Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sorting Out the Mercedes SLR McLaren

Not many Mercedes-Benz SLR McLarens were built, so they are seldom seen.  However, I am drafting this post (for later publication) in the Palm Springs area of California and earlier today found myself behind a car just like the one pictured above while driving through the posh town of Indian Wells.

The SLR McLaren looked impressive, but when it was first announced in 2003, I didn't like what I saw in photos.  So now it seems to be time to sort out my impressions.


This illustrates the SLR's heritage.  In the background is a 1955 vintage 300 SLR that served as styling inspiration for the 1999 Vision SLR concept cars shown in the foreground that preview the 2003 production SLR McLarens.  The dominant similarities are the long hood and the air outlets aft of the front wheel openings.

The original SLRs featured gull-wing doors that became a design fad for a number of later sports cars by other makers.

The SLR's pivoting door arrangement.  Not gull-wing, but not conventional practice either.

Profile view showing that the hood / nose takes up about two-fifths of the car's length.

Front three-quarter view showing the awkwardness of the detailing due to the inclusion of too many elements.  Actually, an effort seems to have been made to tie things together.  Note that the splitter bar in the upper grille opening aligns with the hood cut line on the front fender.  The fold-line of the front bumper aligns with the lower horizontal splitter that runs across the side louvers. The crease above the rear wheel opening touches the V of the tail light assembly.  The curve at the front of the heat exhaust zone on the front fender is echoed by the aft door cut line.

Despite these efforts, there are problems such as the curve above the front wheel opening that relates poorly to nearby detailing.  The side window aft of the door is awkwardly shaped.  The splitters over the main air intake echo the shapes at the edges of the intake, but do not relate to the rest of the front ensemble.  Also note the detail confusion in the image of the car's rear in the photo at the top of this post: the theme is curves, but they clash as much as they relate.

Front view.  The snout containing the Mercedes star looks tacked on, gratuitous.  There seem to be too many circular and oval elements: I count 15.

As noted above, the SLR McLaren was impressive when seen in person.  That probably had to do with its size and length of the hood.  Nevertheless, a hard look at styling details suggests that the car could have been improved through reducing visual clutter.  Not stripping away all ornamentation, mind you -- just dealing with it more judiciously.

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