Mercedes-Benz 2020

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Black Beauties

Looking back at Mercedes-AMG's Black Series

The old saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, basically a tenet that implies that if you find a need a for something that doesn’t already exist, then you will conceive it yourself.

When Mercedes-AMG started throwing Black Series labels and enhancements at its already monstrous coupes and sports cars, no one could suggest the world needed the pumped up, flared out and altogether outrageous results. But, not everything in this world is about being practical. Or sensible. Or reasonable. Sometimes, you have to stretch the boundaries just, well, because you can.

And for that we should be grateful to Mercedes-AMG, more specifically the AMG Performance Studio, because without the ridiculousness of the collective imaginations at Affalterbach, these cars wouldn’t exist. And the automotive world would be poorer for it.

It seems timely, then, with the confirmation Benz is to build a limited number of Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, only the sixth car from AMG to wear the hallowed label, that we take a quick trip down Black Series back streets at the five that came before.

2006 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG Black Series

The first car to come from the AMG Performance Studio took what was already a pretty epic Merc-AMG SLK55 roadster and turned it into a lightweight, more powerful, track-focussed coupe.

Featuring the same 5.5-litre atmo V8 as its tamer convertible sibling, the Black Series shed kilos, gained kilowatts as well as some performance enhancing components including larger brakes, and swathes of carbon-fibre, including the roof which was now fixed in place, rather than the retractable metal hardtop found in the SLK55.

Already a powerful engine even in standard AMG trim (265kW and 510Nm) the Black Series’ V8 unit put out 294kW and 520Nm, all put to the road via AMG’s seven-speed automatic. That helped propel the Black Series from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, some 0.4s quicker than the already manic regular SLK55. The difference became even more pronounced in the sprint to 200km/h, the Black Series taking 15.5 seconds from standstill against the regular SLK55’s 17.5 seconds.

Underneath, adjustable sports suspension helped to keep the Black Series’ 19-inch lightweight alloys on the road while 360mm composite brake discs with six-piston fixed callipers helped pull the 1495kg (kerb) coupe up sharply.

Visually, the SLK55 Black Series was distinguished not only by its carbon-fibre roof, but a redesigned front apron and splitter, wider wheel arches and carbon-fibre side air vents the main point of difference. Inside, the Black Series gained sports seats and an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel with paddle-shifters. Carbon-fibre door trims and on the glovebox enhanced the track-focussed vibe.

Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series

The regular CLK63 AMG was already a monster when it launched in 2006 with its 6.2-litre V8 with 354kW and 630Nm. Stopping the timer at 100km/h in a scant 4.6 seconds would be quick enough for most. Not so the team at AMG Performance Studio which took the M156 6.2-litre V8 and boosted power to 373kW, largely thanks to new inlet and exhaust systems. Torque remained the same at 630Nm although didn’t hit its peak until 5250 rpm against the regular CLK63’s 5000rpm.

The net result was 0.3s quicker car to 100km/h, the dash to triple figures now covered in just 4.3 seconds all while bellowing at the sky in a thunderous cacophony of V8 glory.

Putting the fat Pirelli P-Zero Corsa rubber that encased the 19-inch alloys to the road was a seven-speed automatic transmission while keeping it on the road was a manually adjustable suspension and a limited-slip diff.

Externally, the CLK63 AMG Black Series scored huge carbon-fibre wheel arches (thanks to its impressively wider track over the regular car, 66mm up front and 75mm at rear), larger air intakes, a spoiler and diffuser. Those external stylings borrowed heavily from the German manufacturer’s DTM cars (and in fact Merc had built and released the CLK DTM AMG in 2004 to celebrate the brand’s championship success), making for one mean-looking coupe.

Adding to the race car vibe, the rear seats were removed while Alcantara and carbon-fibre were used liberally throughout the cabin.

Mercedes-Benz produced 700 of the CLK63 Black Series from 2006-2007, with some finding their way to Australia where they commanded a $299,000 price tag.

Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series

Not content with extracting a few miserable kilowatts from previous Black Series iterations, AMG went a little bit nuts when it created the SL65 AMG Black Series. Outsourcing the project to HWA Engineering, the regular SL65 AMG, already a monster, was turned into something else entirely.

It was, at the time, the most powerful Mercedes money could buy, thanks largely to an even more powerful iteration of its twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12. Thanks to larger turbochargers and intercoolers, the V12 monster in this beast was good for 493kW and 1000Nm. Throw in some weight saving measures to the tune of 250kg (!) over the regular boring old SL65 AMG and what you have is the fastest Mercedes ever built at the time.

How fast? The sprint to 100km/h was covered in just 3.9 seconds while pushing on will see you hit 200km/h in 11 seconds. From a standing start. Top speed was limited to 320km/h.

The SL65 AMG Black Series’ weight loss program including re-skinning the entire car (bar the doors and rear guards) in carbon-fibre. The retractable hardtop of the regular SL was ditched in favour of a carbon-fibre fixed roof which had also been lowered.

When married to those pronounced wheel arches – thanks to a 115mm wider track at front and 103mm at rear – and the effect is not so much of a sports coupe, but of a land missile disguised as a car.

Inside, the regular sports seats made way for carbon-fibre backed race seats while the flat-bottomed steering wheel was 15mm smaller in diameter, adding a sense of purpose.

With so much power and torque on tap, Merc-AMG was forced to ditch its seven-speed auto transmission for an older five-speed unit. Paddle-shifters ensured owners could still swap ratios at their will.

Just 350 examples were made, eight of which made it to Australia. And despite the $688,000 price tag, all were snapped up before they’d even arrived Down Under.

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupé Black Series

After the chimera that was the SL65 Black Series, Mercedes took a more measured approach with the next in the line. Launched in 2011, the C63 AMG Coupe Black Series was fitted with a still more powerful version of its M156 6.2-litre V8. Now with 380kW and 630Nm, the most powerful C-Class ever built could complete the sprint to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds while top speed was an electronically limited 300km/h. Merc’s seven-speed auto sent drive to the rear wheels.

Like its Black Series stablemates that came before, the C63 Black Series underwent a weight-loss program, shedding around 106kg over the regular C63.

Underneath, the car scored adjustable suspension, a rear axle diff lock, and carbon-composite brake rotors.

Externally, the C63 Black Series, like its predecessors sprouted wider wheel arches to again accommodate this hardcore iteration’s wider track – 40mm at front and 79mm at the rear – while inside, the missing rear seats and race seats out front were a dead giveaway that this was no ordinary C-Class coupe. You could option the rear seats, but that meant doing away with the front race buckets in favour of the more socially acceptable sports seats from the regular C63.

Further options included a Track Pack which added a semi-slick Dunlop rubber and active rear-axle transmission cooling. And for those wanting the full race car vibe, an optional Aerodynamics Pack offered a revised front splitter with ‘flics’ and a carbon-fibre manually-adjustable rear wing.

All up, 800 C63 Black Series were produced, 32 of which came to Australia. All were sold ahead of the car’s official launch despite the $245,000 sticker price.

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series

For its most recent iteration (until the new one lobs in 2021), AMG’s Black Series grew wings – gullwings. Taking what was already an impressive SLS AMG, the Black Series remained true to the formula – more power plus less weight equals weapon.

Under that hulking long snout of a bonnet, sat Merc’s M159 6.2-litre atmo V8 with 464kW and 635Nm. Interestingly, while power went up by 44kW over the regular SLS, the Black Series lost 15Nm. Redline, however, increased from 7200rpm to 8000, allowing the hulking coupe to bellow at the sky to a tune composed by the titanium exhaust system fitted to the Black Series.

Merc’s seven-speed dual-clutch auto – mounted 10mm lower than the regular SLS to lower the centre of gravity – sent power to the rear wheels, helping propel the SLS to 100km/h in just 3.6 seconds.

Tipping the scales 70kg lighter than the SLS, thanks largely to swathes of carbon-fibre, that titanium exhaust (itself a 13kg weight saving), carbon ceramic brakes, race seats, and an 8kg lighter lithium ion battery, the SLS AMG Black edition tipped the scales at 1625kg.

Already a wide beast, the SLS’s track nevertheless increased, although not as markedly as found in its progenitors – 20mm up front and 24mm at the back. The wider track helped the mammoth beast with agility while an electronic diff-lock at the rear axle added traction.

Inside, plenty of Alcantara with red contrast stitching along with a seemingly endless acreage of carbon-fibre greeted occupants. Merc’s COMAND infotainment system was deleted (although could be added as an option) while yet more Alcantara wrapped the AMG Performance, flat-bottomed steering wheel.

Further options included the AMG Aerodynamics Pack which added an adjustable carbon-fibre rear wing as found on the SLS GT3 race car and carbon-fibre ‘flics’ on the front apron. A carbon-fibre engine cover could also be optioned.

Just 10 of the production run of 350 made it to Australia with a price tag of $639,000.

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