By most stretches of the imagination, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is already a monstrous car. After all, it boasts 563 hp, 479 lb-ft of torque, a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds, and an exhaust note that could wake the dead several states away. The new SLS AMG GT is even more so, thanks to a 20-hp increase applied for the 2013 model year.
But neither car fazes Dr. Martin Hart, Mercedes-AMG’s senior manager of powertrain calibration. Over a quick lunch at AMG’s corporate headquarters, he casually lets slip he’s just returned from flogging a 2014 SLS AMG Black Series prototype. How does the Black Series stack up against the already-impressive SLS AMG in his eyes?
“The SLS is soft,” Hart says, “but the SLS Black Series? That is the true monster.”
From what we can see in this first official look at the 2014 SLS AMG Black Series, we’ve no reason to think he’s jesting.
Whole ‘Lotta Hammer
According to AMG marketing chief Mario Spitzner, a Black Series car is not only the ultimate expression of what an AMG car can be, but one that’s equally at home on the open road and the closed track. As such, Black Series models – like the 2007 CLK63 AMG Black Series, the 2009 SL65 AMG Black Series, and the 2012 C63 AMG Black Series – receive suspension, braking, and aerodynamic enhancements, along with a little bump in power.
Let’s start with that last point. Much like its standard SLS AMG and SLS AMG GT siblings, the 2014 SLS AMG Black Series is powered by a 6.2-liter V-8. Bore, stroke, and compression remain unchanged, but Mercedes-AMG engineers managed to coax more power out of the Black Series-spec engine, bringing peak output to a stout 622 hp at 7400 rpm. Torque, however, slips slightly, dropping from 479 lb-ft to 468 lb-ft, which is delivered at 5500 rpm.
This newfound horsepower isn’t the byproduct of merely a new ECM or exhaust system – although the SLS AMG Black Series employs both of those tricks, its 6.2-liter V-8 also receives quite a bit of internal modification. Engineers increased the redline from 7400 rpm to 8000, which required adopting a new oil pump, crank bearings, camshafts, intake, and connecting rod fasteners.
As before, the SLS AMG Black Series’ engine isn’t bolted right to a transmission, but rather coupled with a rear-mounted transaxle via a torque tube. That transaxle remains a seven-speed dual-clutch design, although AMG has worked to quicken shift response and speed. Hart tells us the shift sensation is far more aggressive and race-like than even the SLS AMG GT, which already boasts an improved transaxle. Black Series cars also receive an electrically actuated locking rear differential.
Beyond Sheer Power
Hardware upgrades don’t end with the driveline – the SLS AMG Black Series chassis is similar to other SLS models, but some mild tweaks make it more track-oriented than before. For starters, the front and rear tracks have been widened by eight- and nine-tenths of an inch, respectively, allowing AMG to fit 10x19” wheels in front and 12x20” rims – all wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber -- in back. SLS AMG Black Series models still use adaptive coil-over dampers at all four corners, but are 42-50 percent stiffer than before. Brake rotors are two-piece carbon ceramic units, which AMG says are 35 pounds lighter than standard SLS rotors.
AMG’s obsession over weight didn’t end with brakes. Engineers labored to shed mass throughout the car, largely by way of expanding the use of carbon fiber reinforced plastics. Carbon fiber is used for the SLS AMG Black Series’ hood, underbody bracing, and torque tube, along with a number of structural body elements previously fabricated from aluminum. As a result, the SLS Black Series tips the scales at 3417 pounds, which is 154 pounds lighter than a standard SLS AMG coupe.
A Flair for Flares and Carbon Fiber
Do all these upgrades go unannounced? Hardly. Much like its Black Series forebears, the SLS AMG Black Series wraps its mechanical bits in dramatic, race-inspired bodywork. Inspired by the SLS AMG GT3 racer, the SLS Black Series gains blistered front and rear fenders, a wild rear diffuser with quad rectangular exhaust tips, and a vented hood. Head- and tail lamps are tinted, while virtually every air intake or extraction point is accented with carbon fiber. If that’s not wild enough, buyers can opt for an aerodynamic pack, which adds carbon fiber canards at the corners of the front fascia, along with a wild adjustable rear wing (pictured) that boasts a small Gurney flap in the pursuit of downforce.
Interior revisions are a little milder: the cabin is bathed in Benz’s trademark Designo leather and highlighted in Alcantara – the latter used on seat inserts, the steering wheel, and an accent strip that runs the width of the dashboard. Buyers can opt for an 11-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, or choose to delete the stock COMAND infotainment system altogether, purging another 13 pounds from the car in the process.
Officially, the SLS AMG Black Series will be offered with only six exterior paint colors (including the exclusive Solar Beam color shown here) and two interior color schemes (black or a black/red two-tone combination), but for the right price, the division’s workshop in Affalterbach will likely be more than happy to trim an SLS Black Series in any color – so long as your checking account remains in the black.
Big Price Tag, Small Volume
Mercedes-Benz says the first SLS AMG Black Series cars should arrive in North America this coming summer, but the automaker isn’t disclosing pricing quite yet. If it follows in the footsteps of the C63 AMG Black Series, which was about 1.6 times the price of a base C63 AMG coupe, expect the 2014 SLS AMG Black Series to sticker somewhere close to the $340,000 mark, excluding taxes, title fees, destination, and the inevitable speeding tickets.
Likewise, we’ve yet to hear exactly how many SLS AMG Black Series models will roll off the assembly line. Although Spitzner tells us he occasionally wishes he could get more Black Series cars into the hands of the public (“They’re our best brand ambassadors”), he maintains exclusivity has and always will be a hallmark of Black Series cars.
Seeing as only 200 SL65 AMG Black Series cars were sold stateside and fewer than 100 C63 AMG Black Series models were sold on our shores, expect SLS AMG Black Series production to be equally limited – and to be snatched up by customers almost as quickly as it can rocket to 60 mph.
2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series
On sale: Summer 2013
Base price (est): $337,000
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8,
Output: 622 hp @ 7400 rpm
Torque: 468 lb-ft @ 5500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Curb weight: 3417 pounds
0-60 MPH: 3.5 seconds
Top Speed: 196 mph