First Drive: 2014 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Black Series mercedes benz luxury cars first drives
First Drive: 2014 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Black Series mercedes benz luxury cars first drives
First Drive: 2014 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Black Series mercedes benz luxury cars first drives
First Drive: 2014 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Black Series mercedes benz luxury cars first drives
2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Michael Bettencourt

Willow Springs Raceway, CA – The ultimate AMG gullwing has become a swan song. The entire Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG line will be retired later in 2014, making the ’14 SLS Black Series its single year high-speed denouement, a raging horsepower fight against the darkness of that ultimate adrenaline light.

And they do mean ultimate. Not only is this car Mercedes-Benz’s priciest production car this year, its near 300 grand starting price and exotic rivals means that Mercedes-Benz dealers can’t even sell it: prospective customers must deal directly with M-B Canada. At $294,000, it’s a gulp-inducing 76 large pricier than the not-so-regular SLS AMG GT Coupé, and in terms of pure numbers, that’s a high premium to pay for an exotic sports car with a slightly lower top speed – thanks to that huge downforce-shoveling rear wing – and a 0-100 km/h acceleration time improved by a mere one-tenth of a second (down to 3.6 versus 3.7, according to Mercedes-Benz figures).

But then, if you’re going to notice the slightly lower 315 km/h top speed versus the 320 offered by its more aerodynamic sibling, you’ll certainly notice and no doubt appreciate the improved braking going into those corners, and the extra grip that keeps you and the SLS Black Series well away from the tire wall and the hard stuff behind it. Plus the extra stability on the straights that helps keep the back end of this rear-wheel drive heart-pumper where it belongs: planted on the pavement.

If you’re pushing hard enough for those huge rear 325-mm-wide, super-low profile (30) rear gumballs to lose traction, you’re either going extremely fast, or extremely crazy.

So what exactly differentiates an SLS AMG Black Series? It’s certainly not shy about shouting out its performance-above-all ethos. It’s a wider car all around, its fenders pumped up with an extra 26 mm of intimidating width in front, and double that in the back, to help cover the wider 275/35/19-inch front and 325/30/20 rear tires, respectively. The front hood now has a central air intake and is made of lighter carbon-fibre, with a matching steroid-enhanced CF rear wing. Even with wider and unique lower body accents all the way around the body, meticulous weight savings throughout has slimmed the Black Series down by up to 70 kg compared to the GT coupé, thanks to a new lithium-ion battery, a titanium exhaust, and that lighter carbon-fibre bodywork.

It will look overdone to many Mercedes-Benz fans, and perhaps most onlookers, but just right for some hardcore AMG owners.

All those pumped up visual cues are backed up by a similarly track-optimized version of the same 6.2L naturally aspirated V8 engine that now unleashes 622 hp at 7400 rpm from AMG’s mid-front mounted powerplant, with 468 lb-ft of torque at 5500 rpm. That’s an extra 39 ponies, but this higher-revving engine maxes out with 11 lb-ft less than the standard SLS. Unlike other recent, more civilized AMG models introduced recently, there’s no all-wheel drive here, just full-on, purist and bodyshop-friendly rear-wheel drive.

By design, this is a GT3 racecar powertrain, with all the necessary emissions and neighbourhood-friendly muffler equipment tacked on only as much as required.

First Drive: 2014 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Black Series mercedes benz luxury cars first drives First Drive: 2014 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Black Series mercedes benz luxury cars first drives First Drive: 2014 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Black Series mercedes benz luxury cars first drives
2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series. Click image to enlarge

There’s a touch more compromise inside, where the driver faces a louder but still luxuriously civilized environment for street driving. The SLS AMG Black contains a lovely Alcantara-lined dash and seats, along with high quality carpeting and real door handles. That’s right, no Porsche 911 GT3-style extreme diet gimmicks such as fabric door handles here, though the stereo and navi system can be deleted for those truly masochistic about lap times.

The red Start button on the centre console nestles between transmission, stability control, and damper firmness adjustment buttons, which vary from sporty to super-elite sporty, as well as an AMG button that can save your favourite combo of all these modes. It’s always fascinating to see a speedo where the usual highway speeds are only about a third of the way up the dial. Our U.S. tester started at 0 km/h with the needle pointed down in the 6 o’clock  position, and by the time the needle hit the 9 o’clock position, it was pointing to 80 mph (128 km/h), on its way up to an indicated 240 mph (384 km/h).




About Michael Bettencourt

Michael Bettencourt is on the World Car of the Year jury, has been a long-time AJAC member, and is on its Technology of the Year judging panel.