For some reason, Mercedes and McLaren elected to mostly shoot the press photos for the car on 18s from rather far away.
Perhaps the two companies—working together to produce a halo car as part of the partnership that also gave the world Mercedes-powered McLaren Formula One cars— just wanted to give a lot of, er, atmosphere to these pictures.
Actually, I’m underselling it: you had two different 18-inch wheels you could choose from for your SLR. A five-spoke and a 10-spoke design.
I managed to dig up an SLR owner’s manual online from 2005, which includes the full specs on these wheels:
As you can see, the specs were slightly different in terms of performance. The 18s were on narrower, taller tires. Less outright grip, I suppose, but that’s not always a bad thing. That and you’d get a better ride, in principle. Also, I love the notification to note use snow chains on these things. Thanks.
The 19s are the turbine wheels you’ve seen on, like, ever SLR ever. They look like this:
The five-spoke 18s I’ve seen in a bunch of press photos and things, and look like this. Fairly charming:
The 10-spoke 18s are, well, I don’t know if they exist because I have never seen them outside of this single photo in an SLR brochure I turned up from 2006:
The whole thing is a funny reminder that while this car was engineered and built by McLaren in the UK, there was still some Mercedes in its philosophy. That there was a “base” wheel package would only make sense for a company that sells C-Classes and E-Classes by the gazillion.
And it’s also just a charming reminder of how far things have come in the last decade and a half. Cheap crossovers come with 18s, not supercharged carbon fiber rocketsleds meant for the richest of the rich.
Now if only I could find out how much it cost to step up from 18s to 19s. I wonder what kind of ride-comfort enthusiast even chose to leave that box unchecked.