Mercedes-Benz’s technical director in the 1950s, Rudi Uhlenhaut, had what is arguably the coolest company car in history. It was a gullwing version of the W196S 300SLR race car powered by a 306-hp, 3.0-liter version of Mercedes’ Formula 1 straight-eight engine. His daily driver sprang from his own genius, and the car is now widely known as the Uhlenhaut Coupe. We just spent a week with the 21st-century edition Uhlenhaut Coupe.
The 2014 SLS AMG Black Series doesn’t have a straight-eight, but it does have the most potent 6.2-liter V-8 Mercedes-Benz has ever built. This is likely the last naturally aspirated gasp of the brand’s heavy-breathing M159 engine we’ll ever hear.
As a retirement gift, AMG has given the engine new camshafts, specially coated bucket tappets, a more efficient intake tract, more-durable crankshaft bearings, and a titanium exhaust system that shaves 29 pounds. The mighty V-8 goes out barking, spitting, and spinning all the way up to 8000 rpm. All 622 horsepower (up from 583 in the SLS GT) show up at 7400 rpm with 468 pound-feet of torque coming in at 5500 rpm. An angry Sprint Cup car–like thrum pulses out of the Black’s four exhaust tips to warn the hard of hearing. Uhlenhaut’s car was also an eardrum destroyer; it had to wear a goofy Samsonite-shaped muffler tacked onto its front fender, presumably to keep Uhlenhaut from getting deported to East Germany.
If you seek proof that the mighty SLS Black is capable of achieving warp speed, this provides ample photographic evidence.
Eventually, we did escape the city for the peaks north of Los Angeles. Mountain roads unwind with little effort in the Black Series. Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires that are nearly as plump as those on a Viper support a suspension with widened front and rear tracks. Turn-in grip is staggering, and the rear stays stuck to the road. The Black has a coil-over suspension that offers no comfort mode for the shocks, only sport and sport plus. It’s brutally stiff either way. We did appreciate the directness of the faux-suede-covered steering wheel, which transmits road texture with little filtering and provides the right amount of effort. We measured 0.98 g of grip on the skidpad and found you can use every bit of that adhesion with confidence. More than doubling the posted speed through corners is almost boring in this car. Almost.