At the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA), Mercedes-Benz presented the roadster version of the Vision SLR. In terms of styling and engineering it closely resembled the all-enclosed version, although some new themes were also aired, such as a soft top made of an innovative translucent material.
The body of the Vision SLR expressed dynamism and power. The striking front section with the V-shaped nose and the distinctive twin-airfoil design – a motif which was repeated at various points around the body and in the interior and was inspired by the Formula One racecars – harmonized with the four-headlamp design familiar from other models. The long and extended hood, the powerfully sculpted fenders and the gullwing doors of the Vision SLR were based on styling ideas first seen in the legendary SL models of the fifties and their SLR racing versions, in which Juan Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling and Stirling Moss romped from victory to victory. Expressive but by no means aggressive, the Vision SLR displayed a muscular body whose every fiber was taut and honed, poised to go into action at a moment's notice.
A dominant interior design feature was the wide, gently curving center console, with its circular controls, and the silver-painted "spoiler fins" facing the driver and front passenger. These features replaced a conventional instrument panel and at the same time symbolized the state-of-the-art lightweight construction of the Gran Turismo. The cockpit featured two round, aluminum-rimmed instrument dials which recalled high-quality chronometers. These two dials – the speedometer and rev counter – featured a new technique which allowed them to accommodate other displays in their center. Traditional instrument needles had been replaced by indicators which moved on transparent plastic discs, so giving an unimpeded view of the displays. Carbon bucket seats, an oval steering wheel and state-of-the-art information technology such as the Cockpit Management and Data System (COMAND) were further notable features of the sporty interior.
The Vision SLR's chassis was made of a combination of fiber composites and aluminum which offered outstanding crash performance and also brought weight savings of approximately 40 percent compared with conventional steel designs. These materials were used in those areas where they brought the biggest advantages. The front crumple zones, which deformed to a predetermined pattern, were made of aluminum, while for the passenger compartment fiber composites were used. The extreme strength of these fiber composite components maximized occupant survival space even in a very severe frontal or rear-end collision.
For the first time in a Mercedes-Benz, an electrohydraulic brake system was used. This system used sensors and microcontrollers to precisely calculate the right braking pressure in a given situation, thus providing significantly enhanced safety when cornering or when driving on a slippery surface. Under the name Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC), the system first went into production in the SL (R 230), premiered in 2001. The brake discs were made of fiber-reinforced ceramic and were capable of withstanding extreme stresses.
The front headlamps with adaptive lighting system and innovative high-performance diodes automatically followed the direction in which the driver was steering, thereby adapting to different driving situations. The result was significantly improved road illumination when cornering or making a turn. The xenon projector-beam headlamps provided both the low beam and the high beam, and the Mercedes engineers therefore referred to them as "bi-functional". This technology is based on shutters which, as well as ensuring precise compliance with the legal requirements on dipped beam range, automatically move out of the way when the high beam is switched on, thus allowing the full light output to be used. The high beam is supplemented by two long-distance spotlights.
The LED rear lights were particularly effective at warning when the vehicle was braking or making a turn. They were mounted on two "floating" fins positioned one above the other which showed a close tie-in with the overall styling themes. A further light strip extended right the way across the vehicle above the rear bumper and housed the reversing light and the rear fog lamp, both of which were based on space-saving, high-performance neon technology. The rear license plate meanwhile was illuminated by means of a special luminescent film.
The Mercedes-Benz high-performance sports car concept was powered by a modified version of the high-torque naturally aspirated V8 engine used in the S-Class. Equipped with supercharging and an air-to-water intercooler, the 5.5 liter V8 developed maximum power of 410 kW (557 hp) in the Vision SLR, making it one of the most powerful engines in this displacement category. Maximum torque of 720 Newton meters came on stream at 4000 rpm, with 580 Newton meters already available at just 2000 rpm. The transmission was a five-speed automatic with Touchshift control. Performance was formidable, with a 0 - 100 km/h time of just 4.2 seconds and a 0 - 200 km/h time of 11.3 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 320 km/h.
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