The story of the AMG Black Series is an interesting one, chiefly because you never quite know what you're going to get. The SLK came along first in 2006, and was regarded as a bit of a dud; the CLK that came soon after was revelatory. Then there was the SL65, proof that there really is such a thing as too much power in an AMG; yet the C63 was sublime, track optimised and still lovely on road. Then fifth Black Series was the SLS, one of the most intense and thrilling supercar experiences of the last decade. Given the not-so-great Black Series cars were based on convertibles, given AMG's rich run of recent form and given the base on offer in a GT, there's surely cause for considerable optimism and excitement in this, the sixth instalment.
The big news for this Black Series, as has become customary, is under the carbon bonnet and its huge outlets (there to channel exhaust air out and past the A-pillars, optimising air flow). AMG has seen fit to convert the M178 'hot-V' 4.0-litre V8 to a flat-plane crank, improving both power and throttle response. With new cams and exhaust manifolds to take advantage of the new layout, plus bigger compressor wheels for the turbos, AMG has seen fit to give this V8 a new engine code: it's M178 LS2, fact fans. And, since we're here, the firing order is 1-8-2-7 4-5-3-6.
But there are many more interesting numbers than that. Peak power of 730hp is made at 6,700-6,900rpm, further up the rev range than the GT R Pro (585@6,250rpm) and representative of the flat-plane crank's revvier nature. They tend to produce less torque, too; so although it has climbed for this Black Series to 590lb (from 2,000-6,000rpm) that's a less substantial gain over the Pro (516lb ft) than the huge power hike. Still, they're extremely healthy figures, and the promise of that AMG 4.0-litre made freer spinning - alongside a toughened up seven-speed dual clutch gearbox and a new exhaust - is a very exciting one.
AMG claims a 0-62mph time of 3.2 seconds for the Black, before reaching 124mph in less than nine seconds and a top speed of 202mph. It's also promising a "completely independent character" for the engine, "which is not only reflected in the type of power delivery, but also in its very particular sound pattern." A flat-plane, V8 AMG sports car with more power than a 488 Pista? It's quite the start...
But, of course, there's so much more to the Black Series overhaul than a hunk of V8 out front. Aerodynamic performance has been a big focus for this GT (particularly as it's assumed AMG will be going for a Nurburgring lap record), and as such it doesn't really resemble any GT that's gone before. The radiator trim is inspired by the GT3 car, the front splitter is manually adjustable to a Race setting (with a carbon diffuser as well), the underbody is almost entirely closed, the rear aerofoil blades are adjustable and the flap on the upper one has 20 degrees of movement to benefit dynamics and brake balance.
It can be triggered automatically (depending on drive program) or manually via button. AMG says that more than 400kg of downforce is produced by the Black Series at 155mph, although that probably doesn't fully convey what's claimed to be a wholly transformed driving experience. The manufacturer reckons that "especially during fast cornering and under high lateral acceleration, the vehicle delivers an agile response with clear steering wheel feedback - while remaining easily controllable at all times." Which sounds like the dream scenario for a high-end track car, and given the bar set by the Pro, eminently achievable as well.
The makeover doesn't stop there, either. While a kerbweight hasn't yet been announced, lightweight strategies such as thinner glass, an aluminium front axle carrier and carbon everything - boot, bonnet, roof, wings - should ensure that the penalty of the new bodywork is at least offset.
Suspension for the GT Black Series builds on the foundations of the GT R Pro, with the same combination of AMG coilovers with Ride Control adaptive adjustable damping. Even the latter is improved for the Black, though, now featuring two valves for the rebound and compression to "react in an even more agile manner to fast suspension movements" - it's another ploy pinched from motorsport. Furthermore, AMG's recalibration is promising more distinct differences between Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus damper modes, with the latter even capable of recognising the quality of the track surface, Yes, seriously.
Once the GT has worked out if it's on a Tilke-spec GP track or something more rustic, it "automatically adapts the level of electronic damping" in Sport Plus. AMG says the car was "tailored to a wide range of different track types the adaptation perfected" in the development phase to ensure it works. In addition, customers will be able to adjust camber at both axles, the anti-roll bars and the rear torsion bar. Naturally, ceramic brakes are also standard, along with forged wheels, on which sit some very, very special tyres...
There was some consternation when the AMG GT R Pro lapped the Nurburgring so quickly on Michelin's Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tyres, because they are so soft and sticky and usually an optional extra. Well AMG has gone one step further for the Black, fitting as standard a Pilot Sport Cup 2 R MO1A, exclusive to the GT; the fractionally less aggressive option, for "racetrack use at higher temperatures", no less, is the "hard compound" Cup 2 R MO2. Both promise phenomenal purchase on the road, particularly with 285-section fronts and 335-section rears. Just don't expect them to last tremendously long, especially if you get creative with the nine-stage AMG traction control, originally found on the GT R and standard fitment here.
What else do you need to know? In case all this sounds a bit wussy, there's also a Track Package offered for the Black Series, four-point harnesses for the standard carbon seats, a titanium roll cage and a fire extinguisher. Both standard and Track Pack'd cars get the AMG Performance steering wheel, orange contrast stitching, lightweight door pulls and the Night Package - making shift paddles, steering wheel spokes and seats high-gloss black.
With our without it all sounds pretty special. Last year the GT R Pro was good enough to surpass the McLaren 600LT in our opinion and make the 2019 car of the year list; this is a Pro with even more performance, totally overhauled aero and even more focused suspension. So, yeah, expectation is pretty high. AMG hasn't yet announced how many Black Series will be made or how much they might cost, though it has added this welcome soundbite: "They have not been developed to gather dust in collectors' garages, but for high speed use on racetracks, despite being approved for roads." Which is nice to hear.
Really, though, the last word should go to Tobias Moers, given the Black Series might yet prove the crowning achievement of a glittering AMG career before he departs for Aston Martin. "I am proud of the team who have created a unique super sports car, which now represents the absolute peak of our successful GT family. The performance, looks and driving dynamics of the GT Black Series are second to none. This project was a fantastic end to my work at AMG, for which I am truly thankful".
Certainly it's an AMG with the on-paper potential to elevate it beyond anything that's come before, and if the real thing delivers on what's promised, then it won't just be Black Series aficionados taking notice - Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren will be looking over their shoulders, too.
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