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Mercedes-McLaren SLR maintenance costs are terrifying

By Scott Newman, 14 Dec 2018 Features

Maintaining a Mercedes-McLaren SLR is terrifying news

The true cost of owning an exotic

It’s stating the obvious that high-end supercars like the Mercedes-McLaren SLR are expensive, but the financial pain doesn’t end with the initial purchase price.

Depreciation can make previously unaffordable dream machines more attainable, but be warned that the maintenance bills don’t depreciate – quite the opposite in fact.

The Mercedes-McLaren SLR is the perfect, if extreme example. A genuine million-dollar motor when released in 2004, regular examples of this 460kW gullwinged monster can be had for between $450,000-500,000. Still huge money, but the SLR was a contemporary of the Ferrari Enzo and Porsche Carrera GT.

Unsurprisingly, there are no examples of this LHD-only super GT for sale in Australia currently (though a number of cars do live here), but prices are similar in both the UK and the USA. As mentioned, though, the initial outlay is just the start of the fun.

This article was prompted by an SLR-owning Aussie ex-pat in Japan, who recently posted that water damage required the door cards be replaced. Thankfully, it was covered by insurance, as the bill came to ¥12,495,000. To save you the calculations, that’s around AUD$150,000. That’s not a typo.

A bit of research unearthed more scary numbers. Careful when closing that giant bonnet, as a replacement is around AUD$100,000, depending on exact exchange rates (US$75,000-85,000 seems to be the going rate).

The SLR’s flagship status means it features a lot of then-cutting edge technology. The brakes are carbon-ceramics, with 370mm discs and eight-piston calipers at the front and 360mm and four-piston calipers at the rear. If they need replacing, you’re looking at around $80,000.

Even the regular servicing is terrifying. An annual ‘A service’ (fluids and safety check) is in the region of US$5000, a biennial B service $US8000 (A service plus brake fluid, air filter and replace underbody screws) and a major service every four years (replace V belts, spark plugs and coolant) will set you back between US$15,000-20,000.

This is assuming no parts need replacing, but it’s not as simple as driving carefully. According to our Japan-based owner, a lot of parts are ‘lifed’, which means they need replacing after a certain time regardless of use.

An SLR technician on the Mercedes-Benz World forums explained the crazy costs are primarily due to labour. Simply put, the mighty McMerc isn’t designed to be taken apart and put back together again.

Virtually any servicing requires the removal of 140 bolts that hold the flat floor in place, which need to be replaced every two years. Even better, because the bolts screw directly into the carbon monocoque power or air tools are off limits.

Despite some comments to the contrary, that same technician is adamant that anything beyond an oil change (changing spark plugs, for instance) requires the removal of the engine. An engine change itself? Around 50 hours. Suddenly those servicing bills start to make sense.

None of which should discourage you from owning one of the most awesome two-seaters ever built, but if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it!