The SLR McLaren's hood is disproportionately long, a by-product of the front mid-engine layout of the powertrain. The grille, ducts and gills - all necessary to cool the supercharged, 5.4-litre V8 and the carbon-fibre-reinforced ceramic brakes - disrupt its flowing lines, but while a somewhat extravagant piece of automotive sculpture, it is undeniably a mechanical force of nature to be admired desired and respected.
The SLR leaps at the touch of the throttle in a manner that is totally at odds with any other Mercedes product. This "Gran Turismo for the 21st century," as Mercedes calls it, full blown, AMG-built V8, pounds out 626 horsepower, which launches the SLR from 0 to 62 mph in 3.8 seconds on its way to a stratospheric top end of 208 mph.
Made largely from carbon-fibre composite of the type used in Formula One race cars, the SLR is reasonably light-weight yet extremely rigid. This rigidity helps it corner at speeds that would put many other cars amongst the grasshoppers with infinitesimal body roll and offers unparalleled crash protection. It also contributes a pretty unforgiving ride as a long-distance tourer - unless the roads are billiard-table smooth.
All AMG-built engines are mated to automatic transmissions and the SLR McLaren is no exception, though the five-speed box is beefed up to handle the motor's massive torque. Designed for ultra-high performance, it provides a choice of three programs with different shift characteristics. When "manual" is selected, the five gears can either be shifted using buttons on the steering wheel or by using the selector lever's 'Touchshift' function. In this mode, three shift stages - Sport, SuperSport and Race - can be selected via a rotary knob on the centre stack, shortening the shift times still further.
The fibre-reinforced ceramic brakes, which offer high fade resistance and a very long life, require a heavy foot and squeal under light application.
Additionally, there is a really trick adaptive rear spoiler that provides additional downforce.
From a speed of 60 mph, it automatically adopts a 10-degree position, increasing the contact pressure at the rear axle whilst doubling as an air brake. When braking heavily, it rises to an angle of 65 degrees, increasing aerodynamic drag and also shifting the aerodynamic centre further toward the rear.
Whether buying one for speculation, collection, ego, status or simply desiring to own a rare piece of race-bred, road-going technology, owners will find the SLR a car of overwhelming dynamism. There is currently, however, a three year waiting list to purchase the car.