Whether you see this as an appropriate homage to one of the great moments in racing history, or a cynical bid to prop up sales, the only question that really matters is whether these updates, for which Mercedes charges £22,390, turn the SLR into the devastatingly engaging and effective road missile it always promised but never quite managed to be.
What's it like?
Unfortunately, these updates do not turn the SLR into the devastatingly engaging and effective road missile it always promised but never quite managed to be.
It’s been a while since I drove a standard SLR, but when I did it was on roads a sight more challenging than the largely straight and heavily policed roads in Dubai and Oman chosen for the launch of the 722. Yet I don’t remember the standard car for its borderline unacceptable ride quality, nor do I recall steering so aggressive the car was difficult to place with real confidence.
Those dampers are not only aluminium, they’re also 15 per cent stiffer in bump (but the same in rebound) while the ride height has been dropped 10mm front and rear which, combined with a new front splitter, is said to increase downforce on the nose by a socking 128 per cent.
But it does not make the car any more pleasant to drive. On a smooth racetrack with a real hand at the wheel, I can see how it might all make sense, but even on straight desert roads, let alone an undulating British B-road, it’s hard to see the point. Mercedes counters by saying the 722 is a car its customers asked for and nearly all are already sold, including the entire UK allocation.
And there remains much to savour in the SLR – its astonishing squirt, the macho rumble of the mighty V8 and the fabulous construction standards of its all-carbon shell and body still make this a genuinely special car. But the mighty brakes are still difficult to modulate and the five speed auto 'box seems even less suited to this ultra-aggressive SLR than the standard car.
Should I buy one?
It's more a case of can I buy one – as we say, nearly all 722s are already sold. And I think the SLR needs to go the other way – reverting to its standard suspension and giving buyers a whole new dimension to enjoy – the third dimension, to be precise. Though I am not a chop-top man per se, I can see a convertible roof suiting the SLR’s temperament and customer base very well. Happily, Mercedes feels the same way and will reveal just such a car this summer. I had hoped the 722 would be the car the SLR always promised to be, but came away disappointed. But in a few months they’ll have another crack and, this time, I reckon they'll pull it off.