On Saturday 15 July 2006, a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren powered into history by setting the first London Land Speed record at 175.7mph (283km/h). Autocar Editor-at-Large Steve Sutcliffe was behind the wheel at London City Airport as the magazine lined up 10 of the country’s fastest production cars against each other to set a new benchmark – which is being sent to Guinness for consideration for the Book of Records.

At 1319m, City Airport has the shortest main runway of any of the UK’s 23 major airports, and it’s the only one to be surrounded by water. That didn’t deter Steve Sutcliffe, who had to accelerate from a standing start, only hitting the brakes at a predetermined point around three-quarters of the way along the course.

The SLR McLaren is the world’s most complete super sports car, combining the engineering skills and production processes of Mercedes-Benz and the construction expertise of McLaren. Hand-made at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren has a carbon fibre composite body making it supremely stiff and strong, as well as relatively light.

Power comes from a 5.5-litre supercharged V8 Mercedes-AMG engine developing an incredible 626hp at 6500rpm and 780Nm between 3250-5000rpm. This means it can accelerate from 0-62mph in a blistering 3.8 seconds, reaching its 208mph top speed shortly afterwards. The SLR McLaren has the braking performance to match its power, with internally ventilated fibre-reinforced ceramic discs all round, aided by a boot-mounted airbrake.

A five-speed automatic gearbox and speed-sensitive power-assisted steering make it as easy to pilot at 175 miles per hour as it is driving in city centre traffic at 7mph. To demonstrate this every day ability, the £317,500 SLR was driven through London to and from the event.

This blend of power and precision engineering helped Steve Sutcliffe set the record – despite never having driven an SLR before. He said: “The SLR McLaren has the power, the technology and the stability to hit those high speeds with incredible control. This is the fastest any production car has ever been driven legally in London.”

The SLR McLaren is on display at the British International Motor Show in ExCeL, London (next to City Airport), and examples can be seen on the Mercedes-Benz and Autocar stands. Autocar’s London Land Speed Record special feature appears on Wednesday 26 July 2006.

Simona
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