First Drives

04 March 2013

First drive: the Mercedes SLS Black Series

"You can throw all sorts of cliches around to describe the sound, but it's such a guttural roar that you’ll never get close..."

Piers Ward
Car image

What is it?

Quite simply the most hardcore car that AMG has ever made. The official blurb says it's a race car for the road, and it's not wrong. The SLS Black has got more power, more wing, more carbon fibre, it costs more money - basically, it's an SLS with more of nearly everything.

The raw stats read like this: 6.2-litre V8, 622bhp, 634Nm, 0-100kph in 3.6 seconds, 315kph top speed. That's 59bhp more than the normal SLS, which helps make it 0.2 seconds quicker than the regular car to 100kph. But there's more to it than simple figures, or that tiny difference in acceleration times - we'll get to that in a tick.

There's more of a difference, because AMG has also put the Black on a diet. It now weighs just 1,550kg, some 70kg less than the normal SLS - impressive. AMG has fitted a carbon fibre bonnet, carbon fibre rear bulkhead, lighter seats, as well as a carbon fibre torque tube and lightweight lithium-ion battery. Even the exhaust is all-new, and is now skinny titanium.

The suspension has also been tweaked. The track is wider, the springs are stiffer - there are even new hub carriers on the front axle. Basically, the layout of the suspension is the same, but every part has been altered.

But as you'd expect, all of this comes at a cost. Merc estimates the SLS Black will cost a lot more than the normal car. Oof.

But still - I imagine the Black is epic?

Correct. And the engine is utterly brilliant.

The V8 now revs to 8,000rpm (previously 7,200rpm in the not-shy standard car). Just think about that for a minute - 8,000rpm. In a 6.2-litre V8. Push it to the red line and you get into all sorts of sensory overloads - few people short of astronauts will ever experience noise and power like this.

The sound dominates - you can throw all sorts of cliches around to try and describe it, but it's such an all-encompassing, guttural roar that you'll never get close. Maybe some sort of hybrid lion and polar bear, when both are particularly angry...

Aside from the noise, the throttle response is another highlight. Because there's no turbo on the SLS, every flex of your right foot is instantly matched by the engine. It makes the Black feel incredibly reactive, and responsive. In a world of turbos, this is a very good thing.

But can it get all that power down?

Surprisingly, yes. Thanks to the new Michelin tyres on the Black, it doesn't struggle for traction as much as you'd imagine. Of course you've got to be careful and modulate the throttle on the exit of corners, but the way the Black can lay all that 622bhp down and fire up the straights is impressive.

It's also a sharper instrument compared to the normal SLS. Turn in. Bang. Instant reaction. No delay. No weight transfer. The nose doesn't feel as distant, or as slow to obey. Again, there are decent tweaks to help with the positivity: along with the other alterations, the gas-filled strut braces locking the engine into the engine bay help make the car feel quick-witted.

The result? Everything is so stiff and finely-tuned that you feel at one with the Black, even on a track. Normally, road cars fall apart on racetracks because they're not designed for the loads and directional changes that you can put through them on a circuit. But not the SLS Black. It's an impressive tool.

One caveat - we only drove it on the track, and it felt stiff. The ride quality on normal roads could be extreme. After all, the normal SLS isn't exactly softly sprung, and the Black has simply turned the parameters up to Spinal Tap levels. You have been warned.

So should I be thinking about buying one?

If you've got the spare cash, then definitely. It might be similar money to a Ferrari F12, but there aren't many cars on sale, the Ferrari included, that have the visual and aural impact of the SLS Black. Extroverts, step this way.

Tags: mercedes, amg, mercedes benz, sls amg, sls, sls amg black series, sls black

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