Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Series

It's the most expensive, fastest SL ever... But is it also the best to drive?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

With its eye watering £250,000 price tag the Black Series costs nearly £100,000 more than the standard SL65 AMG. Even with the amazingly racy styling, increased power and lower weight this seems a very big premium. Especially, as the Black Series lacks the final edge of all-round driver engagement to dynamically match far cheaper cars like the Porsche GT2 and Nissan GTR. However, just 350 will be built so the Black Series’ combination of superb engineering, incredible performance and massive grip is sure to appeal to those discerning customers who want the ultimate in Mercedes exclusivity and power.

With Mercedes wrapping up their first Formula One drivers title for nine years, launching what is arguably their most extreme performance car to date seems well timed.

But unlike Lewis Hamilton’s F1 steed and the under loved SLR this Mercedes has nothing to do with McLaren, it’s the latest offering from the firms in house tuning arm AMG.

The third creation to wear the Black Series badge - which signals the highest level of AMG modification – the SL65 Black Series comes with an eye watering price tag but there’s certainly no mistaking it for the standard SL65.

With its huge swollen wheel arches and gaping air vents, it’s wide, solid and low and oozes aggression even when standing still. The track has been widened by 115mm at the front and 103mm at rear, while the standard SL’s folding top has been replaced with a lower profile fixed roof.

Like most of the new body panels it’s made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic to save weight and as a result the Black Series is 250kg lighter than the SL65.

The chassis has been reworked as well; you get race-derived suspension, plus a retractable rear spoiler that extends by 12cm to help high-speed stability. The brakes and tyres have been up rated too, which is crucial because in the Black Series the SL65’s mighty 612bhp 6-litre bi-turbo V12 has been tuned to offer a massive 670bhp. To preserve the gearbox torque has been electronically limited to 1,000Nm – unleashed it generates an incredible 1,200Nm.

But even restricted the effortless nature of the Black Series’ incredible straight-line acceleration is hard to believe. Few other cars can deliver performance like this. Unsurprisingly, the traction control system has to work hard but there’s a Sport mode that allows more slip before intervention, while for track use it can be turned off fully.

In this configuration the accelerator needs to be treated with respect but the huge 20-inch rear tyres and the high levels of mechanical grip mean the SL punches out of corners very rapidly. The body control is very impressive too, the big Mercedes corners with a very flat stance, unfortunately despite an eight per cent increase in sharpness over the standard SL65, and the steering doesn’t have the feedback of rival super cars, while the very powerful brakes feel a little dead under the foot.

And crucially despite the weight savings the mass of the large V12 engine can still be felt on the track, as a result the Black Series doesn’t turn in with the incisive precision of cars like the Porsche 911 GT2 and there’s a fair amount of understeer on the entry to bends. However, the cars grip levels are so high that this is only apparent on the track; on the road it never feels anything other than planted to the tarmac.

Although, the firm and unforgiving ride will remind you of this cars hard edged nature, but this aside the Black Series is just as easy to drive as any other SL. The five speed automatic gearbox has comfort, auto and manual modes – but even in the quicker of the two manual modes it doesn’t have the excellent shift action of the seven-speed multi clutch box in the V8 SL63 AMG. So it’s a shame this more advanced transmission can’t take the torque of the Black Series.

Inside, the cabin blends luxury and motorsport with swathes of leather, carbon and Alcantara trim, you also get bucket seats and AMG branded carbon door inserts. But it’s the exterior styling and performance of this car that makes this the most exclusive car in the Mercedes family.

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