Sounds ominous, what’s it all about?
AMG’s gone hardcore to take on BMW’s ‘CSL’ and Audi’s ‘RS’ monster saloons. From the new cutting edge Performance Studio in Affalterbach AMG has the capability to design, develop and build low volume niche cars beyond anything previously carrying the three-pointed star.
Give me the highlights…
The starting point is a standard SLK55. Power from the 5.5-litre V8 is upped by 40bhp to 400bhp via tweaked valve timing, new headers and a free-flow (and immensely loud) exhaust. Weight is everything. The metal folding roof is dumped in favour of a carbon fibre version to make the SLK a fixed-head coupe. This not only slashes the kerb weight (the new roof weighs half as much as the old one) but also lowers the centre of gravity.
It looks a bit different from the front…
That’s because the front wings (also made of carbon) have been reprofiled with a cooling vent linked to dissipate heat built up by the uprated, six-pot brakes. Filling the arches are new 19-inch lightweight wheels that save 31kg over the standard rims. It doesn’t stop there. The suspension has two settings – Nurburgring and road. The former is set up specifically for lapping the Nordschleife with firmer damping and better body control. The latter won’t knock your teeth out.
Will anyone notice?
Yep, this is a very special SLK. You sit in one-piece bucket seats bolted to the floor behind a suede wheel – the driving position is near-perfect. Beside you the cheap plastic door handles appear to have been taken off a 1970s filing cabinet and look incredibly cool bolted directly to the carbon door inserts taken from the SLK pace car. This isn’t bullshit pretension, just the cheapest way of shedding weight off the SLK. If they don’t notice the carbon roof, subtle boot badge and more menacing stance they’ll definitely register the epic exhaust note.
What’s it like to drive?
Borderline disturbing. It’s so quick to respond, so vicious in its execution that you’ll scare yourself into backing off. Over time though you learn to trust the immense power in the brakes, the enormous grip from the 265/30 R19 Pirelli rubber and the linear, brutal power delivery. Unlike previous point and squirt AMG products the SLK can handle twisty roads as well. The steering’s well weighted and full of feel and the body control’s superb even under hard braking.
But is it worth £22,765 over the standard SLK55?
That depends. At £73,795 it’s a rival for the Porsche 911 but even that can’t live with the sheer attention to detail. Every element of the Black Series, from the meticulous weight saving and wall-to-wall carbon to the tweaked engine and damping is focused on sharpening the driving experience.
Here is an AMG car with a chassis that finally lives up to the might of the engine. This is no specced up SLK. It looks, feels and sounds very special indeed. It can handle being hammered around a track just as easily as a trip to the shops. It has a boot, air con, sat nav and a powerful stereo but never loses its focus on the hardcore element.