Written by By Carl Stewart, CNN Written by Alex Burkhauser, CNN
A new driverless SLR McLaren electric roadster launching this year from Mercedes-Benz is trying to make the most of both performance and technology in its hotly anticipated debut.
The Mercedes SLR U87 weighs a mere 3,302 pounds — half the body weight of a 1973 SLR and remarkably light for a roadcar of its class. Its all-electric technology — which can run for 72 miles with 1 kilowatt of power and 14 miles per hour of top speed — has garnered a green reputation for the car and it’s thin and ultra-light counterpart
Conceptually inspired by the legendary 1969 creation, the new Mercedes cars also feature the same distinctive swooping, elongated roof and wide, fender-to-fender rear wing as its soul-mate. It’s a supremely graceful and streamlined track that’s rather difficult to place on its own.
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Aside from its environmental leadership, the SLR U87 was developed with fine-tuned dynamics in mind — from a unique and precise ride height of 83 millimeters, to a shortened and raised gearshift lever.
In the coming weeks, more details will come to light, including technical details such as power output and range, but a more vocal review can be found here .
First seen in 1969, the original SLR was unofficially referred to as the “Flying Formula One” because of its speed. An open rear body and low center of gravity allowed for extremely quick acceleration (73 miles per hour at full throttle) and nose-to-tail track, reducing aerodynamic drag through the tailcone.
It was built up in start and stop stop power by letting the engine enter an 80,000 rpm lower range before reaching cruising speed, allowing acceleration back up to high-performance. It was delivered to the driver straight from the factory, on-board: The driver wasn’t even required to maneuver in the usual interior layout.
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The new SLRU87 retains a large 7.8-liter engine with a panoramic cooling system, however, features the same supercharged engine and lightweight composite construction that we first saw on the brand’s electric e-Golf.
As the name suggests, the U87’s target audience is part of the new generation of four-wheel drive vehicles and riders in which much of the cachet in the world of motorsports is built around lightweight forms, mass absorption and unexpected performance.
The concept is similar to the SL racecars of the 1960s and ’70s, with the same unconventional and much-disputed design approach to distinctive handling. In fact, the current production SLR market is reminiscent of that time period, whose cutting-edge technology lines are, to a certain extent, repeated by the new U87.
A three-wheeled roadster opens up the opportunity for greater control — thanks to its fully digital racing controls — as is customary in traditional racing and the U87 is designed to offer additional torque at low-range on-demand.
The limited production production of the new car represents something new for Mercedes-Benz, where the limits of innovation are tested in research and development before being tested in high performance production models. So far, the return has been promising, with many of the key parameters achieved the hard way, without major compromises in quality.
Sensitive to the appeal and needs of its potential customers, the “lightest car on the planet” is being built with a clear vision in mind, says the brand. It is now selling the car to customers via a VIP reservation book, with potential buyers getting an advance look at the unique car before ultimately striking a deal.
Highly customizable, the SLR uses dynamically adjustable seat configurations to suit a range of users — from racers to VIPs, says Mercedes.
But true to the appeal of the car, customers can then decide how to get behind the wheel — whether by touring the world’s continents or coming to town — and how they want to control the sports car.
A car for an audience that hasn’t yet been cracked — where performance and technology meets personalization.