2009 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series

Black Serious

2009 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series

Weighing 210 lbs less than a standard Mercedes SL65, with a four-inch wider track and 57 more horsepower, not only does this powerhouse live up to what the world has come to expect from AMG’s Black Series line, but, quite frankly, it rivals the archetypal Mercedes supercar, the SLR. And it does so for a fraction of the price.

FAST FACTS

1. 661 hp and 738 ft-lbs of torque twin-turbo V-12 engine.

2. DTM-style wide-body allows for a four-inch wider track.

3. US-spec version weighs 200 lbs less than a stock SL65 thanks mostly to the fixed hard-top.

MOST POWERFUL MERCEDES EVER

With 661 hp and 738 ft-lbs of torque, the SL65 Black Series is the most powerful Mercedes ever and will rocket to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds and hit an electronically limited top speed of 199 mph! Creating the extra power was achieved with just a few modifications to the standard SL65’s biturbo V-12 engine, including a redesigned exhaust system, intercoolers that are 30 percent more efficient and turbochargers that flow 12 percent more air.

Cruising along the winding roads and blasting down the highways around Monterey, CA, it became more than obvious that a car like this is being wasted on the street. Sure it’s fun, but you just can’t begin to test the limits of a bi-turbo V-12-powered carbon body coupe with speed limits, stoplights and pedestrians ruining all the fun. So it’s a good thing our route was taking us to Laguna Seca raceway.

TRACK CAPABLE WITH AN AUTO BOX?

With flared DTM-style fenders, a rear spoiler that emerges from the bootlid at 75 mph and cavernous intake and cooling holes in the bodywork, this Black Series looks like a dedicated track machine. And it does a more than admirable job for a 4,300-lb coupe with a five-speed automatic transmission.

Considering the SL is a street car, it’s not hard to see why AMG decided to use the tried and true SpeedShift Plus 5-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately even in the fastest M2 setting, the up-shifts still aren’t all that quick (even if downshifts are good). Would it kill them to offer a double-clutch system?

STELLAR STEERING THANKS TO WIDER TRACK & WHEELS

The steering, on the other hand, is one of the high points of the car. Whereas the feel behind the wheel became the SLR’s tragic flaw, the opposite is true of the Black Series.

The wider track provides a steering ratio that is eight percent more direct. And when combined with larger 265 front tires, the SL darts through chicanes with finesse. Turn in is spot-on, especially on the slower and sharper corners, like 11 and the corkscrew.

SUSPENSION TUNED ON THE NÜRBURGRING

As for the suspension, while a bit stiff on the street, it pays dividends on the track. There is negligible body roll during quick transitions – like at the corkscrew – and the only time the car really seemed to lean was during turn 9, where, if you don’t get body roll, you’re not going fast enough.

While AMG engineers tested every aspect of this car in practically every environment on the planet, they paid particular attention to the suspension, racking up 9,321 development miles on the famed Nüburgring Nordschleife.

RIGHT AMOUNT OF TRACTION: ON THE STREET OR TRACK

Understeer and oversteer are both served up in equally significant portions and with the ESP system on, the computer overrides on every corner and shuts down the fun. Switch to sport mode however and you feel completely uninhibited – getting on the power early and tracking out wide – all the while AMG’s sophisticated traction control system translates even the most ham-fisted and lead-footed commands into delicate and precise instructions to the massive engine and wide rear tires.

UNIQUE MOTORSPORTS DESIGN

With all this discussion on the performance of the car, it’s only fair to touch on the stunning shell of carbon that is the SL’s body. In fact, the only body panels the Black Series shares with the standard production model are the doors. Surprisingly, all that carbon isn’t the main reason for the weight reduction, that is due to the fact that this sportscar is a coupe and does not feature a retractable hard top like all other SL models.

A HIT AND A MISS

What we simply love about the car’s design is the automatically deploying rear spoiler that adds 110 lbs of downforce at 120 mph. What we don’t like are the wheels. A motorsports-inspired mesh design would have seemed more appropriate

US VERSION MUCH HEAVIER THAN EURO-SPEC

The only real criticism that can be levied against the SL65 Black Series is that despite all the weight savings, the Euro-spec version weighs 340 lbs less, for a total of 4,005 lbs. Apparently the difference is due to side impact airbags and the use of conventional Mercedes seats. Generally we’d get on a company’s case for “softening” a performance car like this for the US market, but in AMG’s defense, all 340 lbs of equipment are required by US law.

Luckily for Mercedes, while this is an SL, and while we love that AMG decided to go all Black Serious on the car, it was never intended to be a pure track car. According to AMG boss Volker Mornhinweg, each Black Series car is designed to be a more hard-core version of the car it is based on, meaning that you shouldn’t necessarily look for all the traits of the CLK63 Black Series in the SL. In, other words, if AMG stripped the SL down too far it would cease to be an SL.

That said, they’ve done a fabulous job. It’s hard to believe how much fun a 4,300 lb car with a five-speed auto and a chassis that was originally designed more for cruising than lapping days can be at Laguna Seca… once you let the AMG team at it.

THE VERDICT

As good as the car is, it’s tough knowing that it could be even better if there were 340 lbs less of it. Still, when you consider the asking price of $299,000, and the fact that only 350 will be made (175 of which will be sold in the US) and compare that to the most iconic Mercedes of the modern era, the SLR, it almost sounds too good to be true. With one-tenth the production run of the SLR, the SL65 Black Series is far more exclusive. Performance wise, the car is practically the SLR’s equal and when it comes to the driving experience there is simply no comparison.

PLUS

Exceptional handling DTM good looks Supercar performance and exclusivity at exotic car price

MINUS

US version much heavier than Euro-spec No double-clutch system offered Strange wheel design

Even from the performance experts at AMG, the SL65 Black Series is an impressive feat. From the power to the handling to the looks, Mercedes has created a dream car that ranks with the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the world, all the while remaining true to the SL ethos. It emphasizes the serious dedication to enthusiasts that AMG stands for and takes it to an entirely new level.

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