By on September 17, 2009

Lord Vader, your coupe is ready (courtesy: TonyG Photography)

The year was 1997. As a bright eyed, recently minted med school graduate, I had two glorious weeks in Europe before the torture of internship began. One very memorable moment was in the parking lot of the MB museum in Stuttgart, where I spotted a prototype 1998 E50 AMG sulking behind a security gate. That thing looked evil, hunkered down on its 17″ alloys. It was so far removed from my Opel Astra rental car reality that I could scarcely imagine unleashing the 350 HP AMG-fettled V8 on the ‘Bahn at 170 mph in the latest heir to the Hammer.

Fast forward 12 years and the spoils of the German horsepower arms race now litter the pages of eBay. Six year old E55 AMGs with 500 hp supercharged V8s can be had for under $30K, and a “standard” Mercedes E550 will outrun the AMGs of my youth. I was busy living out my childhood dreams, with a daily-driven 604 hp CL65 AMG coupe that had a colossal twin turbo V12 oozing twice the torque of even the hottest V8s of days past. Nothing, not even MB’s own cartoonish V8-powered SLR could unseat this luxurious beast as the king of the autobahn. Or so I thought . . .

Godspeed you black bahn-burner (courtesy: TonyG Photography)As great a cruiser as the CL65 was, it’s still a 2.5 ton tank with narrow tires and a peg-leg differential; the smaller two seat SL65 roadster was no lighter. In my cerebral skunkworks, I often imagined how a lightweight Benz fitted with superior underpinnings would allow the biturbo V12 to shine. Apparently the good folks at Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach agreed. Enter the SL65 Black Series.

You’ve seen the recipe in the buff books: take a regular, semi-sane, but portly SL65 AMG barchetta, pull off the bodywork (sans doors) and replace with DTM-like flared carbon fiber pieces that add 4 full inches to the track width. Throw in a faster fixed carbon fiber roof, an aggressive front fascia to cool the supersized heat exchangers, and a retractable speed sensitive rear wing. End result: a slinky, crouching muscle bound fastback coupe that looks like it could leap over left lane squatters in a single bound.

To wit: when this ride rolled out of the trailer from a dealer in the Midwest with 1.7 miles Black series like me (courtesy:TonyG Photography)on the odometer, those of us in attendance just sat and stared at it. And stared some more. And shook our heads. It really takes some time just to absorb the presence of this thing. The more you examine the fastback roofline, the way the front fenders meld into the air extractors, the CF exhaust surrounds . . . it’s just not the same on your computer monitor. Open the hood or trunk to see the beautiful raw carbon undersides of the panels. The trunk space reveals a beautifully stitched box covered in the same leather as the seats, with the engine builder’s plaque affixed to it. Contained within is a bespoke car cover and a letter welcoming me to the AMG owners’ fold.

The Black recipe under the skin: Ditch the heavy, power robbing Active Body Control in favor of a proper set of double adjustable KW coil-over shocks, H&R sway bars, and meaty Dunlop 19- and 20-inch rubber, measuring a Z06-esque 325mm wide in the rear. Don’t forget a 40% locking diff, since the handbuilt V12 is now fortified with bigger air boxes, larger turbos, and a freer flowing exhaust featuring genuine Eisenmann race mufflers. All this adds up to 661 HP and a crushing 738 lb·ft of torque, pushing 500 pounds less mass than the 4,600 lb SL65 droptop.

The mighty boost (courtesy:TonyG Photography)To verify AMG’s power claims, I followed the break-in guidelines posted on the windshield decal religiously. I had the good folks at Hennessey Performance in Sealy, Texas, change the oil prophylactically at 1000 miles, and we pulled the car off the lift and around the corner right on to the Dynojet dynamometer. After verifying (on the virtual dipstick) the correct oil level and finding the secret menu that puts the car into “dyno mode,” which disables the ABS/TC/ESP from ruining the fun, the big Black laughed at the 96 degree, 90% humid Houston heat. It put down 580 HP to the tires on the first pull and an astounding 700 lb·ft of torque, SAE corrected. Accounting for a 20% driveline loss, the advertised flywheel numbers are conservative. I’d never seen a stock, unmodified vehicle lay down stronger numbers. You’d need a Veyron for that.

The number of highway challengers I had to back down from during the painful break in period were quickly forgotten on the first WOT highway blast. Unlike the strong but silent regular V12 Benzes, the BS bellows mightily and lunges forward at any speed. Acceleration, conforming to expectation is, well, bonkers. Mat the throttle at 60 mph, and (assuming you don’t get wheelspin) literally one second later, the rear spoiler deploys in your rearview mirror, signifying 75 mph. Four seconds later, triple digits are yours, with the acceleration showing no signs of abating. Although I have no proof, I’d swear the ECU allows more boost in the higher gears . . . no other stock vehicle I’ve driven hits its second wind when shifting into 4th at 120 mph like this thing. Since AMG has relaxed the speed limiter from 155 to 199 mph, it only makes sense to test this thing at the Texas mile in October. Stay tuned . . .

Unfortunately, the 5-speed auto remains in place, but with a Black-specific ‘M2’ faster shift Murder was the case... (courtesy:TonyG Photography)mode, in which the otherwise somber white tach displays a yellow/red circumferential shift light that would do a slicks ’n’ skinnies wheelstanding ’69 Camaro proud.

Toggling through the steering wheel menu options further reveals dual lap timers that can be triggered sequentially, you know, in case you want to measure your 0-60 and the (new benchmark) 60-130 times all in one pull.

Ride motions are surprisingly choppy, like a 997 GT2, but the roll control is absolute. The factory settings for the double adjustable coilovers and alignment are what AMG engineers used at the Nürburgring, but I might experiment with a bit less compression and rebound damping to smooth out real world driving in the future. As it sits, when you dive into a decreasing radius corner, the big Merc exhibits amazing grip, but with this kind of torque, extreme care is required in squeezing the throttle upon exit. Luckily, a Black-specific ESP Sport mode allows more yaw than standard AMG fare before pulling the plug on the party.

Bye-bye blackie (courtesy:TonyG Photography)Inside, the car is mostly standard SL aside from the flat-bottomed, perforated leather wheel, white AMG tach, paddle shifters, and carbon fiber trim. The shift knob proclaims “One of 175,” making it rarer here than even a Carrera GT. Fragrant leather and Alcantara abounds, with comfy buckets that have been stripped of the usual heat/ventilation functions and have Black-specific horizontal white stitching. Due to US side impact regs, these replace the Euro spec carbon fiber racing buckets; this keeps the comfort level on the right side of civilized. Clarkson, or at least his coccyx, is undoubtedly jealous.

That said, the SL65 Black Series is too schizophrenic for many: a factory lightweight hot rod with track-intended cooling, power, suspension and aero mods that still weighs two tons, lacks ceramic brakes, and has a slushbox. One thing that can’t be denied, though: with a tenuous CO2-centric future ahead of us, the 2009 SL65 Black Series is among the rarest, most outrageous rides in these waning days of the second golden age of performance cars.

Thanks to Hennessey Performance for use of their dyno and TonyG Photography for the photos. See more shots of the SL65 AMG Black Series at TonyG’s website.

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43 Comments on “Review: 2009 SL65 AMG Black Series...”


  • avatar

    I think ceramic brakes would be a hassle on that car. Steelies are cheaper to replace, and this is a car where you’ll replace brakes a lot.

    Nice review, great car!

  • avatar
    NickR

    The body kit isn’t very attractive but it sure as hell wouldn’t diminish my driving enjoyment of such a beast. I can’t even imagine driving something with that much hp and torque.

  • avatar
    imag

    Otherwise known as TireEater…

    Great review. I have a feeling that this car will end up becoming a more valuable classic in the long haul than the new SLS. It’s more momentary, more extreme, and in many ways more era-defining than the gullwing. And you’re right; it is already sad to know it will be going. It is one of those cars I even know I wouldn’t sink that kind of money into even if I had it, because the alternatives at that price are equally glorious, but I love knowing that Merc made it and that they’re out there somewhere.

    This is one article that could benefit highly from whatever new photographic goodness you all have coming with the new site rev.

  • avatar
    imag

    Offtopic, but you guys could also be the first to include *audio* samples in your reviews. Cars like this are worth hearing as well as seeing…

    I’m sure getting an audio tech out for every test drive would be a PITA, but hey, I can dream, and there are some pretty good all-in-one samplers out there along these lines:

    http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/digitalmedia/2007/02/01/review-zoom-h4-handy-recorder.html

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Can that engine be tweaked for more power?

    Not a particular fan of Mercs, but that thing is AWESOME.

  • avatar
    PG

    A 5-speed automatic? In THAT?

    WTF?

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    The problem of horsepower race and inflation: Isn’t this what an AMG was supposed to be in the first place? But it’s an AMG that have been AMG:ed? The rest of the AMG line is just another trim-line?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    A 5-speed automatic? In THAT?

    Mercedes’ automatics are usually pretty good, and I don’t think they have the seven-speed up to the task of handling the power output of this car.

    And really, it’s got over seven hundred lb/ft of torque? Do you need more than five gears? Really? Because it’ll probably be at triple digits in either first or second. Do you care about torque converter losses in this car? It probably loses more torque than a Toyota Corolla makes.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Stingray :

    Can that engine be tweaked for more power?

    Yes, it can. Renntech can modify the ECU, and has made 730 hp/900+ ft lbs with no other changes.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Very nice!

    To me, a 2005 CL600 is one of the best used car values these days. A $140,000+ car now going for $25k — $35k. “Only” 500 HP and 600 fp is more than I’d use on a daily basis. Not enough? How about a 620HP 740 fp 2005 CL65 for $40k — $60k? Need to keep in mind, however, they still are $140,000+ cars to maintain and repair and the purchase price is really just a down payment.

    Twotone

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Wow…that’s all I can say.

    Great review, Sajeev…

    By the way, that E550 you mentioned early in the review is an AMAZING car. Highly underrated.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    doctorv8 :
    Yes, it can. Renntech can modify the ECU, and has made 730 hp/900+ ft lbs with no other changes.

    Über cool :)

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Ingvar: To paraphrase a 1990 Corvette ZR-1 ad, the Black series is AMG, only more so. :-)

  • avatar
    shoes

    I was wondering when your brother was going to loan you his keys.

    I suppose it would have been gauche to keep harping on the little matter of depreciation.

    Has he ordered an SLS?

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Jay…..it’s me, not Sajeev. ;-)

    And screw the depreciation….this one’s a keeper anyway. No SLS yet….maybe in a year or two.

  • avatar

    shoes : I was wondering when your brother was going to loan you his keys.

    Actually I drove it for a chunk of the break-in miles. At those speeds it feels like a 911 with a big block. I have no clue what its like at WOT. (yet)

    Speaking of…good job on the review, bro.

  • avatar
    audis4

    As other people note, I’d also love to hear the way this car sounds. My favorite car engine note to date is a Corvette Z06 which weighs in a full 1000 pounds lighter than this bad boy and is more of a pure-bread race-car in the strictest sense of the word. My only complaint is this trods in as an over-dressed luxury car with an insane engine (one which I’d give up my left testis to test drive…).

  • avatar
    Spitfire

    with the amount of torque that thing has a 5 speed is plenty usable. A bit over the top in terms of styling but what the heck, a car like that should be. a 760 exists for those who want a more understated look.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Great review!

    The V12 can be tuned for far more power, but obviously MB has to think about the slushbox surviving the repeated onslaught of torque the engine produces…one reason why the 7 speed was never used in this application.

    Even so, a 5 speed is plenty good for the power that engine makes.

    It must sound like Armageddon at WOT….

  • avatar
    GlennGlenn

    The problem of horsepower race and inflation: Isn’t this what an AMG was supposed to be in the first place? But it’s an AMG that have been AMG:ed? The rest of the AMG line is just another trim-line?

    Ingvar, obviously you don’t know the AMG line, its NOT just a “trim level” like a Malibu LS, its an engine, suspension, tires, wheels, lights that make an AMG an AMG. Yes, the Black Series are even more than that, as the new ZR-1 is more than just a trim level Z-06 or Z-51 Corvette??

  • avatar

    Very nice job Sanjay. Love the way you squeezed in the Corvette into the review. I had a great time drooling over it.

    +1

    The small photo’s doesn’t do the car justice. To get a better view the fine craftsmanship of the carbon fiber work, click on the largest size photo available from the link bellow or copy and paste it. From the CF mirrors to the CF fuel filler, this car is RIDICULOUS! Just a look at these photos and you will undoubtedly agree.
    / /
    http://www.tonygphotography.net/Journalism/The-Truth-About-Cars/9627303_uKwkJ#651923131_9Zkqw

  • avatar
    Kman

    Great review.

    This thing is fantastic. It’s more than a car, more than a beast; it’s a character. Wow wow wow. Beastly.

    I’m already in awe from the pictures, then you tell us that pictures don’t even convey its presence fully.

    Wow. Wow. Wow.

  • avatar
    Kman

    To all:

    If you haven’t clicked on over to the photo gallery… I just did — it’s fantastic. Don’t miss it.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I’ll disagree with the MB auto. transmission love/tolerance, but forgoe my usual “dickless pussy” it’s not a manual rant. I simply have no idea what I’d do with 700 lb/ft that close to both of my feet. Seriously, maybe an auto makes sense when the numbers are so high.

    Either way, amazing, awesome ride. The ultimate muscle car. This car geek salutes you sir.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    Fantastic review! Thank you! This car is an automatic panty remover. I have driven on the Autobahn at 140 mph in a Porsche turbo carrera, and consider myself to be a very good driver, however, I would venture to say that if I had this car I would be dead within a year. With the roads we have, and considering how we have very few drivers that respect the rules of the road, it is an accident waiting to happen. you would also have every ricer, having no idea what constitutes a fast car, wanting to challenge you.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    okay, so this is going to sound blasphemous… especially in the realm of very special cars such as this… I think the car is gorgeous so take this with a grain of salt…

    The wheels are letting this car down. They really are. They dont appear special in any way. A simply machined wheel with black accents isnt bad per se, but at this level, they are too mainstream and generally do not fill out the body enough in terms of offset, not diameter. Now, im not saying they need to be “shiny” or more “bedazzling” but I would like to point out a couple of examples where I think the body work on this very special car could be further exemplified…

    - The Weismann MF5 Coupe and Convertible on display this year @ Frankfurt (and last year)
    –> This company simply nails the offset, diameter, and dish on its cars. Even the convertible, lacking the “deep dish” wheel manages to get the right degree of concavity to properly accentuate the body work. Absent of the wheels, these care would lose a lot of character.

    http://www.supercars.net/Pics?v=y&s=c&id=4592&p=2010_Wiesmann_MF5Roadster1.jpg

    http://www.supercars.net/Pics?viewCarPic=y&source=carGal&carID=3906&pgID=1&pID=758466

    http://www.supercars.net/Pics?viewPic=y&source=carGal&carID=3906&pgID=1&pID=758437

    I just think that from the moment I laid eyes on this car, images of 5 inch lips have danced in my head… its just begging for some gorgeous HRE… below are some galleries with CLK63 Black Series with the type of treatment I speak of…

    http://www.hrewheels.com/gallery/?category_id=mercedes-benz&page=3

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Great review, Sajeev…

    Call me a dumbass…

  • avatar

    freedmike: forgiven. It happens a lot in the real world too. :)

    suspekt : The wheels are letting this car down. They really are. They dont appear special in any way. A simply machined wheel with black accents isnt bad per se, but at this level, they are too mainstream and generally do not fill out the body enough in terms of offset, not diameter.

    Actually the offset is just about perfect, the problem is the wheels need a fat rim and sunken in spokes to give it that DTM look. And not having exposed lugs kinda feels wrong for a mega-dollar car too.

    Believe it or not, the wheels grow on you rather quick. Especially if you get one in black so everything matches.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    I just don’t get the appeal of this car. Like the CLK black, it has loads of power, costs loads of money, has a Fast and Furious body kit, and goes fast – in a straight line. Which is what standard AMGs do, just not as well. As soon as you hit a road with a curve in it, or especially a track, this thing will be beaten silly by FAR less expensive and less powerful cars like 911 GT3s and Gallardo LP560s. A lowly Nissan GT-R would murder it on a track.

    So I guess if all you want out of a car is to be able to take on Superbikes on a highway for some Youtube fame, its great.

  • avatar

    Sanjay, very nice review. Is it possible to drive this car gently? I mean can you accelerate from a stop in a civilized way, or is too touchy?

  • avatar
    wsn

    BMWfan :
    September 17th, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    With the roads we have, and considering how we have very few drivers that respect the rules of the road, it is an accident waiting to happen. you would also have every ricer, having no idea what constitutes a fast car, wanting to challenge you.
    ——————————————-

    Do you respect the rules of the road?

    If you do, this car is not for you. I mean, you could reach illegal speed before you know it, even in a Camry V6.

  • avatar
    doctorv8


    Sanjay, very nice review. Is it possible to drive this car gently? I mean can you accelerate from a stop in a civilized way, or is too touchy?

    It is absolutely possible to drive the car gently. If you get a chance to drive any V12 powered twin turbo Benz from 2003 to the present, the smooth, linear power delivery is almost electric car like. Throttle tip in is smooth enough not to upset your passengers cup of tea.

    This Black Series is no different; it merely adds more power and an extra 500 usable RPM at the top of the tach. Despite the stiff suspension and carbon fiber everywhere, it is still, at its core, a Mercedes.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    @wsn:

    I don’t mean just speed. I mean you get a nice head of steam going and some idiot pulls out in front of you because he/she noticed the smallest gap, or some left lane hog refuses to yield, forcing a person to pass on the right, or refuses to use a turn signal whan performig some maneuver. In Germany, if you do not signal, tailgate, or do not use the left lane for passing, you get a ticket. I wish it was that way here. The people there take their driving seriously.

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    Stunning car – absolutely amazing. 580 RWHP, bone stock? Damn, that’s some serious grunt (like, more than 200 RWHP more than my 300C SRT8).

    Makes me wish I would have taken a different career path. Automotive engineers in Michigan can hardly afford to spend that much on a house, much less a car ;) Enjoy it, man – you’ve earned it!

  • avatar

    BMWfan :bI don’t mean just speed. I mean you get a nice head of steam going and some idiot pulls out in front of you…

    No building steam unless all the lanes are wide open for an 1/8th of a mile or so. Less important on normal cars, but this rule should never be overlooked.

    Course, I understand that’s real easy to say by someone living in Texas.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    Sajeev Mehta:
    Course, I understand that’s real easy to say by someone living in Texas.

    Yeah, unfortunately I live in Jersey. Hard to get rolling here without getting a ticket, or running into a totally incompetent driver. If I was in Texas I would have gotten an M3. I love Texas. Great southern hospitality!

  • avatar

    Me thinks the SL Black is pointless outside of Texas. Can’t wait to see what it’ll do at the Texas Mile too.

  • avatar
    saponetta

    We’ve had two of these come through. obviously the car is for the big spenders, both replaced their owners “lesser” SL AMG’s. The AMG version five speed in this car and the SL65 AMG is a great auto like all the AMG autos. But to me the 7 speed is so much better that it makes the SL63 the better car. The 63 is not exactly a slouch.

    As far as looks, I feel it looks like just another lorinser or other tuner benz. Which are usually of questionable taste.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    The SL63 is to the SL65 Black what Bill Bixby was to Lou Ferrigno. ;-)

  • avatar

    You can see an SLR and this Black AMG if you go to Manhattan Mercedes Benz (where I got my s550). They also have a Blue S63 on the floor that nearly made me piss in my pants when the hot sexy finance manager reved it for me.

    I think I’m gonna go for that S63 even though it literally costs $1.13 a mile.

    that fuckin thing was INCREDIBLE.

    The Black was nice too but for that much money I’d rather spend it on more stock.

  • avatar
    Kman

    I call a point of order on tedward, subject Redundancy.

    A “dickless pussy” always is. Well, usually. No always. No need for the first word.

    I move to disregard. Do I have seconder?

  • avatar
    info@carsinpedia.com

    Great review. It is an amazing car which might seemed more focused than the CLK63 Black Series.
    http://carsinpedia.com/car_day_archive_details.php?id=393
    Sanjay you are a lucky man.


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