With the release of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series, it seemed like a good time for a brief history of each of AMG's previous Black Series models, dating back nearly 15 years.
In 2006, it was part of a refocusing at AMG. To top the regular AMG models, distributed through the Mercedes-Benz dealer network, AMG created the Performance Studio with the goal of developing low-production, high-performance models based on AMG's more mainstream models. So far, five have been produced, and the sixth one is around the corner. Here's a look of the previous models, in chronological order:
Mercedes-Benz SLK AMG 55 Black Series
Unveiled in late 2006 and derived from the 35-unit SLK Tracksport, the SLK 55 Black Series was announced as "purist" and "ready for the track." Changes to the regular SLK 55 were extensive: The naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V-8 breathed more freely and grew muscles, from 360 to 400 horsepower, yet it was still mated to a seven-speed automatic. A manually adjustable suspension, Pirelli performance tires, larger brakes and a strengthened chassis helped bring that power to the road. As did the ESP stability control system, which could not be turned off entirely. Wider fenders covered the 235/35R-19 front and 265/30R-19 rear tires.
The fixed carbon fiber roof made the heavy kinematics of the regular SLK 55's retractable hardtop obsolete, lowering weight and the center of gravity significantly. At launch, AMG said there would be no specific limit to production. But the hefty price tag meant that no more than 120 units were built from July 2006 to April 2007. Top speed: 174 mph.
Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG Black Series
When AMG launched the legendary M156 6.2-liter V-8, developed by Bernd Ramler, they used an orange-colored, extreme derivative of the C209 CLK to showcase it on the Paul Ricard racetrack. And while it initially launched in the regular CLK 63 AMG in 2006, it took only another year for the CLK AMG Black Series to be unveiled, with strong cues of that prototype and of the CLK DTM, a previous special edition that was still powered by older, supercharged 5.5-liter V-8.
In the CLK 63 Black Series, the engine made a full 500 horsepower, mated to a seven-speed automatic; top speed was 186 mph. The ultra-wide track and 265/30R-19 front and 285/30R-19 rear tires asked for brutally expanded fenders. The adjustable chassis was stiffened, the interior sported Alcantara and carbon fiber applications. Launched in 2007, 700 were made and sold globally from April 2007 to March 2008.
Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG Black Series
This project was outsourced to HWA Engineering, who turned the SL 65 AMG into a true monster: The 36-valve 6.0-liter V-12, force-fed by larger turbos and intercoolers, made 661 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque that was channeled to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic. Terminal velocity was a nice and even, electronically limited 199 mph. The hard top was no more retractable, and it featured a lower roofline and a larger, more aggressively raked backlight.
HWA widened the body widened significantly and carbon fiber was used liberally. The only body parts shared with the standard SL were the doors and side mirrors. The chassis was redesigned for racetrack performance, and this Black Series stood on 265/35R-19 front and 325/30R-20 Dunlop Sport Maxx GT rubber. Before launch, this Black Series was tested for almost 10,000 miles on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. 350 units were built from September 2008 to August 2009 and the car was essentially sold out at launch.
Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé Black Series
Launched in late 2011, the C 63 AMG Coupé Black Series was fitted with another iteration of the M156 6.2-liter V-8 that was fitted in the CLK 63 Black Series in the past. Rated at 510 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque, it channeled its power to the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic box. Top speed was governed at 186 mph.
Like all other Black Series models, the C 63 AMG Coupé Black Series came with a adjustable suspension and a much wider track; tire sizes were 255/35R-19 up front and 285/30R-19 out back. The redesigned front axle later inspired the next-gen C-Class AMG's suspension. Extensive changes to the interior and exterior underscore this model's special position, yet AMG offered a Track package and an Aerodynamic package on top. The 800 units, available in Europe beginning in January 2012 and in the U.S. as a 2013 model, were sold out quickly; initially, AMG had planned for 600 units but couldn't resist adding another 200.
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series
The last Black Series to date was the SLS AMG Black Series, launched in the spring of 2013. The M159 engine was tuned to 622 horsepower and 468 pound-feet of torque sent through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic for a terminal velocity of a governed 196 mph. The M159 engine's redline was raised from 7200 to 8000 rpm, and the titanium exhaust system created the soundtrack of a race car.
Thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber, the weight was was reduced by a whopping 154 lbs compared to a standard SLS AMG. The car was fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires sized 275/35R-19 in front and 325/30R-20 out back. An optional aero package included an adjustable carbon fiber wing. We hear that 350 were built, AMG will say that "fewer than 200" were imported to the United States.
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