From £116,625
Brutal looks and performance, but difficult to justify the price
8 November 2008

What is it?

This is the third of the Black Series cars from Mercedes’ in-house tuning department, AMG. The first was the less-than-wonderful SLK 55 of 2006, and the second was the entirely delightful CLK of 2007 – so the SL 65 AMG Black Series could go either way.

Black Series models are intended to be even more focused versions of existing AMG products, and unless they have two seats and a fixed roof they don’t comply with the template.

Hence the reason the Black Series ditches the regular SL 65’s folding metal roof for a fixed carbon fibre item, which, together with a whole range of weight saving measures, has removed 250kg from the kerbweight. In total there will be just 350 made.

But that’s merely the beginning when it comes to the differences between a regular SL65 and the Black Series – not least the fact it carries a quarter-million pricetag.

The 6.0-litre V12 engine is identical internally to the regular 65’s, but thanks to bigger turbos, a redesigned exhaust and various tweaks to the ECU, it now produces 670bhp and a whopping 737lb ft of torque between 2200-4200rpm.

The reason why the torque peak is as flat as a table is because neither the gearbox nor the diff can take what the twin turbo V12 is fully capable of producing (around 900lb ft of torque).

Even so, you still have to make do with a somewhat ancient five-speed automatic gearbox in the SL Black, whereas the far cheaper SL 63 has an infinitely more sophisticated seven-speed semi-auto, for the same reason: the newer box just can’t handle it.

Chassis-wise the Black is very different from the regular SL 65 AMG. Not only is the steering faster, featuring just 1.7 turns across the locks despite an almost identical turning circle, but the suspension has been completely redesigned to deliver optimum control as well.

There are proper track-spec coil-over dampers at the front and the entire multi-link rear suspension is now adjustable, so if a customer wants to change the way their car handles, AMG will duly oblige.

What’s it like?

As you’d expect the SL 65 AMG Black Series in an absolute monster on the road – it’ll do 0-60mph in 3.8sec and is limited to 199mph – although it’s not without its problems on the track, which is where AMG expects it to spend at least 50 per cent of its life.

In its standard tune it does understeer – either a little or a lot, depending how much speed you try to carry into a corner. And all you can do to prevent it from doing so is slow down, or fall off the circuit.

In a straight line, however, the Black really is a bit special. The way it reduces long straight to short bursts of full-throttle acceleration is quite extraordinary, and although it understeers, the body control is excellent, ditto the steering, and the steel brakes are more than up to the job.

Of all the 200mph hyper cars that there are on sale at the moment, this is probably the most user friendly to drive quickly, if not the most exciting per se. And in the raw it looks nothing less than sensational.

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So what are the issues with the SL 65 Black? The interior, for one. While perfectly decent in layout and look, the cabin doesn’t sit comfortably with the price tag, not when you compare it to the achingly gorgeous cabin of the cheaper Ferrari 599.

Second, the soundtrack from the engine also doesn’t sit comfortably with the car’s price. Third, the Ferrari 599 in general. In logical terms the Ferrari is cheaper, just as fast and has a hugely more appealing interior, and if you then dial in the 599’s intangible (but undeniable) extra charm, the gap grows wider still.

Should I buy one?

If you are committed and very wealthy AMG fan then the answer will, of course, be a yes.

And if you want a car that stops the traffic dead in its tracks with sheer road presence then it’s hard to imagine a motor with more impact than the brutal-looking SL 65 Black.

But overall this is not as brilliant a product as the CLK Black, even though it’s a much better one than the SLK 55. It gets eight out of 10 overall, and at this dizzying price-point that’s maybe not quite enough.

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Comments
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shomann 13 November 2008

Re: Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series

If I were filthy rich, I'd never spend that kind of money on an SL65. A Corvette ZR1 is the way to go. Save lorry loads of cash for something else.

julianphillips 11 November 2008

Re: Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series

I did wonder about that!

Paul J 11 November 2008

Re: Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series

TegTypeR wrote:

Why oh why do they have to fit these cars with an auto box, five speed or not!

Surely Mercedes could out source a manual box for such a limited run.

Exactly Teg. At least there are a few of us traditionalists left who still appreciate being offered the manual option. I'm not even going to have an automatic hearse. That's right - I wouldn't be seen dead in one!

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