Vital Stats

Engine:
6.3L V8
Power:
622 HP / 468 LB-FT
Transmission:
7-Speed DCT
0-60 Time:
3.5 Seconds
Top Speed:
196 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,417 LBS
Seating:
2
Base Price:
$275,000
The biggest misconception about the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series is that it's simply a higher-performing version of the SLS GT - a closer look, or better yet, a few hot laps on a high-speed racing circuit, reveals that is anything but the case.

Launched in the States in mid-2011, the standard SLS GT is a 583-horsepower, all-aluminum, gull-wing coupe with performance that positions it near the top of the exotic segment. While the AMG team at Mercedes-Benz could have left it alone, their experience with the SLS AMG GT3 race car said there was room for improvement, so they devised the SLS Black Series. The transformation from SLS GT to SLS Black Series is extensive, with no fewer than 17 significant enhancements.

The engine mapping, crankshaft, connecting rods, valvetrain, intake, exhaust and cooling are all modified and the engine's redline bumps up from 7,200 to 8,000 rpm, which pushes output of the hand-built 6.3-liter V8 to 622 horsepower. The power steering receives a new ratio, a coilover AMG Adaptive Performance suspension is installed along with underbody braces, the track is widened, two-piece carbon-ceramic brakes replace iron rotors at each corner and a lightweight titanium exhaust is fitted beneath. The AMG Speedshift seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is modified and an electronically controlled AMG rear differential lock ensures the power goes to the pavement. Last on the mechanical upgrades are new lightweight forged wheels (10x19 inches front and 12x20 inches rear) wrapped in special R-compound Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires.

More visible are the cosmetic upgrades, which basically include new AMG aerodynamic bodywork forward of the A-pillar, carbon-fiber exterior mirrors, a fixed rear wing and other lightweight components. The interior of the cabin is also treated to unique Black Series Designo leather with Alcantara inserts. The short options list includes wheels with matte black paint, Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio, COMAND multi-media interface and a fitted car cover to keep the dust at bay while at the track.

The SLS AMG Black Series weighs 3,417 pounds, which is 154 pounds lighter than its GT sibling, but its race car performance carries a $73,500 premium – in terms of engineering and tuning, many would consider it a bargain. To legally explore its performance, I spent the day with the automaker's flagship car at Willow Springs International Raceway in the Southern California Desert.

Track Notes:
  • The cockpit of the SLS Black Series is nearly identical to the GT in configuration, but the Alcantara removes some of its luxury polish. The synthetic suede is welcome, as its adds fingertip grip to the steering wheel and more friction to the seating surfaces. My six-foot, two-inch frame fit well, and legroom wasn't an issue, but the top of my racing helmet was brushing ever so slightly on the headliner with the gullwing door pulled snugly shut. The minor annoyance was forgotten when I pressed the red start/stop button on the center console and the V8 fired to life.
  • Adding power, removing weight and raising redline are three easy ways to get my enthusiast pulse racing. The exhaust note on the standard SLS GT is impressive, but the titanium tubes on the Black Series sing a more aggressive song that easily permeated the side glass and drilled through my helmet – long live the wonderful naturally aspirated V8.
  • The 40 additional horses improve acceleration slightly, but more important are the mapping changes to the gearbox. I ran the Black Series in S+ (Sport Plus) driving mode, which delivered crisp gear shifts and throttle blips coming into the corners. The upgraded programming is aggressive, but I never questioned its logic and found the coupe ran best when the computers were tasked with shifting.
  • I'm used to running Big Willow in cars that need lots of throttle around Turn 2 and can go down the back straight flat-out. The 622-horsepower SLS had me at partial throttle around the constant radius turn and lifting down the back before entering dicey Turn 8. With a clean exit of Turn 9, I was able to hit a blistering 140 miles per hour down the front straight.
  • Willow Springs is as old as your grandparents, with a track bed and surface that is really starting to show its age. While most of the pavement is smooth, some of the fastest corners are marked with dips and undulations that try their best to unsettle a chassis. Running the active dampers in their firmest setting was uncomfortable and unnerving, as some of the tires felt like they were losing contact with the road, so I backed the firmness off a stage to allow the wheels to follow the surface. Once I was running the proper setting, the grip from the wide and sticky Michelin tires (325/30ZR20 in the rear!) was extraordinary. Understeer has vanished, but oversteer remains just a stab of the throttle away.
  • Tasked with less mass to stop and with tenacious carbon-ceramic friction surfaces, the brakes were a non-issue. Pedal feel was good, even though they didn't have race car firmness, and I rarely found the need to ask for ABS assistance even when the chassis was bounding over a bump on the surface. Some of the credit goes to those gummy tires, which refused to let go.
  • A day at the racing circuit taught me that the SLS Black Series is a hardened track variant, which is best thought of as a tuned-down racecar rather than a gussied-up street vehicle. In terms of performance, nothing has been left untouched by the AMG engineers, and the car's performance at Willow Springs was nothing short of spectacular. This type of tuning is absolutely overkill for public roads, but I can't refrain from commending the brilliant engineers who were tasked with creating this uncompromising devil. It is one of my favorites.

Track Test: 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 17 Comments
      Ryan Schneider
      • 1 Year Ago
      The ear-to-ear grin on Mr. Harley's face in one of those pics sums up this article nicely......
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        Brandon
        • 1 Year Ago
        First of all, what time did the 2014 Camaro Z28 get again? Oh that's right 7:37, faster than a STOCK $300,000 Lexus LFA. I find it very funny that an $80,000 American muscle car beat your beloved Lexus's halo car. Also, the time of 7:14 was set by the Nurburgring SPECIAL EDITION, which by the way costs $445,000 or almost 200k more than the Black Series. Second, the LFA has been on sale for a couple of years now and your claim that "its whole production has been sold in few weeks while the SLS has been a fiasco" is the biggest load of rubbish I've ever heard. I'm a part time photographer and I've seen 70+ SLS AMGs and about one or two LFAs in my short career. I wouldn't call the Mercedes out selling the Lexus a "fiasco." And then you go on to say "compared to lexus, mercedes looks like a rubbish of euro junk." Europeans have made the best luxury and supercars for the past 100 years. German companies own Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Bugatti which are nowhere near "junk". They know a thing or two about building extraordinary cars which is why Toyota's TMG motorsports division is based in Germany. They have models like the S class that have been around longer than any of the Japanese luxury brands. Your not European like you claim to be, no European would ever call cars from Europe "junk." Your either a) the biggest JDM troll in the entire world second to BD or b) a Japanese person pretending to be European and trying to act like a retard, or finally c) you really enjoy Japanese guys which is totally fine with me, what ever floats your boat :) Have a good day.
      jtav2002
      • 1 Year Ago
      Cue comments from all the people who think their opinion is more relevant because they claimed to have driven an SLS and think they're ugly and boring.
      NightFlight
      • 1 Year Ago
      That vehicle is so beautiful, easily one of my favorite production cars...
      wooootles
      • 1 Year Ago
      Did the 'Ring in 7:25. For all the HP, weight loss and aero bits this car has, it's still slower than a 505-hp Corvette by a few seconds
      stevenh
      • 1 Year Ago
      great horsepower but not a very torquey engine considering the size , number of cyl and output Too bad the torque numbers don't match the hp number
        Michael Harley
        • 1 Year Ago
        @stevenh
        468 pound-feet is a lot of torque, and the engine is a real screamer, so don't become obsessed with the figures. - Mike
        mkM3
        • 1 Year Ago
        @stevenh
        It makes more torque than a Silverado or F150 with similar displacement engines despite the fact that it revs much higher and makes over **200 hp** more than those. No production naturally aspirated engine makes over 90 ft-lb per liter and most are in the 70 to 80 ft-lb range just like this engine. So then, lamenting the fact that the torque number does not match power number is basically saying that it's unfortunate that it makes so much power. You could apply that same faulty logic to all high performance naturally aspirated engines that make or approach 100hp/L like this one does. Finally, power-to-weight is what determines a car's ability to accelerate. It's why a diesel golf will not beat a gasoline golf with the 2.5 even though it makes almost 100 ft-lb more torque.
      ferps
      • 1 Year Ago
      It seems strange that they are going to retire the SLS now that they've finally gotten it right.
        FX Gts
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ferps
        Because they would rather built CLA's that's why...
      another Dan
      • 1 Year Ago
      6,208cc is not 6.3L
        Michael Harley
        • 1 Year Ago
        @another Dan
        And 302 cu. in. is not 5.0 — but we called it that anyway as most of us were tired of arguing. - Mike
      k_m94
      • 1 Year Ago
      This thing is glorious. More appealing than a Ferrari F12 for that kind of money, but the 458 Speciale (weird racy looks or not) is going to give it a good fight on a track.
      Charrop
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hey Michael, the usual notation for wheel size is to list the diameter first and then the width. It was weird parsing "10x19 inches front and 12x20 inches rear" at first.
        Michael Harley
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Charrop
        Ah, that is how Mercedes (er.. the Germans) listed it. I usually swap the numbers... huge wheels in any case! - Mike
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
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