Money, like mold and rat infestations, tends to collect in localized points. It finds itself, which can be both good and bad. It means there's always a friendly face to share a bottle of Krug and some smoked salmon, but it can also mean driving down the high street in a Veyron, thinking you're the man, until you catch a glimpse of your friend's Bugatti in the rearview. It can happen, and it can send a rich man into fits. Mercedes tuner Carlsson might have the unlikely answer with its C25.
If the buyers materialize, Carlsson will make no more than 25 and just one will go to each country. That means there's almost no chance, nearly zero possibility, of running into another C25 coming the other way.
For something truly unique, a car that their neighbors simply cannot buy, this thin sliver of society will drop $550,000 (plus local taxes) as if it were pocket change. If it sounds ludicrous, just remember that boutique clothes manufacturers have been doing it for centuries. And that's just the start, as the options list is simply insane and includes a $60,000 Smart car in matching colors for city commuting. No, really, it does; keep going down the list and there's a $200,000 complete 24kt gold exterior, which might be a little much...
The German tuner has moved consistently toward the high-powered, stratospheric light of the super exclusive, limited production run creations in recent years. The Carlsson Aigner range tapped in to a new kind of buyer and convinced CEO Marcus Schuster that the time was right to press ahead with his next plan.
Now it stands before me at Hockenheim in all its glory, and it's hard not to just stand and stare. Carlsson has labeled its first official entry into the manufacturer world as a "Super GT" and it's a novel concept. Because under the skin is a heavily breathed-upon SL65 AMG that can be driven every day and serviced at any main dealer. But on the surface its a bonafide monster.
At the front there's the vaguest hint of SL, if you look close, but the sharp cuts, gaping vents, and vertical daytime running lights all combine to create a shape that could frighten a Ferrari from its path. The widebody front quarters taper neatly into the doors and flare out again into that magnificent rear end that owes more than a little to the Aston Martin DB9.
But even at the rear Carlsson has gone further with those vicious, squared off exhaust pipe exits that house another, squarer exhaust exit. It's a visual feast or an orgy of pure madness, whichever way you look at it, but there is no doubting the impact.
All of the bodywork is crafted in carbon fiber, which goes a long way toward justifying the cost. The new bodywork, together with a fixed roof instead of the folding metal peacock's tail that comes with the standard AMG, saves more than 220 pounds high up in the frame.
It's still 4,300 pounds, but that's a big saving over the base car. Combined with Carlsson's raciest suspension yet, it transforms the handling of the standard SL. It isn't quite in Black Series territory-the C25 is more subtle than that-but the C25 was always intended to be a balancing act rather than an out-and-out racer. Pitching the car into direct competition with the cheaper Black Series makes little sense anyway. Carlsson couldn't win a war with its own base manufacturer and the company has a history of refined, elegant cars to live up to.
Carlsson's C-Tronic suspension system is hunkered down low to the exclusive 9.5x20 front and 12x20 rear wheels that are also 40 percent lighter than standard AMG wheels, as we sweep onto the Hockenheim race track and the car, even in this its first real test drive, offers no pitch or roll. On rougher tracks, though, the kind that we drive on every day, the C-Tronic suspension system can raise the ride height up to 30mm and squash the harshest bumps and ruts in the road. And combined with 405mm front and 380mm rear brake discs from Brembo, together with uprated calipers, this slightly softer setup works wonders on track and the street.
I just wish it was louder. Because on ignition the car is disappointingly quiet. The 6.0-liter biturbo V12 is idling, but it's almost a strain to hear it. Apparently Carlsson has battled to create a baritone, booming exhaust note in this, its most powerful engine ever. But the Mercedes engine is what it is and they simply cannot make it gargle fuel and rage at the gods above until its heading toward the redline.
Don't think for a second that it's slow though, as Carlsson has unleashed 753 hp with the help of a new ECU program, intake, and exhaust system, and has had to limit the 995 lb-ft of torque on tap to just 850 for the transmission's sake. That means it will roar through the 60-mph mark in 3.7 seconds and head all the way to an epic 219 mph. There are few cars in the world that will match it for pace and just a few that could claim to offer the same effortless performance.
The C25 is still Mercedes-simple to drive; with the auto 'box set in full slush mode it simply skips through the gears without a second thought and with ample braking and with all of Mercedes electronics arsenal its almost impossible to upset, let alone crash. That's the key to the C25: It simply piles on speed at a relentless, merciless rate when it's required and tickles along with a barely audible whisper under normal driving conditions. This is where 99 percent of us spend 99 percent of our time: in traffic, in the city, on the motorway.
And it's a wondrous place to spend a day, too, thanks to lavish splashes of carbon among real buffalo hide and ultra-suede finish. The car is completely tailored to the individual, and though the marriage of red and orange sits a little uncomfortably in the show car for my liking, the first buyer wanted the car delivered as it is. He likes it. He knows his car will be unique, the only one of its kind in the territory, and that was enough to sway him away from the Black Series, the Bentley Continental Supersports, even the Rolls-Royce Phantom he could have had for less money.
Carlsson needs just 24 more like-minded individuals, and has already found a few of them. If the rest are found, the C25 will be a rip-roaring success and the start of a new trend. Logically speaking, the C25 doesn't really stack up, but for the target market it will be worth each and every cent.
But please, if one buyer happens to be you, leave the gold alone.
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
6.0-liter V12, sohc, 36-valve, twin-turbocharged
Multilink, coil springs, adjustable monotube dampers with Carlsson C-Tronic
Six-piston calipers with 405mm rotors (f),
four-piston calipers with 380mm rotors
Wheels and Tires
Carlsson alloys, 19-inch
Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT
Peak Power: 753 hp @ 5000 rpm
Peak Torque: 850 lb-ft @ 3750 rpm
0-60 mph: 3.7 sec.
Top Speed: 219 mph