Mule shows baby McMerc is on track
8 December 2006

It might not look like much, but this test mule could be proof that McLaren and Mercedes-Benz areb pushing ahead with their baby supercar.

Spied on one of the German car maker's proving grounds close to its Stuttgart headquarters, the aluminium spaceframed hack seemed to be performing installation tests. It could be a definite sign that the McMerc, labelled P8, has finally been given the green light.

Built to assimilate the mid-engined/rear-wheel drive layout of the proposed two-seater, the mule provides first tantalising clues to the eagerly-awaited Anglo German supercar, which is expected to carry the name SLS and go on sale before the end of the decade at a price, insiders hint, will pitch it in direct competition with the likes of the new Audi R8, Ferrari F430 Modena and Porsche 911 Turbo.

Set to run a heavily reworked version of Mercedes-Benz AMG division’s new normally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 engine with up to 575bhp, the SLS has been conceived as a more affordable and more driver orientated car than the front-engined SLR, which was developed to a brief as the ultimate Grand Tourer.

“The P8 won’t only cost less but will be a better drive,” promised a high-ranking Mercedes-Benz source, who says the final production car was among a list of eight proposals, including an even more radical offering based on sister DaimlerChrysler company Chrysler’s 850bhp 6.0-litre V12-powered ME Four Twelve concept car.

Secrecy surrounds the look of the new car, which has been styled at Mercedes-Benz’s German design studio. In a bid to keep a tight rein on quality and ensure improved economies of scale than those achieved on the SLR, Mercedes-Benz high-ups have been pushing to have the SLS assembled at the company’s main Sindelfingen site outside Stuttgart.

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However, partner McLaren is also said to be looking to fill capacity at its showcase McLaren Technology Centre factory near Woking with the new car. But with rumours continuing to circulate that Mercedes-Benz will purchase McLaren, of which it already holds a 40 per cent stake, any current plans may yet change.

Greg Kable

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