2023 Bull Market Pick: 2004–10 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
Welcome back to the Hagerty Bull Market List, our annual deep dive into the collector cars (and bikes) climbing the value ranks. This vehicle is one of 11 chosen for the 2023 installment of the List. To see the other 10, click here.
This car had an ugly birth. In the late 1990s, Mercedes harbored grand visions of a modern 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupe, with long GT legs and enough power to shred space-time. Development and racing partner McLaren had other plans; as designer Gordon Murray’s second production car, he wanted the forthcoming Merc-Laren to be a light-ish, naturally aspirated, mid-engined McLaren supercar with a Mercedes heart.
Mercedes didn’t. The car was to have a front engine—no exceptions—and it was to use the beefiest supercharged V-8 that AMG could summon. Amid early development, Murray flew to Stuttgart weekly for six months to reach an agreeable compromise for the production car.
The result is a transcontinental hyper-GT cruise missile whose personality is neither Mercedes nor McLaren, despite plenty of effort from both sides. It was give-and-take the entire way; the supercharged engine was heavy, but Murray shoved it back a full meter to transform the layout to front-mid-engine. McLaren built the car around what Mercedes claims is the first full carbon-fiber monocoque on a production car, with full carbon bodywork that saved 440 pounds over the equivalent in steel, but Mercedes insisted on a fully leather-lined interior pulled from the SL and SLK.
The production SLR dropped for the 2004 model year with a throat-closing $455,000 price tag and a 207-mph top speed, both enough to inextricably tether it to the contemporary Porsche Carrera GT, Ferrari Enzo, and Ford GT. Nearly two decades later, most of this company cruises at or above the seven-figure waterline, while the just-as-fast, just-as-exotic SLR can be had for a (relative) pittance.
It might be the world’s most underappreciated hypercar, if there could be such a thing. But what’s not up for debate is the SLR’s spectacular powertrain. “The dominant character of that car is the motor. It’s unlike any other Mercedes engine I’ve ever driven,” says Hagerty video host Jason Cammisa. “The engine feels rigidly attached to the chassis—you feel all kinds of vibrations, and it’s all good.”
The SLR’s M155 V-8 spins out 617 horsepower and 575 lb-ft of torque, enough power and twist to turn all of Merc’s existing transmissions to spaghetti save its remarkably stout five-speed automatic. No manual was offered, but Cammisa reckons the traditional automatic only snaps the SLR’s jumbled personality into focus. “It’s very much a muscle car, between its soundtrack and its torque converter automatic,” he says. “It’s a German Viper! The driving position is the same, the seating position is the same, and you’re sitting on the rear axle.” Even with undefeatable stability control, it’s a lairy drive. “At 8/10ths, it’s nibbling at the tires,” says Cammisa.
Mercedes earmarked production of 3500 cars over seven years—just enough to break even—but six model years and five variants begat only 2157 sales. For some enthusiasts, the SLR scratches an itch that no other car can. According to McLaren, most SLR owners have more than one in their garage, using them on a regular basis for crushing long miles and roaring through rallies.
Can you blame them?
2006 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
Highs: The most visually striking and usable supercar to emerge from the 2000s; McLaren still offers support and upgrades for the SLR, with an active owner group; its 5.4-liter is likely the best V-8 to ever come from Mercedes.
Lows: Brakes are difficult to moderate smoothly; interior is not as nice as the price suggests; stiff ride and heavy steering conflict with hyper-GT positioning.
Price range: #1 – $430,000 #2 – $356,000 #3 – $276,000 #4 – $199,000
HAGERTY AUTO INTELLIGENCE SAYS:
Compared with similar vehicles of the era, the SLR McLaren looks like a bargain. While values for the Porsche Carrera GT have more than doubled since 2019, the SLR has increased a modest 37 percent. The SLR has long held a large premium over its spiritual successor, the SLS, but the value gap narrowed to only 7.4 percent in July 2022. In the third quarter of 2022, the SLR premium widened again, to 23 percent, with younger buyers fueling much of the demand. Boomers still own the majority, but millennial ownership share is increasing at twice the Hagerty average.
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Doesn’t the major service which can only be done at very few places with the correct SLR lift cost about the same as buying another one, isn’t the hood/bonnet alone about $100k to replace, isn’t spark plug replacement an entire engine out of the car and type 40hr job?
As a retired Mercedes/AMG trainer and the person who created the in-dealer training for the SLR I can answer some of your questions. Yes a special lift is needed that actually attaches to the undercarriage at 4 critical points so when the car is lifted it won’t tweak the carbon chassis. Not every dealer has this lift, not every dealer even sold an SLR. The major service which is at 10,000 miles does not cost hundreds of thousands of $$ that’s a myth. It can be $10-20,000. The engine should come out for a major service. Only a factory trained tech should work on an SLR and we offered training at our Ontario, CA training center for over 3 years for techs to get that training. It was required for any dealer that was allocated and SLR. No, the hood is not $100,000 to replace. It is all carbon fiber and would probably be around $50,000 today. I was lucky to have spent a lot of time behind the wheel of SLR’s including in 120F degree temps at a test track in Spain in pre-production cars comparing against competitors: Aston-Martin Vanquish, Ferrari 575M, Lamborghini Murcealago, Porsche 911GT2, Mercedes-AMG SL55. All but the SLR’s. the SL55 and the Ferrari succumbed to the heat and went down with various ailments. The SLR AMG drivetrain is bullet proof there is a customer in NYC that drives his every day and at last count had over 100K miles on it. I’m an old Porsche guy with 911SC that I bought new in my garage. But if I were of the means I would grab an SLR in a minute and drive it anywhere. Hope this answers your questions and dispels some myths.
bad design, looks gimicky cheap. for guys who couldn’t afford the 75 trans-am they wanted all those years ago, made a bunch of money and years later needed to flaunt it by buying this… thing
It’s an odd Mercedes due to the mixed parentage here. But I have always found it’s odd shape to be an intriguing car.