mooted for production.

Is that tiny screen all you get to protect you from the elements in the Mercedes SLR Speedster?

Yes, in a word. Full-face helmets will be mandatory for the Speedster’s well-heeled owners. We say Speedster, but beyond its internal codename of Z199, Mercedes has yet to name the two-seater. Unlike the standard SLR and 722 variant, the Z199 will be stripped back to its basics. Ditching the front and rear screen, wing mirrors, climate control and electric seats is expected to shave a healthy 200kg off the car’s kerb weight.

Won't decapitating the car turn it into a fast-moving blancmange?

Because the chassis is underpinned by an ultra-stiff carbonfibre cradle, lopping off the roof – another handy bit of weight saving  - won't have any impact on the car’s structural rigidity. To protect your noggin in the event of a rollover, the Speedster is fitted with trademark roll hoops and double-humps – themselves reminiscent of the streamlined Silver Arrows that Mercedes raced in the 1930s and again in the 1950s. And that trio of tiny rear-view mirrors suspended on stalks is pure Can-Am…

Click 'Next' below to read more about the Mercedes McLaren SLR Speedster

Let’s talk about performance

There’s plenty of it – the Mercedes’ 5.5-litre supercharged V8 develops 650bhp at 6500rpm and 605lb ft at 4000rpm – the same as it does in the hardcore 722 variant. But an estimated 1525kg kerb weight should see the Speedster hit 60mph in just 3.5 seconds (3.8 seconds in the 722) and push through its close ratio five-speed paddle-shift transmission onto a faintly ludicrous 217mph (209mph for the 722). Expect in-gear go to be eyeball flattening, with the heavily revised steering and suspension finally delivering the level of driver engagement missing from the 722.

Should I be phoning my local dealer now?

There’s no word on the car’s arrival – this rough-and ready test car was snapped at the Nürburgring earlier this week – but our sources claim we should see the finished product before the end of the year, which hints at a Paris motor show debut come October.

What do you think of the Mercedes McLaren SLR Speedster? Will it finally make the SLR decent to drive? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say.

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars

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