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BACK IN BLACK
Published on Tuesday 21 May 2013 18:52
Ten Second Review
There are still some who think an SLS is a Mercedes SL with some fancy doors. That it's a cruiser that might just be a little flabby under its posh outfit. Not a bit of it. If you want the SLS even more gym-toned, the 631PS Black Series is the default choice. It's evil.
Just when you were getting to grips with the idea of the 583PS Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Coupe being the apex of the SLS range, the Black Series hoves into view. Any lingering doubts that the SLS might be more of a posh boulevardier, something to see and be seen in, are instantly banished by the Black Series. It looks like something that has just driven out of a round of the FIA GT3 World Championship and had number plates stuck to each end. It's hardcore.
We've had Black Series models across the Mercedes range before. They started out rather inauspiciously with models like the largely forgotten SLK 55 AMG Black Series, but it was the CLK 63 AMG Black Series that really saw the stars align. Jeremy Clarkson eulogised over the thing and then bought one himself, claiming it was the best car he'd ever owned. Since then we've had crackerjacks like the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series, the SL 65 AMG Black Series and now this, the ultimate Mercedes-Benz sporting road car.
You want power? It's right here. The uprated AMG 6.2-litre V8 engine generates a healthy power output of 631PS and 635 Newton metres of torque which translates to a sprint to 62mph in just 3.6 seconds. The top speed stands at 315 km/h which in old money is 197mph. But how has AMG managed to eke another 60PS out of an engine that already felt bowstring taut in the standard SLS coupe? There's no forced induction or anything like that. It's done the hard way with an increase in maximum engine speed from 7200 to 8000rpm, a fully revised high-speed valve train with modified camshafts, adapted cam geometry and optimised bucket tappets featuring a special coating which is otherwise exclusive to racing vehicles and modification of the intake air ducting. This has required de-restriction and adaptation to the new maximum engine speed. AMG ceramic high-performance composite brake system also comes as standard.
The chassis and suspension of the SLS AMG Coupe Black Series are also much altered. The basic layout with double wishbones all-round in aluminium remains unchanged, but barely a component has gone untouched in the interests of superior dynamics. Those developments in detail? AMG RIDE CONTROL performance suspension with tauter basic tuning and electronically controlled two-stage damping (Sport, Sport +) combines with coil-over spring retainers to enable adjustment of wheel loads for personal race track set-ups. Then there's more rigid body control, a track width that's been extended by 20mm at the front and 24mm at the rear and revised hubs on the front axle and an improved front stabiliser tuning for added grip, reduced roll angle in fast cornering. An electronic rear differential lock is said to be more effective than the previous mechanical item. Steering, tyres and wheels have also been uprated. This is no skirts and spoilers job. This is hardcore.
Design and Build
The design of the SLS AMG Coupe Black Series is a tribute to the SLS AMG GT3 customer sport racing car. Wide flared wings with an added width of 13 mm (front) and 26 mm (rear) on each side create the necessary space for the 275mm and 325mm tyres. Darkened headlamps and black surrounds for the rear lights provide the SLS AMG Coupe Black Series with a malevolent look enhanced by a carbon fibre-reinforced plastic front splitter, carbon inserts in the side sills and the rear apron made of carbon fibre. The enlarged air intakes with carbon-fibre flics additionally ensure an optimum air inflow into the cooling modules at the front.
As on the SLS AMG GT3, the carbon-fibre bonnet features a central air outlet. Apart from effectively discharging the engine heat, this outlet also increases downforce at the front axle. There's an optional AMG Aerodynamics package for an even more race refugee look. The interior is finished in a choice of either Alcantara black or Alcantara black/red and features a slick '3D seam' which runs horizontally across the dashboard. Overall this model is 70kg lighter than the standard coupe, weighing in at 1545kg. That's not at all bad for a car with a 6.2-litre V8 in its nose.
Market and Model
Okay, let's start with what you don't get. The COMAND infotainment system that you'll find in most Mercedes models has been junked, saving six kilograms in the process. Now if you're anything like me, you'll probably be cursing that decision when you're lost with no sat nav, but this is a serious piece of kit and not just a plaything for journalists who have forgotten how to use an A to Z. It can be optioned back in, but otherwise you have a nice piece of carbon fibre trim to look at. I think I'd also be tempted by the optional Bang & Olufsen BeoSound AMG surround sound system. It features Dolby Digital 5.1, a 1000-watt amplifier and 11 loudspeakers. It might cost me a tenth or two over the course of a lap but who cares.
You'll find a combination of designo leather and Alcantara features throughout the interior. On the bottom section of the dashboard, for example, on the door centre panels and on the AMG bucket seats, whose centre sections are covered with Alcantara. You also get embossed AMG emblems on the head restraints. These seats are also 15 kilograms lighter than the standard AMG sports items. Which might make you feel better about specifying that huge stereo system.
Cost of Ownership
Mercedes quotes a fuel consumption figure of 20.6mpg for the SLS AMG Black Series but, honestly, if I ever used this thing and came back with a fuel economy figure that wasn't in single figures, I'd feel that I wasn't worthy. Some cars demand to be used as their manufacturer intended and this is most certainly one of them. Anybody who owns one of these and doesn't take it onto a race track at least once in its life has horribly missed the point. There are many other prettier supercars that will work well in collections. This is one vehicle that needs to be flung over a few kerbs.
If you're at all interested, emissions are rated at 321g/km. What's probably more relevant to potential owners is how this car will stand up as an investment, used in anger or not. That very much depends on the production plans for the car. The way these engines are hand built means that it's doubtful there will be any major over supply, which should buoy up residual values.
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series takes the architectural elegance of the standard SLS coupe and transforms it into something altogether more malevolent. It's a perfect embodiment of the Black Series philosophy, offering racing design, genuine track-focused engineering and sledgehammer power. It also enables Mercedes to unleash all of the talent that's been lurking in the SLS platform. The long bonnet and slick interior might hint at a point and squirt GT car, but the SLS always had more than that about it. You only had to pop the bonnet and see how far back the engine was set to know this was a quite serious piece of kit. The Black Series makes good on those promises.
It'll always be a rare sight and that will only underscore the drama that's shot through this hot SLS. Mercedes has managed to build a car that provides the sort of adrenaline rush you thought was only provided by Italian exotics. Germany's rediscovered the supercar and it sounds like it's in rude health.