I recently had a chance to drive the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series, which is one of the craziest Mercedes-Benz models in history. It’s essentially a high-performance version of a supercar; it’s the "GT3RS" version of the Mercedes-Benz SLS, if you will, with more power and more crazy. There were also only 150 made for the entire planet — and I drove one of them.
This drive came courtesy of CNC Motors, which is an exotic car dealership east of Los Angeles that has everything. And I mean everything. When I arrived in their showroom, they had a Bugatti Veyron sitting there, along with a LaFerrari, a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, a bright-green Lexus LFA and a Porsche Carrera GT. The SLS AMG Black Series was, by comparison, essentially a Camry.
But then you get it out on the road, and you realize that just isn’t true. The SLS AMG Black Series may not have LaFerrari levels of presence or inspire Carrera GT excitement, but on the road you’d be easily fooled into thinking it’s one of the most thrilling cars in the world — largely because it drives like one. The handling of the regular SLS is incredibly sharp, and the Black Series is somehow even better, with absolutely immense precision you don’t normally associate with Mercedes-Benz models. It feels like a go-kart.
But then, it’s a go-kart with insane power: The Black Series has 622 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, sending it from 0-to-60 in 3.5 seconds, and it has a top speed of 196 miles per hour. That’s an improvement over the regular SLS, with "only" 563 hp and a 0-to-60 time of around 3.7 seconds — though torque and top speed are unchanged. Still, the Black Series feels faster than the regular SLS, and also more focused, more wound-up, more angry, more go-kart-like.
And yet, it’s more refined than a go-kart. Although others have described the SLS Black Series’ ride as tremendously harsh, I simply didn’t experience that. It’s punishing, sure, but no more so than any other exotic car of this ilk — and this is exactly what you expect when you buy a vehicle like this. The suspension simply must be stiffer to allow for improved cornering, leading to better lap times, leading to the Black Series’ advantage over the regular SLS. I’m not surprised by that. The unusual benefit of a car like the SLS Black Series, though, is that it’s still put together by Mercedes-Benz — so you get nice climate control, alcantara surfaces and other high-end touches you’d associate with a luxury car.
Of course, the big question is whether this thing is worth $500,000. Yes, you read that right: $500,000. While you can pick up an SLS AMG Roadster on Autotrader in the $150,000 range and an SLS AMG Gullwing for closer to $200,000, the Black Series — basically the same car, but with some tweaks — is around $500,000. Is it worth it?
Objectively, no — it simply isn’t so much better than the regular SLS that it’s worth two and a half times the price. But in today’s world of crazy collector car appreciation in value, having an ultra-limited-production car like the SLS AMG Black Series is a ticket to big money, and these have shot up from their original MSRP of around $300,000. So while this car may not technically be "worth it" for its performance, it’s certainly "worth it" in the eyes of the market — and, based on auction results, these actually seem to be selling around that half-million mark.
Regardless of the economics, though, this is a special car, with amazing performance and a fantastic driving experience — and I’m glad I got the chance to spend a day with the ultimate Mercedes-Benz performance car.