Let's root ourselves firmly in reality for a moment. No one needs to drive in excess of 150 mph with the top down. No one needs 600-plus horsepower. No one, and I mean no one, needs to spend half a million dollars on a roadster that just barely fits two people and possibly a pair of golf bags.

That said, welcome to Fantasyland. The SLR McLaren Roadster will clock a purported top speed of 206 mph. And, theoretically, do it with the top down. Its Mercedes-AMG supercharged V8 produces a maximum 617 hp at 6500 rpm. And its suggested price tag sits just $5,000 shy of $500,000, meaning few mortals will ever be solvent enough to actually own one (this may mean you).

There are faster cars to 100 kph, or 62 mph. The SLR McLaren gets there in around 3.8 seconds, by Mercedes' estimates. Getting a road car to 62 below four seconds is no laughably easy feat, admittedly, but the car's acceleration feels most urgent and impressive at speed, well into the triple digits.

Whereas a preponderance of fast cars seem to lose breath the further they pull from 100 mph, the SLR appears to do just the opposite, its frighteningly linear power delivery shortening the gap between 100 and 200 mph with each tick of the clock. Top down, wind noise graduates rapidly from gale-force to tropical storm to full-blown-hurricane intensity, but the wind tunnel-sculpted aerodynamics and long, low-raked windscreen are such that the turbulence is never really felt.

And at these speeds, the SLR remains absolutely planted, supremely stable and completely confidence-inspiring at velocities that should make grown men wet their pants and cry for Mommy. This is due in part to the long wheelbase (106 inches) and partly to its flat undertray and six-channel rear diffuser, uncomplicated by exhaust pipe routing or similar underbody mechanical silliness.

Another important aerodynamic consideration is the speed-regulated 'airbrake' integrated into the trunk lid, which raises automatically into the car's slipstream at 60 mph, increasing downforce at the rear axle. If heavy pressure is applied to the brake pedal, the fin exaggerates its angle from 10 to 65 degrees, increasing air resistance instantly and moving the aerodynamic center of gravity further back. The driver also has the option of adjusting the rear spoiler manually-to an angle of 30 degrees.

Mercedes-Benz is particularly proud that the SLR Roadster retains torsional stiffness comparable to that of its coupe counterpart. At the center of the structure is a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) tub, shrouded by carbon-reinforced panels. The only purely metal structural components are the two aluminum braces supporting the powertrain.

Said powertrain is an amazing construction of components, the blown V8 foremost among them. The supercharger sits waaayy up front, a technical assembly almost unto itself, drawing its initial inhalations from the three-pointed star at the nose and spewing spent exhaust gases and the resultant cacophony well in front of the cockpit, so driver and passenger can enjoy the audio. Current bi-turbo V12 AMG engines flaunt more impressive torque numbers-up to 173 lb-ft more twist-but keep in mind the SLR McLaren weighs a quarter of a ton less than an SL65. Plus, you get to experience the same wide-open sky

Power is transferred through a five-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shift capability in one of three modes: Comfort, Sport auto, and Manual. In Manual mode, three additional levels are available: Level I: Sport, Level II: Supersport, and Level III: Race, wherein each program increases shift and response and shortens gearshift times accordingly.

For all its impressive numbers and inherent clout, driving the SLR McLaren on the road can, at times, be a pain in the ass. The steering is exceptionally heavy at low speed and somewhat numb at driving velocities. The brakes, while supremely capable under hard use, have an extremely heavy pedal feel and bite with unreal force. You'll find yourself treading lightly, at least initially, which may or may not be a good thing. And cabin visibility is not the greatest. Rearward, it pretty much sucks. Forward, there are the intrusive A-pillars and the long, long nose obscuring the view.

However, if you're going to spend this kind of money, these complaints all seem rather paltry. All in all, the SLR McLaren Roadster packs unreal performance for an uncompromising price. Even at the very top of the road car spectrum, it must be regarded as signature Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster
*Layout
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

*Engine
5.5-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve, supercharged and intercooled

*Transmission
Five-speed automatic

*Suspension
Double wishbone front and rear, gas-pressure shocks, coil springs, anti-dive

*Brakes
Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC), carbon-reinforced rotors, ABS, Brake Assist, ESP

*Dimensions
Length/Width/Height (in.): 183.3/75.1/50.4Wheelbase: 106.3 in.Curb Weight: 4050 lb

*Performance
Peak Power: 617 hp @ 6500 rpmPeak Torque: 575 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm0-62 mph: 3.8 secTop Speed: 206 mph

What we like:
Massive acceleration at just about any speed
What we don't:
Compromised visibility, touchy brakes

The Price Tag: $495,000

"Whereas a preponderance of fast cars seem to lose breath the further they pull from 100 mph, the SLR appears to do just the opposite,its frighteningly linear power delivery shortening the gap between 100 and 200 mph with each tick of the clock."

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