Mercedes Benz - SLR McLaren
Legend and sophistication are hallmark characteristics epitomised by the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. They are the essence of the scintillating styling of this new high-performance sports car, which made its stunning UK debut in the summer of 2004.
The new Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is an impressive testament to the competence and experience of Mercedes-Benz and our Formula 1 partner McLaren in the development and production of high-performance sports cars. The two-seater, with its striking swing-wing doors and styling elements borrowed from the Formula 1 Silver Arrows, builds on the legacy of the famous SLR race cars of the 1950s. Equipped with cutting-edge race car technology and ground-breaking new Mercedes developments, designed to ensure a high standard of safety and suitability for day-to-day use, the new SLR creates a distinctive image for itself as a 21st-century Gran Turismo – a thrilling synthesis of tradition and innovation.
The newly developed V8 supercharged engine delivers an output of 460 kW/626 hp and accelerates the sports car from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. The top speed is approximately 334 km/h. The body of the new SLR, like those of the Mercedes-McLaren Formula 1 race cars, is made from carbon fibre composites – lightweight materials which demonstrate exemplary energy absorption, hence ensuring the highest standard of occupant protection. The SLR is the world's first series-produced car to have a front crash structure manufactured entirely from carbon fibres. Adaptive airbags, newly developed kneebags and sidebags, belt tensioners, high-performance ceramic brake discs and an automatically adaptive airbrake in the boot lid round off the range of safety equipment on board the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, setting new standards in this vehicle class.
Technology way ahead of its time and an abundance of power – these were the hall-marks of the legendary SLR race cars in which Fangio, Moss, Kling and other Mercedes drivers achieved spectacular victories in all of the major road races in 1955. The new SLR demonstrates the same characteristics, its groundbreaking technical innovations distinguishing it as the Mercedes-Benz among high-performance sports cars.
The 21st-century Gran Turismo is made almost entirely from carbon fibre composite. This lightweight yet extremely rigid material originated in the aeronautical and space industries and has also proven its benefits in today's Formula 1 race cars. The weight advantage of the high-tech material over steel is around 50 percent, and the carbon fibres, on impact, are characterised by four to five times higher energy absorption than steel or aluminium. Mercedes-Benz exploits these qualities by incorporating two 620-millimetre longitudinal members made from carbon fibre in the front structure of the new SLR. These absorb the entire energy of the crash in a defined head-on collision, leaving the passenger cell largely undamaged. It is also made entirely from carbon fibre composite and therefore offers a very safe survival zone in side-on or rear-end collisions too.
Mercedes-Benz has introduced new material technology to the manufacture of the brake discs too. They are made from fibre-reinforced ceramic and are characterised by high fade-resistance and a very long life. In collaboration with the electrohydraulic braking system, Sensotronic Brake Control (SMC™), they allow outstanding deceleration figures too, impressively underlining the motor racing heritage of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.
In the interests of optimum dynamic handling and high stability on braking, the new Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren has a front mid-engined design. The high-performance V8 engine, mounted on a robust aluminium frame, is installed at a low level which allows a low centre of gravity for agile handling.With its 5.5-litre displacement, the supercharged engine develops a peak output of 460 kW/626 hp and delivers its maximum torque of 780 Newtonmetres from 3250 rpm – a figure which remains constant across a broad engine speed range of up to 5000 rpm. This means that the SLR 8-cylinder is among the most powerful engines currently available in a series-produced roadgoing sports car. This high-performance car takes just 3.8 seconds to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h, it passes the 200 km/h mark after 10.6 seconds, and from a standing start it takes just 28.8 seconds to reach 300 km/h. The top speed is 334 km/h.Water-type charge-air cooling, dry sump lubrication and four metal catalytic converters are further special features of this powerful engine – an engine which already meets stringent EU 4 exhaust gas regulations which are not due to come into force until 2005.The 5-speed automatic transmission, fitted as standard, is also designed for high performance. It allows the driver to choose between three programs with different shift characteristics. When "Manual" is selected, the five gears can either be shifted using buttons on the steering wheel or using the selector lever's Touchshift function. In this mode the driver can also select between three shift stages – "Sport", "SuperSport" and "Race" – significantly shortening the shift times still further for an even sportier drive.
The body design of the Gran Turismo with the Mercedes star takes classical styling elements from the legendary SLR race cars of the 1950s and blends them masterfully with the sophisticated, avantgarde design language of both the latest Mercedes passenger car models and of the modern-day Silver Arrow race cars which took the McLaren Mercedes team to Formula 1 World Championship glory in 1998 and 1999. The design's concept, in other words, thrillingly spans the divide between past and present, whilst at the same time showing the way forward for the sports car designs of tomorrow.In order to meet the highest of standards in terms of handling at top speed, directional stability and the cooling air requirements necessary for high-performance cars of this kind, Mercedes-Benz worked with McLaren on developing this model's superlative aerodynamics, ensuring exemplary roadholding plus the on-road safety standards typical of Mercedes. Following extensive wind-tunnel tests, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren was given a virtually smooth underbody with a special six-channel diffusor under the rear. Both features are familiar design principles from Formula 1. They ensure that the airflow beneath the vehicle is virtually unimpeded and that negative lift, or downforce, is produced at higher speeds. The distinctive sidepipes on each side of the vehicle are also the result of this high-performance sports car's aerodynamic underbody concept: a conventional exhaust gas system would have disrupted the smooth line of the underbody.At the rear of the SLR an adaptive spoiler provides additional downforce. From a speed of 95 km/h, it automatically adopts a 10-degree position, increasing the contact pressure at the rear axle. The spoiler also doubles as an airbrake: when the driver brakes heavily, it rises to an angle of 65 degrees, not only ensuring increased aerodynamic drag but also shifting the aerodynamic centre further towards the rear. This lends the SLR excellent stability when braking from high speeds.
Best Cars 2006
|Best Small Car - Mazda 3|
Any shortlist of compact cars is sure to include the Toyota Corolla and the all-new 2006 Honda Civic, but the Mazda 3 is simply a cut above. It's practical and easy on gas, but also stylish and fun to drive.Sedan shoppers can choose the 3i model's 150-hp, 2.0-liter 4 or the 3s model's 2.3-liter 4 with 160 hp. The handsome five-door hatch gets the 2.3-liter only; that engine is paired with a new five-speed automatic and anti-lock brakes, both of which are standard.Options include a navigation system and satellite radio. Go easy on extras and a well-equipped 3 can be had for $16,000 to $17,000.
Small Luxury Sedan - BMW 3 Series
After serious challenges from Infiniti and Lexus, BMW released a new 3 Series last year, and its subtle gains in power, braking and handling have vaulted the four-door to the top of the pack once again.The new 3.0-liter inline-six engine now produces 255 horsepower for the 330i. The small four-door remains one of the best handling cars on the road, period.The interior isn't groundbreaking, but at least BMW's oft-lambasted iDrive controller (a big console-mounted knob that operates almost everything in the car -- and does so in a confusing fashion) is an option here, one you can happily skip.
Mid-size Sedan - Honda Accord
Despite strong new competition from Toyota and Ford, Honda still sits at the head of the family-sedan table. The Accord is as roomy, comfortable and safe as its main rivals yet still feels more sporty and refined whenever the road throws you a curve.Four-cylinder, 166-hp models are so smooth, affordable and economical that there's little reason to opt for the 244-hp V-6. The 2006 model gets a mild makeover for the exterior and interior, including new rear-end styling, as well as a new steering wheel, driver's gauges and seat fabrics.All Accords feature side- and side-curtain air bags, six-cylinder models add standard electronic stability control, and the EX V-6 now offers a six-speed manual transmission.
Mid-size Luxury Sedan - Audi A6
Judging a luxury car comes down to how well it can juggle. Can it excel in design, performance, features, quality -- all while leaving you thoroughly entertained?Among $40,000 to $65,000 sedans, the Audi A6 deserves top billing. The four-wheel-drive four-door topped our recent test of five mid-size luxury cars (January 2006) by perfectly balancing beauty and brawn, comfort and sportiness.The body is modern but not too flashy; the sleek and comfy cabin again asserts Audi's leading position in interior design; the switches and knobs don't feel at all plasticky or flimsy. The 335-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 model is certainly potent, but it's the 255-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 that offers the most muscle for the dollar: That engine has a healthy amount of power but also delivers fuel economy of 21 mpg in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway.
Large Car - Chrysler 300
This is a big, beefy sedan that's American and proud of it. Sounds simple, but that cupboard was bare for years before Chrysler released its award-winning 300.Some say that the 300's success is only about its signature grille and muscle-man styling, but it's equally about the muscle under the hood, in the form of the optional 340-horsepower Hemi V-8. Some of the car's excellence can be traced to corporate sibling Mercedes-Benz, which had a hand in the transmission and suspension.Flaws are few, including mediocre plastics inside and a center control panel with too many dinky buttons. The Hemi shuts down half its cylinders during cruising to boost mileage, though fuel- and price-conscious buyers should check out the 3.5-liter V-6 version.
Large Luxury Car - Lexus LS 430
Sure, big German sedans are more fashionable and fun to drive, but most could take some lessons from Lexus when it comes to value, reliability and ergonomics.Instead of reaching for the owner's manual when you step into the sumptuous interior, just drop the LS into gear, set your course and soundtrack with the simple touch-screen navigation and audio systems, and settle into those comfy leather seats. The LS gathers speed with a soft murmur from its V-8. It handles with aplomb on the highway and has an enormous 20-cubic-foot trunk.Pricey option packages quickly ramp you into 70-grand territory, but even at that price, the Lexus still costs thousands less than its rivals.
Sports Car - Chevrolet Corvette
With supercar performance at a mere-mortal price, the Chevrolet Corvette is easily the best sports-car value in its class. The sixth-generation coupe and convertible squeeze 400 horsepower from their standard 6.0-liter V-8s, and then add superlative handling and stopping power to the mix.The Corvette is also surprisingly easy to live with: It has generous cargo space, a forgiving, comfortable ride -- even some fuel economy, with a 28-mpg highway rating. This year, the Z06 model mates a 500-horsepower V-8 with technology usually limited to $150,000-to-$600,000 cars, including weight savers like an all-aluminum chassis and carbon-fiber bodywork.It adds up to a 198-mph top speed and a 3.6-second blast from 0 to 60 mph. It also costs only $65,000 -- $105,000 less than the cheapest Ferrari.
Convertible - Ford Mustang
Plenty of people dream of a convertible -- but their lives can't handle two seats at a second mortgage price. The Ford Mustang convertible, however, has eye-catching retro styling, seating for four and a low price.Oh, and the Mustang GT has a 300-horsepower V-8. (The 210-hp V-6 version is a bit more economical but falls well short of the GT's thrills.) Ride quality is much improved, as are interior comfort and road handling.The '60s-style cabin does suffer from a few cheapo bits, and the convertible top fastens with clunky manual latches, but they don't ruin the experience, especially considering the price of about $25,000 for the V-6 model and less than $31,000 for the GT.
Mid-size Luxury SUV - Mercedes ML-Class
Mercedes' first SUV, the ML320, arrived to fanfare in 1997. But timid performance and shaky quality gave it a reputation as a minivan posing as a Mercedes.The new ML, however, with its strong stance, well-appointed cabin and sophisticated engines and transmission, is a bona fide Benz. The SUV has been stretched and widened, gaining passenger and cargo space. The new 3.5-liter V-6 delivers stronger acceleration than before yet boosts fuel economy by 1 to 2 mpg. The V-8 ML 500 is even quicker but kicks the base price past $50,000.
Large Luxury SUV - Range Rover
When it comes to large, luxurious SUVs, the Range Rover is really in a category of one. Lexus' LX470 is basically a Toyota Land Cruiser with more wood and leather. Cadillac's Escalade? Not bad, but there's still a slight resemblance to Chevy's Tahoe.The Range Rover has unmatched style, serious off-road ability and buckets of country club prestige -- all of which fairly justifies a base price of around $75,000. On road, the Rover drives as good as it looks, with smooth and responsive steering and surprisingly good handling for a truck that tips the scales at up to 5,900 pounds.There is an optional supercharged, 400-horsepower, 4.2-liter engine available, but getting it adds $15,000 to the sticker price. Better use of the same amount of money: Buy the Range Rover with its standard (and more than sufficient) 305-hp V-8, and a new Mazda 3 to use for errands around town.
10 Best Car of 2004
|It’s not easy being a car manufacturer these days. Factory capacity around the world is capable of spewing about 50-percent more cars than the markets can possibly absorb. At the same time, countries everywhere are propping up their automotive companies because the business is seen as a flagship industry and holds the prospect of great export earnings.|
Moreover, the established automotive order is under assault. Hyundai is going after the smaller Lexus sedans with its ever more opulent XG350. Cadillac is targeting the BMW M-cars with its hot new CTS-V. And Volkswagen—the originator of the people’s car—has decided to go head-to-head against the Mercedes S-class and other gilded sedans in the top-dollar category with its new Phaeton.
Even the companies that are willing to stand pat in the market classes don’t have it easy. Vehicles such as the Chevrolet SSR and Chrysler Crossfire bring show-car styling to everyday drivers. Technological advancements abound with the new-generation rotary engine in the Mazda RX-8, the twin-clutch transmission in the Audi TT, and the bonded and riveted aluminum construction of the Jaguar XJ8. Meanwhile, everyone is competing on value. The new Suzuki Verona EX delivers a six-cylinder engine, a full plate of luxury features, and excellent interior space for a sticker price of $20,000. For about twice that amount, the Chevrolet Corvette delivers more performance than any machine within $30,000 of its price.
Stunning styling, terrific technology, and excellent value are virtues we certainly appreciate, and we found them in abundance among the 57 cars nominated for our 2004 awards. As usual, we automatically included last year’s 10Best winners. The balance of the cars are those that had been significantly redesigned or updated for 2004. Carry-over machines have already had a shot at a 10Best award. If they didn’t make it the first time, there are no second chances.
Few cars have spent as much time in the crosshairs of so many competitors as has the BMW 3-series, yet no other automaker has managed to deliver a wounding shot to this king of the compact-sports-sedan hill. Part of the BMW's appeal lies in its variety of rear- and four-wheel-drive sedans, wagons, coupes, and convertibles, spanning a price spectrum from the $28,495 325i sedan all the way up to the screaming $56,595 M3 convertible.
And by introducing new variants and packages frequently throughout each model's life span, BMW makes sure the 3-series is never a sitting duck for would-be competitors. A recent addition was the 330i with the Performance package of engine and chassis upgrades that shaved a half-second off acceleration times and improved skidpad grip and stopping distance, too, narrowing the performance gap between the 330i sedan and the M3 coupe.
This is the second year of the seventh generation of the Accord, and if that sounds dynastic, it's appropriate, because no other car has run up a 10Best record to rival this one. In the 22 years we've been awarding 10Best trophies, 18 of the annual ceremonies have included Accords. The formula underlying this phenomenal track record is deceptively simple: rigid chassis, intuitive ergonomics, superior powertrains, and exemplary road manners. We say deceptively simple, because despite the absence of mystery, no other mid-size carmaker has been able to match the Accord's results.
Here's one of those sports cars whose charm is all out of proportion to its numbers. The Mazda RX-8's pony-keg-size twin-rotor Wankel engine spins smoothly but makes just 238 horsepower and 159 pound-feet of torque when paired with a six-speed stick (197 and 164 with a four-speed automatic), so it needs six to seven seconds to reach 60 mph, depending on how badly one abuses the clutch. Those stats don't make for very good barroom bragging, but bolted into a short 2950-pound body, this mighty-mite motor makes pure magic.
The engine's small size allows it to fit behind the front axle, so the weight distribution skews slightly rearward once the driver buckles up. A supple control-arm-front and multilink-rear suspension takes full advantage of that ideal distribution to deliver crisp, neutral handling at the limit of adhesion (which is respectably high, at 0.91 g). More muscular coupes may walk away from the RX-8 on straightaways, but the tables turn in the twisties.
Audi S4 Quattro
In a way, the Audi S4 represents a page from Detroit's '60s muscle-car hymnal: V-8 power in a small car. But the music has become more sophisticated in this modern sequel. Sure, the S4 can really run: 0 to 60 in five seconds flat. With 340 horsepower on tap from its 4.2-liter 40-valve aluminum V-8 and a slick six-speed manual transmission transferring the power, you'd expect that. But unlike the old-time Detroit tire shredders, it can also turn in without even a hint of reluctance, lend a reassuring sense of security to high-speed cornering (thanks to its Quattro all-wheel drive), change directions without inducing motion sickness, and stop in a serious hurry without drama.