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Mercedes-Benz Hamann Motorsport SLR Volcano review (2008)
What: Hamann Motorsport SLR Volcano
Where: Laupheim, Germany
When: October 2008
Key rivals: Pagani Zonda F, Porsche Carrera GT
Gallery: Hamann Motorsport SLR Volcano
Read more Mercedes Benz reviews
Likes: Huge power, awesome noise and aggressive looks
Dislikes: A minor tune-up can’t fix the SLR’s major flaws
Mercedes teased the world recently with the 722 GT race car that will form the basis of a one-make race series, but in our hearts we knew that circuit-based leviathan was just too mad for this notoriously conservative marque to unleash on the public road.Tuning giant Richie Hamann doesn't have to worry about the niceties, though; his public image is about as restrained as Paris Hilton's. When he saw the almighty racing car his only concern was that it didn't go far enough and his final version, the SLR Volcano, makes that firebreathing race car look a little tame.
An unpainted carbon-fibre front lip spoiler, side skirts and mild wing extensions and sheaths add a touch of muscle to proceedings. Simply by tracing the lines already left by Mercedes' carbon craftsmen in contrasting colours, Hamann has injected testosterone deep into its veins and sharpened up the smooth incoherent angles of the SLR.And, with the help of a carbon-fibre backdrop, that signature vent on the long sloping nose takes on a whole new venomous attitude. Of course it doesn't hurt that the monstrous side-exit exhaust now comes with thee pipes and the back end sits in the shadow of a table-sized exhaust that threaten to take this violent creature into the realms of cartoon-style caricature...
When I flip the top of the gearlever and thumb the starter button of the SLR, there's a distinctly different character to the car, a ferocious guttural undertone. The supercharged 5.4-litre V8 was always menacing, now it's in a different world of ground shaking, lava swelling lunacy.Hamann remapped the ECU, produced high-flow exhaust manifolds and raised the boost on the supercharger. An additional water pump was an essential addition to prevent the engine melting and then the tiresome details like gearbox electronics came into play. Hamann has unleashed 612lb/ft of torque, as well as 700bhp and that brings its own problems with the sophisticated auto box getting its mighty brain into a confused state. That takes time to get around.
But it was worth the effort, because although not too many folks questioned the SLR's straightline pace beforehand, it is even faster now. Hamann has lopped 0.2s off the dash to 60mph and the SLR will now scream into triple figures with just a casual twitch of the right foot, and a whole lot of noise. Soaking up the shock and awe of the local villagers the SLR scorched to 100mph in no time flat. And despite the extra drag of that rear wing it will now storm through the gears all the way to 216mph.
Ride and handling
At serious speed on our chopped up country test route the seriously expensive noise of tyre meeting carbon-fibre wheelarch kerbed my enthusiasm - but with all three exhaust pipes roaring louder than Mercedes ever dreamed of lifting off wasn't the easiest thing to do and this thing felt planted to the road in a way the original couldn't match.At normal speeds it is beautifully composed, comfortable even and like any high-end Mercedes can be driven with fingertip control and no effort whatsoever. It's more involving than the standard car thanks to the noise and a switch to 21" Hamann Race Edition wheels wrapped in Hankook S1 Evo tyres. The bigger wheels cut into the ride quality, but give a touch more grip on the ragged edge. While it looks like the ultimate racing car, though, it is still, fundamentally an SLR, which remains rooted to the bottom of the hypercar class handling charts. The luggage space, creature comforts and automatic gearbox meant it couldn't cope with the supremely focused Porsche Carrera GT and Ferrari Enzo. Hamann have given it a more entertaining feel but they can't reengineer the whole car and have settled on a racer's look and a luxury feel.
For a £300,000+ machine the interior of the SLR was shocking, especially that plasticy centre console that came straight from the cooking SL. But if there's one thing Hamann knows about it's interiors, so they went to work with more carbon-fibre and draped the whole interior in expensive race-spec cladding. It might be like a gilt-statue, because the lightweight carbon-fibre is simply atop the old structure and so serves no useful purpose - but it looks much better.Hamann put their own stamp on the seats, too, and replaced most of the hide with their own Alcantara and leather. It's bright in there, but then the SLR was never for shrinking violets in the first place.
Economy and safety
All this extra carbon-fibre comes at a hefty price and with 700bhp coursing through its veins the Hamann Motorsport Volcano was hardly going to cover itself with reduced fuel costs. But then this is a special occasion car, it will cover fewer miles than Jo Brand's trainers and it shouldn't matter how much fuel it burns on a trip to the shops.Thanks to Mercedes input it is as safe as houses, though, with electronic assistance galore and a solid crash structure should it all go wrong.
The MSN Cars verdict
OK so it's a little too much for some tastes, arguably the kind of folks that would opt for the SLR over an Enzo in the first place. But Hamann only builds cars to order, which means there is a demand - in Abu Dhabi at least.That's where this car was heading after our shoot, and it won't take long for the young gad about town in the driver's seat to show off to his friends, who will possibly want something bigger, and stronger. Hamann will be there to cater for that demand, and we can't wait to see what they come up with next.
Engine petrol5 .4-litre V8 Supercharged
Power bhp 700
Torque lb ft 612
0-62 mph secs 3.6
Top speed mph 216
Mpg combined 16
CO2 emissions g/km 348
Tax band G
Rating Hamann Motorsport SLR Volcano
Ride and handling***
MSN Cars verdict***
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