Retro review: Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series

This review first appeared in Top Gear magazine issue 186 (2008)

You can’t actually see the entrance to the nearly vertical corner known as The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca Raceway. Simply turn at a certain spot, overshoot and launch yourself off the edge of the cliff. In any car it’s exciting, but in the SL65 Black Series it’s like sitting at the front of a roller coaster. There is a small pause as the front end leans in and then like the rest of the car everything accelerates faster due to the mass of the car pushing it down the hill.

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It’s a hilarious experience, but that turn doesn’t really show off the massive 200mph abilities of this special new Merc. What the SL65 BS does best is go very fast in a straight line. Cornering, despite all its new chassis setups, isn’t its forte.

The third limited-production product from the AMG Performance Studio, the SL65 BS is a seriously reworked version of Beverly Hills’ favorite V12 twin-turbo convertible. In its quest to offer its customers a car that would rival Ferraris and Lamborghinis, the company resorted to extensive surgery. You may not notice all the changes at first, as the car’s silhouette is very similar, but the whole car is covered in new details, which partly explains the eye-popping £250,000 price tag.

First, they dug up and scrapped the entire folding roof mechanism, replacing it with a carbon/plastic cover. they then did the same to much of the bodywork. In total they lost 250kg, more than the weight of three average adults, but still not exactly light at 1870kg. With no roof mechanism to accommodate, the roofline is lower and the rear windows are new as a result. The same goes for the nose of the car, with its splitter that adapts to the road, and the highly ventilated wheel arches, with their 14 cm wider flares. A retractable rear spoiler that deploys at 60+ mph plus 19-inch front wheels and 20-inch rear wheels that are as wide as they are tall on the outside.

Under the new bodywork, the modifications become serious. The standard car’s air suspension and active body control system were dropped in favor of a more conventional coil spring and strut arrangement, with a variety of configurations plus three-stage ESP. The axles have wider track and something called “elastokinematics” has been completely overhauled for more precise steering. More tweaks elsewhere made the steering eight percent more direct. The brakes are simply and necessarily huge.

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Dr. Black was also clearly busy in the engine room. Maybe too busy. When they finished tweaking the 670bhp engine (bigger turbos, freer air intakes and a less restrictive exhaust), it was too powerful for the five-speed gearbox to handle, so they had to reduce the torque at just 738 lb-ft. . Without restrictions, you can add an additional 20% to this figure. The gearbox has four modes: comfort, sport, manual 1 and manual 2. Manual 2 is 20% faster than manual 1.

The interior is not as different as one might expect. When you’re in the £250,000 class, everything has to be very special, and the SL65 BS just doesn’t look that extraordinary. There’s carbon fiber everywhere, including the one-piece seats for the UK, and it all works pretty well. But it doesn’t really offer anything more than the standard car, other than the eerie creak and groan of the new roof.

None of this matters the first time you set foot on the ground. With all the torque ready to go from 2000 rpm, the SL BS doesn’t rev until it blows. Sixty flashes in 3.8 seconds, 125 mph in 11 seconds, and then… Well, then, the acceleration is so intense that you can’t see, because your eyes have stretched to where your ears were, and your ears are hanging off the back. of your head It’s quite festive, but everything goes wrong when you get to the first corner.

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You give up, turn on the gas, and then spend the next few moments trying to figure out the electronics. As they desperately try to match feed stickiness, you have to constantly correct to keep it where you want it. This allows for dramatic side entrances and exits, but it’s not a very fast way to move around a circuit. It’s even worse if you turn everything off. Despite all the electromagic going on, he still weighs 4,000 pounds, and you can’t hide that kind of mass in a corner.

It is very similar in the CLK Black series, but nothing as pronounced. Plus, the small car’s excellent V8 has a lot more character than the relatively soulless V12. Personally, I’d have the CLK on the SL any day if one were available. But with just 350 units made and only eight – yes, eight – destined for the UK, the chances of getting either are pretty slim.

Don’t worry though. If you want to know what you’re missing, just buy a ticket to a great roller coaster. Make sure you have the front seat, close your eyes and you’re almost there…

Verdict: A nasty looking missile, but strangely not involved. And only eight will be coming to the UK anyway.

6.0 liter V12
670 horsepower, RWD
0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, top speed 200 mph

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