This menacing matte-black Brabus SL65 Black Series bestrides the autobahnen and even ordinary roads like a Colossus. Its huge intakes look capable of vacuuming up small animals and children as it prowls the streets. Resistance is futile.
When the road ahead is clear and you push the throttle to the lightweight carpet, you encounter a Matrix sort of moment when time seems to stand still. In that second, you can imagine electrons rushing from the e-gas throttle potentiometer to the ECU, sending the "go!" message to the engine room where 12 big pistons play out their lives amidst fire and brimstone.
You sense the mighty V12 engine taking a deep, deep breath to fill its huge lungs. Then you feel the rumbling sensation rise as it responds. A whirlwind of supercharged air blasts through its induction system, and as those big pistons pick up speed, 800 corralled horses are finally let off their leash.
What you also sense is that while 500 pounds has been saved over the normal SL65 AMG, 4,120 still represent a significant amount of mass to be moved. So while the peak torque of 811 lb-ft on tap is more than enough to slingshot the Black Series towards the horizon with Olympic sprinter-grade vigor, you can clearly feel the effort required to warp the laws of physics.
Past that point everything however, and everything changes. Then the Brabus-powered Black Series begins its relentless charge forward with every indication that at a certain critical level, it will live up to the name given by its Middle Eastern owner. Vanish.
Once in stride, its acceleration is an absolutely visceral experience. This is not the kick-in-the-pants kind of sensation that you get from a small, peaky motor coming on cam. Rather than punch, the head of steam that keeps on building delivers sheer thrust of the kind you would imagine from a racing locomotive and you feel it in your gut.
There's a old drag racer's saying: "A good big 'un is always better than a good little 'un." That's never more true than here, and it just goes to prove that the only thing better than a big V12 is a twin-turbocharged big V12.
Yet, the motor in the Brabus "Vanish" is not the biggest one that Brabus makes. In last year's E V12, the objective of 800 hp and 811 lb-ft (electronically limited from 1,050 lb-ft) of torque was met at significant monetary cost with a total engine strip-down and displacement bump to 6.3 liters.
As Brabus technical chief Uli Gauffres explains, greater room in the SL65 AMG Black Series' engine bay and its better cooling arrangements out of the box mean that it wasn't necessary to go to such lengths to attain the same power output.
"AMG found the extra 53 horses with fairly minor modifications," he says. "The way the crank is manufactured is slightly different, creating a stronger component, but the connecting rods, pistons, and the cooling oil spray system for the undersides of the pistons are unchanged."
Better breathing is always a good place to look for extra power. Because the charge air comes in under much higher pressure, turbocharged engines are less sensitive to cylinder-head gas flow than normally aspirated ones. Because of this, the heads are not modified.
BorgWarner Turbo Systems (who bought out KKK) supply the turbochargers for the regular SL65 AMG, and also provided the larger units with 12 percent more flow capability for the Black Series. These work with different exhaust manifolds designed to enhance gas flow, and the wastegate design was also revised.
While the larger intercoolers are around 30 percent more efficient, boost pressure is unchanged from the normal SL65 AMG, and there is no overboost facility. The extra intercooler capacity is used to ensure stable output under extreme ambient conditions or when driving hard on a racetrack. The exhaust system aft of the new manifolds is standard SL65 AMG, differing only in its new tailpipe end tips.