BRABUS K8 Review

brabus k8 review

Pity the German companies who make their living 'tuning' mainstream motors. All the big German manufacturers (save Porsche) now have their own in-house performance divisions. Audi has its S, BMW has its M, Volkswagen has its R, and Mercedes has its AMG. Your local dealer will sell you an extra hot version of any basic model, complete with warranty and a choice of body mods. It's hard to see what an independent tuner can bring to the party.

Case in point: the Mercedes Benz AMG SL55. Why would anyone would want more muscle in a car that pumps out a colossal 500bhp @ 6100rpms? The SL55's V8 Kompressor also generates an epic 516lb.ft. of torque at 2650 – 4500rpms. In other words, Mercedes' uber-SL is fully capable of hurling its occupants from any speed, to any speed, without hesitation, deviation or repetition. In fact, the svelte-looking SL55 is one of those rare machines that can turn forward thrust into physical pain.

Like many enthusiasts, Professor Ulrich Gauffres is a glutton for G-related punishment who likes something a little… different. Gauffres, Brabus' resident Dr. Evil, was charged with 'improving' an already magnificent, fully developed Mercedes Benz. Under his tutelage, Essen's finest have achieved the impossible: transforming a rapid yet civilised passenger car into something darker, wilder and faster.

The darker bit comes as standard. Long before Daimler Chrysler's marketing department agreed to transport the MIB in a suitably dark E-Class sedan, Brabus finished all its mad Mercs in black hole black.

To do the wild thing, the Brabus Boyz lower the 'donor' SL55 by 15mm and graft new, more aggressive bodywork to the front, rear and sides. Twenty-inch custom wheels (up from the standard 18') heighten the sense of intimidation. In case you miss the visual menace (subtle as it is), Brabus transplants the standard exhaust with a deeper breathing, bassier sounding stainless steel unit.

To make the searingly quick SL55 faster, Professor Gauffres' minions implant an extra intercooler and pump into the engine bay. 'More cold air into the superchargers means more pressure,' Professor Gauffres explains with worrying enthusiasm. 'More pressure means more power.' A new under drive pulley also helps to increase the critical supercharger boost.

Two weeks and £75K+ later, the upgraded interior is re-attached to the SL's exoskeleton and the Brabus badges affixed. The result is predictably bizarre: an SL sex change, from Claudia Schiffer to The Incredible Hulk.

The Brabus K8 has the same footprint as the SL55, and 'only' 50 more horses, but it looks and feels like an entirely different animal. The tarmac-sniffing front spoiler, drag strip tyres and the engine's deep space rumble all tell you that the K8 is an SL55 with a serious attitude problem.

At first, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Brabus has fashioned a sheep in wolves' clothing. Around town, it's as docile as the donor car. Then, well, if you're a fan of the fine art of flooring the gas pedal and holding on for dear life, the K8 is your ultimate fairground attraction.

The 0 to 60 sprint is virtually identical to the SL55's (4.4 vs. 4.5 secs.). But the in-gear times are noticeably improved. Overtaking at any speed is so damn quick it inspires the kind of maniacal laughter beloved of comic book villains. Mind you, the SL55 already provides outrageous urge. The K8 simply offers more.

The top end is the other important – I mean 'interesting' – difference. A German 'gentleman's agreement' restricts all Mercedes products to 155mph. The de-limitered K8 takes the SL to infinity and beyond! When Continental finishes testing the car's bespoke high-speed tires, the K8 should be good for 206mph. Seriously. Even more impressive: someone in Brabus is bound to try it on the autobahn.

Which is, let's face it, this car's natural habitat. The Brabus K8's extra shove only earns its keep in a straight-line fight from 50mph to whatever. Around corners, there's nothing in it. No surprise there. At over two tons, all SL's (Sports Light?) have an inherent tendency to turn a really fast corner into a nose-first exploration of electronic drivers' aids. Still, I believe Brabus' assurance that practice dramatically increases cornering confidence. Just.

OK, now we know Brabus can make the Mercedes AMG SL55 look meaner and go faster. Time to return to the fundamental question. Why? Patriotic German autobahn freaks pursuing the Holy Grail of Total Road Superiority have their answer. For anyone else, the K8 is simply an SL55 with a Max Power cosmetic makeover and NASCAR soundtrack. Any performance advantage over the SL55 is likely to remain unexplored. And yet, if you have money to burn, why not? Owning a K8 is a bit like picking up a beautiful stranger in a singles bar. Even if you don't want to, it's nice to know you can.

Join the conversation
  • EBFlex "I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles"Assuming you went from 0 gallons to full (17.2), you have averaged almost 50MPG over those 2500 miles. 50 MPG in a Jeep Wrangler. To all of you EV nut jobs, tell me again how PHEVs are not the absolute best thing to happen to automobiles since the wheel. And tell me how they don't make EVs look like the awful play toys that they are.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird The Buick 215/3.5-liter aluminum V8 was one of GMs great engines. Unfortunately GM being GM in one of their greatest mistakes was selling off the tooling to BL. If they kept it around and improved upon it it would have been a fine motor for their compacts and midsize models through the OPEC oil crisis.
  • Chris P Bacon Not sure why a '21 is getting reviewed, because there have been improvements to the 4xe. I've got a '22 4xe Sahara. May 2022 build in High-Velocity yellow with a soft top. As soon as it was announced I knew I wanted to try it, not for the fuel mileage, but for the technology. I don't have a Level 2 charger, it charges fully overnight on the included Level 1. I see an indicated range of 27 miles regularly. Today it indicated 29 when I unplugged. I've only filled the gas tank three times in 2500 miles, a full charge costs me about $3 based on my current electricity supplier. I don't experience the rough transitions between electric and gas, so maybe Jeep figured it out? It's stupid fast when using all the power off the line. So much so that it will break the rear wheels loose when you stomp on it. I agree that plugin hybrids are the future. I see no need for a pure electric. This is the way to go.
  • RHD The word B R O N C O written in contrasting paint on the dashboard is quite unnecessary. The passenger certainly knows what kind of vehicle he or she is in. That detail is a big fail. The red and white Bronco looks great, especially with tires that have honest-to-goodness sidewalls on them.
  • Luke42 Aren't those trim levels just different colors of paint?That's what they sound like, at least. 🤷‍♂️