Daze of thunder
Gullwing tears up the Phillip Island track at Supercar pace
THE SLS Black Series launches down the main straight of Phillip Island. The visceral
‘‘ braa-aap’’ from the exhaust accompanies the breathtaking clockwise progress of the speedo and tacho needles.
As we hit turn one with a distinct lack of poise, the Gullwing racer shows it isn’t so much a car as a dance partner.
It engages the senses like a Japanese courtesan and has the intellect to match. Power and suspension inputs can be adjusted and there is the option of loosening (or disabling) the traction control. This car— a left-hand-drive example fresh from Europe before July deliveries of the first Australian cars— takes to the Phillip Island racetrack with ease. The assembled journalists and even the ‘‘ I’d-better-be-getting-abonus-for-this’’ professional racers strapped in as overseeing passengers can barely pretend to be as composed.
It handles all inputs— and the interplay between them— in a way the regularAMGSLS only begins to approach. Throttle, steering and brake responses are all quicker, tauter, more direct.
The car is also built to flatter. It sits low and wide but defines the evolution of modern supercars by being fast and forgiving. How fast?
Mercedes-Benz Australia chief driving instructor Peter Hackett takes the 464kW/ 635Nm car out for a shakedown run between groups and clocks a lap time barely eight seconds slower than Craig Lowndes’s record in a V8 Supercar of 1min33.27sec.
Mercedes Australia refuses to confirm the time but notes the SLS Black Series is among the quickest AMG-badged vehicles to roll around the island.
It is a stripped-down, firedup Gullwing that, even in amateur hands, hustles its way around the recently resurfaced 4.45km bitumen ribbon with all the brutal, repetitive efficiency of a race car. Which, funnily enough, is what the ultimate expression of the SLS line-up is, at least in street-legal guise.
It is also more than $150,000 more expensive than the SLS Roadster at $639,0000, which explains why only nine will make it to Australia, with another one destined for New Zealand. Of those 10, eight already have owners.
The cars run on Michelin rubber specifically developed for the Black Series on track days. This is a fair indication of whereAMGexpects owners to spend most of their time— exploring the potential of a car built for the chequered flag that can be driven home from the circuit in comfort.
AMGproduct development head Tobias Moers notes of the Black Series range: ‘‘ The focus is always for racetrack performance.’’
You just hope those who buy the SLS Black Series follow that lead.