Next year may well end up being remembered in the car industry as the year of the hypercar. You wait for the best part of a decade for something to challenge the Bugatti Veyron and three rivals come along at once: Porsche 918 Spyder, Ferrari F150 and McLaren P1 will all be in showrooms before the year is out, each wearing a price tag of anything between £600,000 and £1 million.
These new hypercars represent a step change at the highest end of the performance market. The cylinder and horsepower race over the decades that culminated with the Veyron and its 1000bhp W16 engine would appear over, as the new breed switch to hybridisation in pursuit of more environmentally friendly – but no less dramatic – performance.
But there’s another hypercar out next spring with no electric motor or battery pack in sight: the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series. My star car of the LA motor show this week, the Black Series is about as big and angry-looking as hypercars get, and it will cost less than half of even the cheapest of the hybrid trio due by the end of 2013.
But despite its brash looks, the Black Series is not just another entry into the horsepower race. It’s a full-on race car for the road, taking much of its technology from the successful SLS AMG GT3 race car.
The brief from AMG Ola Källenius to his engineers was simple: to make the Black Series a GT3 car for the road. And the result, he says, "the ultimate expression of what our engineers can do when they're allowed to go crazy".
It’s hard to disagree. The famed normally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 engine is tuned to 631hp, enough to make the Black Series the most powerful model in AMG’s 45-year history. And it’s not just a case of adding more power: the whole engine has been gleaned with GT3 technology.
So there’s a larger inlet manifold, high lift camshaft, revised valve tappets, revised oil system, lighter bearings and stiffer conrods. And the rev limit is raised from 7200rpm to 8000rpm. The exhaust system is now constructed from titanium, while carbonfibre can be found everywhere from the bodywork to the rear bulkhead to help save weight.
Quite something then, the SLS Black Series. Hypercar fans have never had it so good. As impressive as the 918, F150 and P1 and their future technology will of course be, the SLS Black Series shows there’s plenty of life in the non-hybridised hypercar yet.
So spectacular are the SLS Black Series’ looks and spec sheet, maybe Källenius should let his engineers “go crazy” more often.