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Auto blogFri, 15 Nov 2013 11:58:00 EST
The biggest misconception about the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series is that it's simply a higher-performing version of the SLS GT - a closer look, or better yet, a few hot laps on a high-speed racing circuit, reveals that is anything but the case.
Launched in the States in mid-2011, the standard SLS GT is a 583-horsepower, all-aluminum, gull-wing coupe with performance that positions it near the top of the exotic segment. While the AMG team at Mercedes-Benz could have left it alone, their experience with the SLS AMG GT3 race car said there was room for improvement, so they devised the SLS Black Series. The transformation from SLS GT to SLS Black Series is extensive, with no fewer than 17 different significant enhancements.
The engine mapping, crankshaft, connecting rods, valve-train, intake, exhaust and cooling are all modified and the engine's redline bumps up from 7,200 to 8,000 rpm, which pushes output of the hand-built 6.3-liter V8 to 622 horsepower. The power steering receives a new ratio, a coil-over AMG Adaptive Performance suspension is installed along with underbody braces, the track is widened, two-piece carbon-ceramic brakes replace iron rotors at each corner and a lightweight titanium exhaust is fitted beneath. The AMG Speedshift seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is modified and an electronically controlled AMG rear differential lock ensures the power goes to the pavement. Last on the mechanical upgrades are new lightweight forged wheels (10x19 inches front and 12x20 inches rear) wrapped in special R-compound Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires.
The recent Geneva Motor Show was a festival of hypercars, with the presence of not one, but three over-the-top debuts: the Lamborghini Veneno, McLaren P1 and Ferrari LeFerrari. The latter two have hitched their carbon fiber bumpers to the electrification bandwagon by using hybrid-electric powertrains not entirely unlike the propulsion systems we've come to know in cars like the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt. Does that mean the flow of electrons up the four-wheeled food chain will eventually consume our hallowed supercars? Not if AMG has anything to say about it.
AMG Director of Vehicle Development Tobias Moers recently confirmed that not only will there be a successor to the Mercedes-Benz performance division's SLS AMG, he notes that its internal combustion engine will most definitely not be sharing living quarters with an electric drivetrain. Instead, AMG plans to focus on further pushing the power and efficiency envelope of the internal combustion engine and advancing the use of lightweight materials to achieve their goals. The first example of this effort can be seen in the new SLS AMG Black Series that incorporates many weight-saving techniques to shed some 154 pounds from the SLS AMG GT (above), which itself is lighter than the standard SLS AMG.
Furthermore, Moers remarks that his company is happy to leave the hypercar segment to companies like Ferrari and McLaren. He admits that, "Ferrari in the hyper-car segment is still a different brand than AMG. We have to be honest..." So rather than taking the SLS further upmarket to do battle with bulls and stallions, Moers hinted that the next-generation SLS may be joined by another performance model that fits neatly between itself and the C63 AMG.
BMW opened a whole Pandora's Box when it introduced the X6 back in 2008. Sure it made little sense, sacrificing all that "utility" for a little more "sport," but it's been a solid success for BMW - especially considering the nominal expense it cost to develop the X6 on top of the X5 on which it's based. Little wonder that, while BMW has already followed up with a smaller version in the form of the X4, other automakers are starting to catch up. And that includes Mercedes-Benz.
The German automaker is preparing to launch a new MLC, based on the M-Class but with a sportier silhouette, and previewed it with the Concept Coupe SUV at the Beijing Motor Show. But that's just the start, according to the latest report from Automotive News Europe.
Mercedes is reportedly considering spinning off an entire line of crossovers more for use on the road than off it. Which may go without saying for most crossovers on the market, but considering the Geländwagen with which Mercedes got its start in SUVs, would mean an even further departure than it has undertaken already.