Expectations may have hurt the Mercedes-McLaren SLR more than its actual performance. With two iconic names such as SLR and McLaren in its name, people expected the rules to be rewritten and the game to be changed, as the original SLR and McLaren F1 did when each was introduced. The problem was the supercar playing field had leveled by the time the McLaren SLR was released and it seemed like everyone was in on the game, from low-volume specialists to manufacturers with deep pockets.
When it was released in late 2004, the SLR had to compete against cars such as the Enzo, the Pagani Zonda, the Koenigsegg, the Carrera GT and the Bugatti Veyron, all mid-engined, many of them lighter, packing more heat or both. Statistically, it did well by lapping tracks within a second or two of its competitors, and, on occasion and depending on the track, beating them. Despite that, it was rarely considered the pick of the litter, nor did it instill the kind of fear or respect as the others did.
Mercedes tried to up the ante a few years later with a mildly tweaked SLR 722. Then came a roadster and a racing version named the 722 GT, and a speedster version called the Stirling Moss. The plan was to build 3,500 SLRs, but they stopped at roughly half that mark, ceasing production in 2009.
Stylistically, the SLR’s long, Pinocchio schnoz, steeply raked windshield and small canopy left it unbalanced and disproportioned, especially when viewed from profile. Sleek, no doubt, but the designers took few risks and many complained that it didn’t differentiate itself enough from the SL.
Tuners soon got involved and a handful of companies have taken a stab at making it look and perform better. The results have ranged from the incongruous (Mansory) to outright travesties (ASMA Design). The Hamann Volcano featured here is somewhat arresting at first glance, but one that grows on you as the details start to make sense. Definitely not for those who shy away from attention, many of Hamann’s Volcanoes come in bold colors like yellow and the red you see here.
Not merely an exercise in slapping on carbon bodywork, these parts were designed and then tested in a wind tunnel. Although exact figures weren’t available, Hamann claims increased downforce for both the front and rear.
The front fender flares, which extend past the fenders and above the exhaust gills, perhaps in a nod to the SLR 722 GT’s graphics, are the first things the eyes gravitate towards as they elegantly and smoothly blend with the deeper, more pronounced lip spoiler. Both the front and rear fender flares allowed Hamann to stuff wider 21-inch wheels (9x21 fr., 12.5x21 rr.) and tires (255/30ZR-21 fr., 345/25ZR-21 rr.) under them. A pair of side skirts bridge the fender flares and a gigantic fixed rear wing sits on top of a carbon-fiber trunk lid. The hood was modified with a naked carbon midsection that runs from the pointed nose to the windshield. The moveable airbrake system on the trunk lid has been disabled. Under the rear bumper is Hamann’s carbon-fiber diffuser.
Up top is a roof scoop, which, along with the carbon pieces on the C-pillars, don’t seem to add much in terms of function and actually distort the lines. All in all, you could say Hamann achieved their goal of creating a meaner, more menacing SLR. The front fender flares add visual weight and help reduce the perceived length of the front end.
The interior gets a carbon-fiber makeover with new panels on the center console, dashboard and air vent covers. Each car gets a small, numbered plaque affixed to the center console. The car featured here is number three of the nine that have been built so far. Hamann plans to only build 15 in total. Many of the interior surfaces have been covered in Alcantara or leather that’s been color-matched to the car’s body color.
Under the hood, Hamann remapped the ECU to coax an extra 75 hp to bring power up to 700 hp and bumped torque up from 575 lb-ft to 612 lb-ft. They also replaced the stock mufflers with a pair of three-pipe units that protrude just behind the front wheels, instead of the twin pipes on the standard car. The soundtrack from the pipes dominates the experience of being in the car, as they’re so close to your ears. Upon start-up, the exhaust emits a snarl and as the revs build, it sounds like a rabid dog straining at the end of its chain, eager to pounce.
As it uses a five-speed autobox and has a seemingly endless supply of torque, it gives the impression of having long legs. It doesn’t take much throttle to get the car into its stride, and large swaths of roadway are gobbled up between gearshifts. With the big 21-inch wheels and tires and retuned suspension settings, the ride is firm and its reflexes quick.
Being that this was a car that was going to be shipped off in a few days, seat time was limited. There was, however, no doubt that Hamann created a monster that could instill the kind of respect the standard car sought. Back-to-back comparisons haven’t been done between the stock SLR and the Volcano but it’s safe to say that Hamann’s Volcano is the sharper of the two. And being that there’ll only be--at most--15 built, exclusivity is ensured.
Longitudinal front-mid engine, rear drive, two-door coupe
5.4-liter V8, sohc, 24-valve, supercharged, modified ECU, Hamann 6-pipe Sports mufflers, carbon-fiber air intake cover
Double wishbone A-arms, coil springs, tube shocks, high-mounted antiroll bar, (f). Double wishbone A-arm, coil springs, tube shocks, (r)
14.6-in. vented discs (f), 14.2-in. vented discs (r), ABS
Wheels and Tires
9x21 (f), 12.5x21 (r) 255/30ZR (f), 345/25ZR (r)
Carbon-fiber front spoiler, fender flares, side skirts, inner wheelhouse liners, C-pillar, roof scoop, trunk lid, rear wing and rear diffuser.
Eleven-piece naked carbon-fiber instrument panel, center console and air vent covers. Leather/Alcantara headliner, A-, B- and C-pillars, sunshade, Hamann Sports steering wheel. Headrest with Hamann logo, carbon-fiber door sill trim, Hamann aluminum pedal and foot rest.
Peak Power: 700 hp @ 6600 rpm
Peak Torque: 612 lb-ft @ 3300 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.6 sec.
Top Speed: 216 mph