Imagine how impressive the Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series is when you consider this car: the SLS GT. Beneath its classic hot rod proportions that’ve been dipped in Germanic melted chocolate matt brown, there’s the 6208cc naturally-aspirated V8 weighing down that long nose. There’s the massive drilled brakes inside the sinister black alloys: built for arresting the drama – and there’s lots of it.
It’s dramatic at a standstill, where it surprises onlookers when either of the gullwing doors lift smoothly from their locked-in positions revealing a cocoon of quilted leather that comes with the GT spec. Then there’s the details: like the hard edges that define the muscle of this car, the darkened headlights and front brake-duct design that compliment each other, and the way the door handles retract back to sit flush inside the body once the SLS has nodded to you that it’s locked, safe and secure.
There’s more, of course: the metallic, snarly, two-finger salute to subtlety, modesty and any intent of economy that is the stunning V8. Dare to push the start button and it instantly wakes up, jumping to full attention with an auto-rev as soon as it turns over, and is already breathing fire before you’ve had a chance to slot the chunky gear lever into D. Then, you’re faced with a choice of driving modes as the engine rumbles warmly, you’re adrenal glands reacting to the fact that you have so, so much firepower under you.
There’s 20bhp more than a regular SLS, which this model replaces, meaning a total of 583. The thing is, there are much faster and sharper cars to drive down a winding road: the GT’s £165k ask is as much as a Ferrari 458 and far beyond the best of the 911 range, the £100k GT3. But the SLS GT is unique: it’s old-school cool that blends its retro charm with cubic inches and pure, unadulterated grunt.
With this much pull, it’s not for the meek. In drive mode C, for Comfort, the throttle pedal is easy to modulate with a smooth, gentle squeeze, but it’s a little bone-jarring over potholes in town, yet surprisingly supple over speed bumps. You’ll feel everything through the thick-rimmed, perfectly sized leather-wrapped steering wheel, which sends seemingly telepathic messages to the front axle, which sits unusually far ahead of you because of the SLS’s hot-rod proportions.
It’s a little solid in town, then, but will also react over every surface change, lump and bump at speed: it’s not a loose cannon, but needs to reassured often of where you’re pointing it. Even at slow speeds, a little more throttle opens up its lungs rather than responding – that is, until you’re brutal with it in Sport+ mode.
This is where the SLS is like no other car. A McLaren is faster, a Lambo more dramatic to look at, but nothing gives you the rush behind the wheel after a simple, quick flooring of the throttle. It’ll scare you in a good way, waking you up from the ordinary like a whip cracked across your back: it’s that sudden, dramatic and explosive that you wonder why there aren’t more cars made like this. It’s so involving that you’ll trade the Bang and Olufsen’s clarity for that snarling V8’s track instead.
The SLS is not a star performer from a purist’s perspective, or quite the glamour queen that a Lamborghini can be – but is a stellar combo of both. Buy an Audi R8 if you want speed, poise and precision – the SLS is the car for those who like to work at their driving style, and enjoy being rewarded. And, for louts like me that love frying the rear tyres with a smoky burnout…