Mercedes-Benz AMG Black Series Spotter's Guide

Mercedes CLK 63 AMG Black Series. Image altered by the author
Mercedes CLK 63 AMG Black Series. Image altered by the author
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz just posted some highlights from its old AMG Black Series catalog. Since those cars are awesome, here’s a post running down the AMG production cars that have been deemed worthy of Black Series badges.

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Illustration for article titled Mercedes-Benz AMG Black Series Spotters Guide
Photo: Mercedes-Benz

The German automaker resurfaced these specs as a mini-retrospective to provide context for a new Black Series car slated to drop this week. Meanwhile, it reminded me of how sweet the CLK 63 AMG Black Series is. (Stands for: Chonky Looks Kül.) (Not really.)

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Anyway, it’s as good an excuse as any to talk about some sweet Mercs.

SLK 55 AMG Black Series

Stare at the second-gen (R171) Mercedes SLK long enough, maybe after a few puffs of modern medicine, and the car starts to look like the superheroic SLR McLaren. But the SLK wasn’t really made as a high-performance monster. It was a fun and comfortable backroader. The SLK 55 AMG Black Series, however, was a wacky outlier thanks to the huge engine shoehorned under the hood and fixed roof.

You can recognize one by its fender flares, carbon fiber trim pieces, and cool sport seats. But you won’t have to worry about that, because it’s not likely you’ll ever see one.

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Mercedes says:

  • Developed in the AMG Performance Studio for exclusive models, opened in 2006.
  • Powertrain: Handcrafted AMG 5.5-liter V8 with 400 HP, 383 lb-ft torque.
  • Availability: 2006-2007, only 120 units produced. (N/A in U.S. market)
  • Unique enhancements: Retractable hardtop replaced with lightweight fixed unit, nearly 100lbs shaved from standard SLK 55 with light-weighting measures.
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CLK 63 AMG Black Series

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Famously beloved, except when it wasn’t, by known car-driver Jeremy Clarkson, the CLK 63 AMG Black Series is one of the coolest things Mercedes has ever put on the road. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to look like a tuner car, a modernized muscle car, or a GT with a bad attitude. I think the answer is “yes to all,” which is probably why I love it so much.

The fender flares really step up the aggression of the second-gen (C209) CLK in a way that’s still cohesive and cool looking. It’s not the ultimate CLK, since of course, the CLK GTR exists. But it’s widely considered one of the best fast Benzes ever and I’m inclined to agree. (Though, sadly, I have not had the privilege of driving one.)

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Mercedes says:

  • Powertrain: Handcrafted AMG 6.3-liter V8, producing 500 HP, 465 lb-ft torque.
  • Availability: 2008, 700 units produced globally.
  • Unique enhancements: Adjustable coil-springs, additional interior bracing with rear-seat delete, and a DTM-inspired wide body with widened track front and rear
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SL 65 AMG Black Series

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The Mercedes SL has been on a downward slope from relevance since the fifth-generation (R230) was “facelifted” toward the end of the 2000s to this design. That’s my opinion, not a fact, but you’re in my blog now so you’re just going to have to accept it.

The signature Black Series flares certainly gave it some presence, though. And a twin-turbo V12, I mean, come on. That slaps in any century. Hilariously, that overdeveloped engine was bolted up to a five-speed automatic, which seems pretty primitive by comparison.

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Mercedes says:

  • Powertrain: Handcrafted AMG 6.0-liter V12 Biturbo with 661 HP, 738 lb-ft torque.
  • Availability: 2009, 350 units produced globally
  • Unique enhancements: The only body panels shared with the contemporary SL were the doors and side mirrors; everything else was unique to the Black Series and replaced with lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic panels. The retractable hardtop is fixed in place, unlike the conventional SL.
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C 63 AMG Black Series

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This C-Class is the “lowkey” Black Series Benz. Compared to the other machines in this lineup, the C 63 AMG Black Series’ fender-widening treatment is downright subtle. Still, if you spot the rear-facing vent behind each wheel you might be looking at a real one.

Look carefully though, if you’re a car-spotting stickler because these ground effects have been replicated by the aftermarket.

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Mercedes says:

  • Powertrain: Handcrafted AMG 6.3-liter V8 with 510 HP, 457 lb-ft torque.
  • Availability: 2013, 800 produced globally.
  • Unique enhancements: Widened track and bodywork, Coil-over suspension, AMG high- performance composite two-piece braking and track-refined aerodynamic enhancements.
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SLS AMG Black Series

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The SLS super GT was never a particularly subtle car, but the standard version is fairly elegant as long as you’re not offended by novelty upward-opening doors. The SLS AMG Black Series adds some extra vents, side skirts, and a big old wing to a generally graceful design and the result has not aged particularly well.

I’m not against massaging some more aggression out of fast GT cars, but there’s way too much going on visually for this version of the SLS to look nice. But, if you want your SLS with an extra 40-odd HP, this was the one to get.

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Mercedes says:

  • Performance: Handcrafted AMG 6.3-liter V8 engine with 622 HP, 468 lb-ft torque.
  • Availability: 2014, fewer than 200 imported to the United States.
  • Unique enhancements: Inspired by the SLS AMG GT3 race car, a mix of breathtaking design, outstanding driving dynamics, and uncompromising lightweight construction. With a curb weight of 3,417 pounds, the 2014 SLS AMG Black Series achieved a power/weight ratio of 5.49 lb/hp.
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AMG GT Black Series

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The new hotness for the AMG Black line, least as of 2020, and its most visually distinctive feature is a wing “as large as the one on your neighbor’s modded 370Z,” as my colleague Raphael Orlove so eloquently put it.

It’s a stiff, fast sports car made stiffer and faster and a little ridiculous looking. Mercedes has a whole rundown on its website. The headline you might be interested in: This car claims more horsepower than any other AMG V8.

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Mercedes says:

  • Performance: AMG 4.0-liter V8 biturbo with dry sump lubrication. 720 HP and 590 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds, to 124 mph in under nine seconds, the top speed is 202.
  • Availability: New for 2020.
  • Unique enhancements: Dat wing. M178 LS2 engine, graphics, aero, cooling.

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL

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DISCUSSION

arch-duke-maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko, Shit Talk Extraordinaire

Still think they need to do an S63 AMG Black Series as a modern Red Pig.