The black sheep of the Black Series, or a misunderstood 670hp marvel?
By Cam Tait / Wednesday, 24 May 2023 / Loading comments
The Mercedes SL65 Black Series is a bit of an oddity. When AMG’s new hardcore grade launched in 2006 with the ultra-rare SLK63 variant, all signs pointed to it being Affalterbach’s take on Porsche’s RS. That car was followed by the exceptional CLK63 version a year later, righting many of the SLK’s wrongs and proving that AMG was capable of building a mega chassis to go along with its ludicrously powerful engines.
In the immediate aftermath of the CLK’s success, AMG launched the SL65 Black Series and ripped up the blueprint in the process. While its predecessors were driver-focused and track-orientated, the beefed-up SL was more reminiscent of old-school AMGs – and that’s by no means a bad thing. Most reviewers at the time claimed that the last thing the ‘regular’ SL65 needed was a power boost, but AMG did exactly that with the Black Series. Larger turbos were bolted to the 65’s 6.0-litre V12 engine, funnelling even more air into the engine. Revisions were made to the intake and exhaust system, too, resulting in a staggering 670hp – 58hp more than the standard SL65 – while torque remained identical at a tyre-shredding 738lb ft.
With so much torque, Mercedes was forced to fit a five-speed automatic gearbox as anything else would have simply exploded the moment you buried the throttle. Performance was still blistering, of course. 60mph comes about in 3.8 seconds and its top speed is limited to 199mph, which makes you wonder just how fast it could go if unshackled. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, frankly. Mid-noughties traction control systems were notoriously dim-witted, soaking up the tiniest amount of excess power and rending that ridiculous torque figure largely useless. However, when we first sampled it at Laguna Seca back in 2008, we found it had “surprisingly good traction” – even with the ESP switched off – contrary to what Clarkson’s TG review would have you believe.
Ancient five-speed auto aside, AMG nailed the powertrain. But it was no one-trick pony; like the CLK and SLK Black Series, a considerable amount of work was put into sharpening up the chassis. Adjustable track-spec coilovers were fitted front and rear, while an extreme diet that included ditching the folding roof mechanism shaved off a whopping 250kg. The result? Better ride control, sharper steering and, sadly, armfuls of understeer. This was baked in to make the car more predictable at speed, apparently, with customers invited to adjust the setup themselves if it wasn’t to their liking, which, presumably, nobody did.
Now, I could argue that the SL65 Black Series was simply misunderstood; a ‘super GT’ that was more at home cruising on a stretch of autobahn on the limiter than being honed around Laguna Seca, but the reality is that it was too stiffly sprung to deliver any semblance of six-figure comfort. Instead, the SL65 Black Series is better remembered as a proper old-school AMG sledgehammer. Huge power and torque, little finesse and sophistication. And enough physical presence to put the Batmobile to shame.
Evidently, this is part of its appeal, as the SL65 Black Series has built up quite the cult following. I mean, what’s not to love about a twin-turbocharged V12 brute with more power than sense? The car we have here is a mighty fine example, with just 5,100 miles on the clock and currently under the care of DK Engineering. I assume the figure hiding behind the POA will be considerably more than the original £250,000 asking price, no doubt encroaching on the McLaren SLR’s patch. A tough decision, but seeing as though you’re stuck with a five-speed auto either way – the Black Series’ extra set of cylinders wins it for me.
SPECIFICATION | MERCEDES-BENZ SL65 AMG BLACK SERIES
Engine: 5,980cc 12-cylinder, twin-turbo
Transmission: five-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],400rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],200
Year registered: 2007
Recorded mileage: 5,100
Price new: £250,000
Yours for: POA
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