Wave Goodbye...Unless, Perhaps, You're Driving a Car with More Than 661 Horsepower and a 0-60 Time of 3.6 Sec
Recession? What recession? Not in the cockpit of this $299,000 carbon-fiber bauble. Not in the engine bay stuffed full of 661 horses. Not anywhere near the sumo crouch of the new Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series, a limited-edition, twin-turbocharged two-seater that wards off any talk of “recession” like a mirror reflecting sunlight.
Does the world need such an extroverted, over-the-top vehicular plaything? Very much so, apparently. Of the 350 examples being built (half of which are headed to U.S. shores this year), a goodly portion were already sold well before the January release. Of course, there’s no predicting how many of those buyers are overzealous, overmortgaged, and headed for a quick wheeled foreclosure, but you get the idea. The auto landscape’s uppermost crust is apparently always hungry for new and extravagant playthings, financial “hiccups” be damned.
The new top model in the AMG lineup, the twin-turbo, V-12 SL65 Black Series is an extravagant plaything, indeed. If at first glance you mistook it for a DTM race car, you’re forgiven. The SL65 Black Series nearly qualifies as one. Its fender flares, which jut out from the bodywork like circa-1980s David Byrne shoulder pads, stretch overall width to nearly six and a half feet. Every body panel except the rear fenders and the doors is made of lightweight carbon fiber-including the new fixed roof, which hides an integrated rollbar. The rear apron incorporates an underbody diffuser for added downforce; also assisting is a rear wing that automatically rises above 75 mph.
AMG employs 60 engine-builders, 40 of whom are trained to produce V-12s. One of those 40 assembles one SL65 Black Series powerplant from start to finish (per the AMG motto “one man, one engine”), a process that takes about seven hours, including testing. Compared with the “normal” SL65, the Black Series gets redesigned, better-breathing turbos; a modified intake tract; and a reengineered exhaust with reduced backpressure. The resulting 6.0-liter monster produces so much torque, AMG uses an electronic limiter to keep the madness in check. Without it, the blown V-12 would produce more like 885 pound-feet. Yet despite the power boost, the Black Series delivers five-percent-better fuel efficiency than the standard SL65. Black magic.
Mercedes’s superb seven-speed automatic simply can’t handle even the “limited” 738 pound-feet, so the Black Series gets the stouter five-speed auto with paddle shifters. The transmission offers four program modes, including two full-manual programs (M2 shifting 20 percent quicker than M1). Like an expert driver, the automatic also performs double-clutch downshifts, helping prevent sudden load changes that could diminish stability when entering fast corners or driving on slick surfaces.
An all-new coil-over suspension lies under the carbon-fiber extravaganza. Wheels are 19-inch light alloys up front and 20-inchers in the rear, with high-performance Dunlop Sport Maxx GT rubber all around. Each corner wears a vented, perforated disc brake, with six-piston calipers forward and four-piston to the rear. Stability modes include ESP On, ESP Sport, and, if you forget how it feels to drive a rocket sled on ice, ESP Off.
European buyers get full carbon-fiber door trim, but side airbag requirements in the U.S. mean we have to settle for sumptuous leather. The sport seats are deeply bolstered for excellent lateral support, and the flat-bottom steering wheel stays out of the way of your legs while looking racy. You and passenger will no doubt wax poetic about whatever’s on your mind, such is the inspiring artistry of the interior design.
You’ll converse, that is, until you step hard on the throttle — at which point your vocabulary will lapse into mere grunts and screams. So much torque floods the 325/30R20 rear Dunlops, the Black Series nearly stands on end. Launched in ESP Sport, which allows a useful whiff of wheelspin, the Black Series blitzes to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds and guns through the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 123.9 mph. Look elsewhere on this site, though, and you’ll note that, brutally fast as it is, the SL65 Black is easily outpaced by, say, the Corvette ZR1 (3.2 sec to 60 mph, quarter in 11.2 sec at 130.5 mph). It’s largely a weight issue: Even though its copious carbon fiber helps shed 210 pounds over a standard SL65, the Black Series still checks in at 4221 pounds (versus the ZR1’s 3364). Think of it, then, as one of the world’s quickest tanks.
Aerodynamics and power, not weight, matter most in top speed, and the SL65 Black Series would top 200 mph, Mercedes claims, if not for the standard electronic limiter. As a result, you’ll have to make do with a governed top end of 199 mph.
The brakes set no standards for feel, being a bit squishy at times, but they stop hard-60 to 0 mph in 105 feet-and never fade. Handling grip is impressive, the Black Series circling our Motor Trend figure-eight course quicker than the Ferrari 599 GTB. There’s no comparing the Ferrari and the Benz on ride quality, though: The Black Series rides hard. It prefers the racetrack, while the Ferrari is perfectly at home on the open road.
Will anyone who can afford the SL65 Black Series care? Not likely. This is a statement car, an “I’ve-got-more-power-than-you” megabruiser that screams, “Just try me.” It wears its speed on its carbon-fiber sleeve, daring other sports cars to trespass, gloating over mortal automobiles in the valet lane, elevating its driver to the status of Hercules.
And for some, apparently, no recession or $299K sticker is going to keep them from a chance to play mythical hero.
|2010 MERCEDES-BENZ SL65 AMG BLACK SERIES|
|Price as tested||$299,000|
|Vehicle Layout||Front engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|Engine||6.0L/661-hp/738-lb-ft twin-turbo SOHC 36-valve V-12|
|Curb Weight (dist f/r)||4221 lb (52/48%)|
|Length x Width x Height||180.7 x 77.2 x 51.6 in|
|0-60 mph||3.6 sec|
|Quarter mile||11.6 sec @ 123.9 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||105 ft|
|MT figure eight||24.6 sec @ 0.81 g (avg)|
|Lateral acceleration||0.96 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy fuel econ||12/19 mpg (MT est)|
|CO2 Emissions||1.35 lb/mile|
|On Sale In U.S.||Currently|