Updated: Apr 28, 2021
I normally start off a review article with comments how the planning went, an intro loaded with specs, and maybe drop a few hints for what the reader can expect to learn about the driving experience a few paragraphs below. As I sat down to write, this one felt a bit different. With all my hand written notes in front of me, the other undocumented memories racing through my mind, and fingers hovering above the keyboard, it occurred to me what made this review stand out. I have never spent so much time staring at one car. There were lots of silent moments when I stood around the incredibly rare and profoundly fast SLS AMG Black Series, just to take in all of its beauty with awe and wonder.
Mouth open like I was observing some grand display of nature's power or a beautiful work of art all combined into one entity, there it was the AMG SLS Black Series.
I cracked a small smile and paused a moment more to give thanks for the opportunity I had to experience this and that I am able to try to put into words for you how amazing this machine actually is. So let me begin...
With 631 horsepower generated by a monster V8 connected straight to the rear wheels through a 7-speed DCT, this car is an absolute stand-out. Especially considering the already amazing 583 HP “regular” SLS supercar it's often mistaken for. The SLS Black is 154 pounds lighter than the standard car thanks to plentiful use of carbon fiber and a host of other goodies that make this car a completely different animal.
Before we get too far into this specific monster, we need to first discuss why it exists at all. Back in 2006, Mercedes was dominating the German market with its high-performance AMG models, but they had a wanting to push the limits of their cars even further. Thus, the AMG Black Series began with the birth of the SLK55. With around 500 horsepower, and the other necessary go-fast parts to make a crazy car even crazier, it was the first of its kind for the Mercedes AMG team. Other Black Series cars emerged in the coming years, with variants of the CLK, C, and SL class models all having a darker and meaner distant cousin being produced by AMG.
In 2011, Mercedes AMG unveiled the first car fully developed by them, the SLS AMG. It wasn’t a higher trim based on a similar platform, but it’s own new breed of front mid-engine supercars. It was a tribute to the 300SL gullwing of the ’50s, bringing back the iconic gullwing doors that are surprisingly easy to use (more on that later). This model wasn’t a car built for the track, which was a common theme in all of the Black Series cars produced, weighing in at just about 3,800lbs.
Fast forward 3 years to the final year of SLS production in 2014, and AMG committed themselves to produce a credible track-focused competitor. So how did they do it? Well, they brought the redline up from 7,200 to a screaming 8,000rpm, then they revised the intakes, added a titanium exhaust, forged engine hardware, a high-pressure oil system, and revised valve and ignition timing. All these new parts gave the Black Series a 39hp boost to 631, but there’s a small loss of torque with the higher redline, making you work for every last pony the 6.2-Liter V8 has.
The Aerodynamic package, which of course the owner of this car, Eric Lux (@eric.lux on Instagram) made sure his car had, adds a massive carbon rear wing and ankle-slicing front canards. The suspension is nearly 50% stiffer all around with two-stage dampers, making this quite the opposite of the weekend cruiser that the normal SLS is.
The original price of these cars was around $250,000 but in the past six years, they’ve skyrocketed to nearly double that, with some selling for more than $550,000 but they won’t stay here for long, much like the first Gullwing cars of the ‘50s.
Now, onto the exact car for this review. Eric met us on a chilly morning in Williamsville, New York, and a few days before, I had planned with Jacob (@jacobcarspotting on Instagram) to come down and take some professional photos for our review. Eric rocketed down the main road to our spot, flicking off downshifts and the titanium exhaust popping with each gear drop, hard on the carbon-ceramics as he pulled into meet us.
Now for those of you who don’t know Eric, he has raced with many different teams like Mercedes and Audi and has been to Le Mans and Daytona to race. There has never been a time where I was more comfortable while driving as hard as we did that day. (Pssst, if you know what you’re doing and have a need for speed, go down business park roads on a Sunday, they’re perfect.) The way Eric handled the car down these roads was mind-bending, he probably knows this platform better than anyone else because he proved the SLS GT3 on the track, so we fully trusted him as our pilot of this rocket.
“I never drive it in automatic or comfort mode, always manual and Sport+.”
I never drive it in automatic or comfort mode, always manual and Sport+ he tells us, and every full-throttle shift was taken at 8,000rpm, peak power all the way at the top.
Most SLS Black’s were optioned with the popular paint dubbed Solar Beam Yellow by AMG, but this example is in a very rare color called Designo Magno Alanite Grey, only 5 out of the 250 worldwide came in this color, and one of just 132 in the U.S. This car is in all senses, rarer than rare.
The interior, equipped with the COMAND infotainment system, which could be optioned out to save weight, and has black Alcantara upholstery with plenty of carbon fiber accents to complement the red seatbelts.
To quickly address the issue of ingress and egress of the SLS, it’s actually quite easy, because of how the door opens upwards, you can use the windshield frame to help lower yourself in over the immensely wide carbon door sill. The only challenging part of this process is being able to reach the door once you’ve sat down in the bucket seats.
Now that we’ve made it inside the surprisingly roomy cabin of the Black Series, let’s start it up and go for a spin! Previously to this event, I’d never been in a track-focused car, and never a Black Series track car, and the first thing you realize when you start moving, it’s brutally raw. It’s instantly clear that lots of sound deadening was removed to reduce weight because it shows. 2,000rpm brings a burble above idle, 3-4,000 is a light rumble, and 5,500 to redline is a full-out roar. The SLS was one of the last hurrahs of the naturally-aspirated V8 before two turbos were added into the mix, and what a bang to go out with!
During our drive, we really got to experience the way the Black Series handles and to push it to the limit. For the entirety of the drive, the car was in Sport+ and manual mode, but with traction on because mid-50 degree weather and over 600 horsepower doesn’t mix well. With the retuned suspension and upgraded tires, it felt like we were in the GT3 race car instead of the normal SLS road car. The aero grip was immense going through corners, and although the traction control system is a bit older than today’s, it wasn’t too intrusive, offering enough control to keep the car straight, but also enough power to keep us as close to full blast as possible.
So, to conclude our time with this glorious machine, what are my thoughts on it? As mentioned before, the SLS and its successor the GT, are in their own class of front-mid engine cars. Although this style (front-mid engine) is not as good for handling as the rear-mid setup, it still drastically increases the handling capability of the car and I love it. With the racing-derived engine, it’s a joy to open up on an empty road and not let off until you’re far past the legal limits. But when we’re dealing with a car like this, you can’t really make a simple “To Buy Or Not To Buy” decision, as any Black Series car is extremely rare and special, so the best I can do to wrap this up is to tell you that it is the most excellent car I have ever had the opportunity to ride in. Period.
It’s exclusive, fast, loud, beautiful, what else could you ask for? The SLS Black Series is the peak of a naturally-aspirated race-derived road car, and I say that with jaw dropping confidence.
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