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Mercedes-Benz SLS 63 2013 review

The SLS 63 AMG Black Series has the harsh brassy edge of greatness.

Yes, it comes in yellow. It might be called the Black Series, but the Gullwing Benz with all the belter bits looks absolutely stunning in hi-viz yellow.

Not just that, but the SLS 63 AMG looks even better when you're hotdogging around Phillip Island -- in a car that would normally cost $639,000 to park in the driveway.

This is a very special day in a very special car. Only 10 copies of the latest Black Series hero car from the AMG hothouse in Germany are allocated to Australia. 

Eight are already sold, with two available for the cashed-up contenders jockeying for the final slots. But this car is not a customer car, it's the AMG demonstrator that's been air-freighted in to star at the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park. 

Because Australia has the largest per-capita appetite for AMG cars in the world, the SLS is on a whistle-stop tour that includes a handful of laps with the Carsguide crew in the relative safety of the Island circuit that's home to MotoGP and also hosts the V8 Supercar crowd.

Measured against that standard, the SLS Black comes up surprisingly well. In fact, it's the only road car where I've backed out before the car gave up. Unless you count the Bugatti Veyron at Sandown Park a few years ago, but the Veyron is more of a science experiment than any sort of road car.

The SLS Black looks like a racer, sounds like a real racer, and also has racer responses, but you can register it. It's not a car I would like to dribble through the traffic to the office, and I'm certain it is way too harsh for on-road enjoyment, but it's just the sort of weapon you need to carve out some special time at Phillip Island.

AMG has a history with Black Series cars that runs back to a hotrod SLK and now includes the fantastic C63 Coupe and the silly-fast twin-turbo V12 SL65. This time, though, it's different. The SLS is the first complete car developed by AMG and not modified from a Benz original.

The Black Series package obviously includes a giant rear wing, aero 'flicks' ahead of the front wheels, and bigger forged alloy rims, but the development work goes a lot deeper. 

The car is 70 kilos lighter than a cooking gullwing and the engine makes 464 kiloWatts and 635 Newton-metres, so more power but less torque. And it revs all the way to 8000, with a seven-speed gearbox that's been tweaked for much quicker shifts.

Digging into the detail, the engine sits lower, there is carbon fibre strengthening and a carbon fibre torque tube to the transaxle gearbox, an electronic limited-slip differential, and the front end has different steering knuckles and far less rubber.

What does that all mean?

Well, apart from the stratospheric price and Mick Doohan's demonstration laps on Sunday at the AGP meeting, it's a damn fast car. As I slide into the driver's seat - on the left-hand side, since the car is not staying in Australia - I can sense that it's a special occasion.

The seat is a hip-hugger race bucket with no electric adjustment and there is a race driver - Dave Russell - already installed on the passenger side as my ‘coach’. Normally these blokes are a handbrake but he is a ripper guy who just wants me to go fast and enjoy the car.

Then I turn the key. And I do. A regular SLS gullwing sounds chubby, but this one has the harsh brassy edge of greatness. It's a V8 that's born to run. As I roll down the pit lane, I can feel that the suspension is much more taut than a regular SLS - or something as humble as an HSV Holden - with all the bumps feeding straight back through the steering.

Then I stomp on the gas and …. whoa, this thing is seriously seriously fast. Phillip Island is a fast track that demands respect, and so does the Black in yellow, but I'm rapidly approaching the sort of speeds and grip levels that are normally reserved for race cars.

Compared with a ‘cooking’ SLS, this stove-hot rocket has much better ceramic brakes, turns like a soldier on parade, and has more power than I can use. I need to stop and think and download Dangerous Dave's eager coaching. 

While I wait, I soak up the details of a car that takes AMG and Benz into a world that's normally reserved for Ferrari and Lamborghini. Yes, it's that fast. For my second sprint, I quickly lift the pace and relax to enjoy the ride. Except...

Except the car is so, so good that I'm struggling to stay ahead of the action. The back is a little unsettled in a couple of places, particularly into the left-hander at Siberia Corner, and the brakes are grabbing me down from more than 200km/h at three places on the track. I'm enjoying, but I am working hard. The car? I'm sure it has plenty in reserve.

So I park and smile and laugh and hit the rewind button in my head to enjoy a very, very rare treat in a very rare car. The Black Series SLS is as focussed as anything I've driven at Phillip Island, and that includes a V8 Supercar and a Nissan GT-R, and as brutally fast as you could want or hope. It's silly money, and it would be stupid as a commuter car, but for one special day I'm living a dream.

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
AMG 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO No recent listings 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS 2013 AMG Pricing and Specs
AMG 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO No recent listings 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS 2013 AMG Pricing and Specs
AMG Black Series 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO No recent listings 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLS 2013 AMG Black Series Pricing and Specs
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