Apologies to the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, but the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SL65 Black Series has just trumped it as the most powerful Mercedes-Benz ever made. This rare and menacing SL is the third Mercedes to earn Black Series status, and while the third time is usually the charm, in this case it’s a cruise missile. With all the king’s horses – 661 of them – Mercedes says that its ber-Benz accelerates to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and needs to be electronically restrained to its 199-mph top speed.
Unlike other SLs, the Black Series isn’t a convertible. Instead, it has a fixed, carbon-fiber roof with a more raked rear window. Carbon-fiber hood, fascias, and front fenders extend the SL’s width by almost an inch, and enormous wheels (9.5 by 19 inches up front, 11.5 by 20 inches at the rear) help widen its track by almost five – five! – inches. At highway speeds, with the automatic rear wing raised, the fat-fendered, low-roofed SL looks like it escaped from a DTM race.
To produce the extra power, AMG bolted larger turbos to the SL65’s 6.0-liter V-12. As in the SL65, maximum torque is limited to 738 lb-ft to protect the five-speed automatic transmission, which is here equipped with two manual-shift modes and has the ability to blip the throttle on downshifts. The bigger turbos create more lag at low revs, a liability that’s offset by big power gains at the top of the tach.
The standard SL’s electrohydraulic brakes were ditched in favor of a conventional hydraulic system, and to save weight, the Active Body Control suspension was replaced with an adjustable coil-over setup. The Black Series weighs in at 4345 pounds, 210 pounds less than the SL65, and although that weight loss is impressive, the European version sheds an additional pounds by using single-piece racing-style bucket seats and air-bag-less carbon-fiber door panels that wouldn’t meet U.S. side-impact regulations. The remainder of the Black Series’ interior is similar to that of the regular SL65 AMG, which is a little disappointing given the new model’s $100,000 price premium.
Then again, the Black Series reflects its sticker price in other ways. Take its sinister proportions, for instance, or its monumental power. Mash Gucci loafer to carpet, and the Black Series tries to spin its rear tires all the way to triple-digit speeds. Even when it can put its power down – which isn’t often – the rear end sways from side to side under acceleration. According to one AMG engineer, the oscillation is the result of a conflict between the limited-slip differential and the rest of the driveline, but it feels as if the earth’s crust is being ripped open.
The V-12 emits a loud bellow, which, while not the most pleasant sound, effectively scares the peasants out of the way. The suspension is very firm by Mercedes standards but gives up none of the ABC-equipped SL’s exceptional body control. A quicker steering rack offers fantastic on-center feel, but those enormous wheels severely limit steering angle. This SL needs nearly 48 feet – the width of a four-lane interstate – to make a U-turn.
Then again, practical considerations like U-turns, or the fact that the rear spoiler mechanism takes up most of the trunk space, hardly matter. The SL65 Black Series exists to wear the mantle of the baddest Benz in all the land, and it does so far more proudly than the rather ridiculous SLR, which not only has less power and less torque but, oh, incidentally, costs another grand. All hail the prince of darkness.