The first decade of the 21st century saw a flurry of high-performance supercars from top-tier carmakers. Ferrari, Porsche, Pagani, Lamborghini, ford, and Mercedes, everyone was at it. While we’ve already covered and compared a lot of these 200 mph performance machines in different stories on this very platform, it’s time to pitch the legendary Ford GT against the cutting-edge Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren in our latest series of Supercar Icons.
Ford GT vs SLR McLaren: Design
When it comes to the design of these cars, they both followed totally different approaches. While the Ford GT was a modern interpretation of the iconic GT40 Le Mans-winning race car from the 1960s, the SLR McLaren was inspired by the then-latest tech used in F1 with design details taken from the 2003 McLaren F1 car (Mercedes had a 40% stake in McLaren racing team at that time).
The Ford GT was first showcased as a concept model at the 2002 Detroit Motor Show, while the production version followed in 2005. Staying true to the classic proportions of the original GT40, the 2005 Ford GT features a long bonnet, arched fenders, and, in traditional Ford GT40 fashion, it had doors that cut into the roof. The front fenders housed 18-inch wheels whereas the rear wheel wells were filled with bigger 19-inch wheels. There was also an integrated ‘ducktail’ spoiler, that was reminiscent of the original racer. On the inside, the Ford GT had a neat, classy, and sporty layout with brushed aluminum treatment around its analog dials, while it also featured classic toggle switches.
The SLR McLaren, on the other hand, was one of the most forward-looking supercars of the time. Even though it was named after the famous SLR (Sports Lightweight Racing or Sport Light Racing) race cars of the 1950s, everything about its design and underpinnings was futuristic. Designed by the legendary Gordon Murray, the SLR McLaren was pitched as a high-performance GT car instead of an all-out supercar. However, while it had classic GT proportions, design elements like an F1-style nose, side vents, swing-wing doors, active aero with a speed-sensing spoiler, and a flat underbelly and rear diffuser to increase downforce, showed that it was meant to cover ground at breakneck speeds. Because of the flat underbody, the SLR McLaren had to be fitted with side-mounted exhaust pipes. Not just that, it was one of the first supercars to feature a fully carbon-fiber monocoque construction. It truly was a technological marvel in the supercar segment at the time of its launch. The SLR McLaren was available in coupé, roadster, and speedster body styles, and it was also offered in a number of special editions.
The interior of the SLR McLaren was a mix of sporty and luxury elements. The cabin was layered with high-quality leather materials, and the seats were snug-fitting carbon-fiber bucket seats. It also came fitted with an automatically adjusting climate control, a multifunction steering wheel with buttons for quick gear changes, and more.
Ford GT vs SLR McLaren: The Engine
In terms of outright power and performance, both the Ford GT and SLR McLaren were evenly matched. Propelling the Ford was a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 engine, which was rated at 550 hp at 6,500 rpm and developed 500lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. Power was sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. The Ford GT was capable of hitting 0-62 mph in just 3.8 seconds and had a top speed of 205 mph (claimed).
The SLR features a 5.4-liter supercharged V8, too, but this unit produced more power and torque than the Ford’s. The SLR’s M155 engine developed 617 hp at 6,500 rpm and 580 lb-ft of torque between 3,250 – 5,000 rpm. Power transmission duties were carried out by a 5-speed automatic gearbox. In terms of performance, it was a dead-heat between the SLR and the GT – 0-62 mph took an identical 3.8 seconds, while the SLR’s top speed was higher only by a whisker at 208 mph.
Ford GT vs SLR McLaren: The Legacy
Given its racing pedigree and heritage, the Ford GT is a name that will never be forgotten. With its storied past and glorious performance, the road-going Ford GT will always remain special. The Ford GT is also a very rare supercar as only 4,500 units of the first-gen GT were produced. More than an iconic supercar, it’s considered more of a piece of automotive history. A fine art, if you will.
The SLR McLaren holds a special place in history as well. Today, Mercedes and McLaren may have gone their separate ways – both in motorsports and with their road-going supercars – but the SLR McLaren is proof of what the partnership between the two engineering giants had achieved back in the day. With just 2,157 units sold worldwide between 2003 and 2009, it’s also a rare piece of automotive metal.