It doesn't seem that long ago that 500 hp was the entry level for the top rank of supercars. McLaren's F1 changed that by upping the ante to 600 hp nearly two decades ago.
Today, the big number is 1,000. Since the Bugatti Veyron's 1,001-hp output made motoring headlines, a small handful of challengers in the form of the 9ff GT9 and Shelby SCC Ultimate Aero have poked their heads above the parapet. Now there's a new kid on the four-figure block, and it is wrapped in Mercedes-Benz AMG clothing.
It's not the first time we've met; our paths crossed at Nardo last October when its V12 bi-turbo motor produced a mere 816 hp, which took it to a 205-mph recorded v-max.
The handicap stopping it from going faster was that the Continental Sport Contact Vmax tires were not available in the correct size for the Black Series, so the car was under-geared by tires with a too-small rolling radius, and the motor revving past peak power. With the correct sized tires, it would have achieved 208 mph.
The other major problem for the Black Series is a substantially greater frontal area that produces far more drag than a normal SL. Since drag increases with the square of speed, you need substantially more power to push the car through the air at a slightly greater speed.
"Its coefficient of drag is 0.84, compared to 0.60 for the Brabus Rocket," explains MKB boss, Pano Avramidis. "It's an air brake on wheels. If you lift off at 200-plus mph, the car slows like it has hit a brick wall."
Thus, when the MKB SL65 P1000 recorded its impressive 219-mph run at the Papenburg test track recently, its output was dyno confirmed at a staggering 1,015 hp at 5700 rpm, with 959 lb-ft of torque from 3300 to 6000 rpm!
In the interim, the 9.5x19 and 11.5x20 MKB alloy wheels had been fitted with the latest 255/35 and 335/30 ultra-high-speed Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber, rated to 248 mph. These are the correct sizes for this car, and work optimally with the 10 percent taller rear axle ratio to achieve its impressive top speed.
The problem is that the Mercedes V12 is simply too powerful for the 7G-Tronic gearbox and so has to make do with the old five-speeder. Despite the massive power, the car feels like it could do with at least one more ratio to optimize performance and top speed.
However, even though the taller gearing blunts acceleration, the numbers are still impressive. Zero to 62 mph takes 3.6 seconds, 124 mph falls in 8.9, and 186 mph comes up in 21.5, with the quarter-mile marker passed in 11.1. With the normal rear axle ratio, the P1000 would be able to post even quicker times, but at the expense of top speed.
With the standard KW coilover suspension and AMG brakes under the big arches, the concentration of MKB technology is under the carbon-fiber bonnet. While the SL65 Black Series M275BS motor is specially built with sufficient headroom to handle its 670 hp output over a long service life, 1,015 hp is another matter altogether.
To ensure that the engine is as robust over time as the standard article, MKB paid a lot of attention to the details centered on keeping things cool. The first step was to strip the motor to its component parts and strengthen or replace the reciprocating parts that handle the most stress. The Mahle forged alloy pistons were retained, but balanced as a set. The steel billet crankshaft was also balanced, and the steel connecting rods balanced and shot-peened for extra strength.
The cylinder heads were polished, ported, and gas-flowed, and the combustion chambers equalized to ensure that the forces pushing down on each piston are as equal as possible. The compression ratio remains at 10.0:1. The camshafts were replaced with a pair of MKB's specially ground units with more overlap, accompanied by stronger valvesprings.
The intake system was also examined for areas where it could be improved, and the molded plastic component that splits the air to each cylinder bank was replaced by a hand-made alloy unit designed to channel airflow more effectively.
On the other side of the engine, special MKB headers extract the spent gases more quickly and direct them to two new KKK turbochargers built to MKB spec to flow about 35 percent more than the stock turbos. The new intercoolers have almost exactly 100 percent more cooling capacity than the stock ones, but still fit under the molded engine cover on top of the big 6.0-litre V12. Thanks to these massive intercoolers, MKB can safely ramp up the boost pressure to 1.5 bar, with 1.6 bar available on overboost.
The fact that intake temperatures were measured at just 56 degrees C, when the car was flying around Papenburg at over 215 mph is a testament to the effectiveness of the intercoolers. Out the turbos, the exhaust gases pass through 200-cell metal catalytic converters, and then exit through MKB's bespoke stainless steel exhaust system.
While MKB claims 1,015 hp and 959 lb-ft, this is actually wound down from the 1,048 hp and 1,180 lb-ft seen on the engine dyno. The peak torque in particular would simply blow the gearbox and rear axle to pieces. As it stands, the gearbox has many of its internal components beefed up and a larger oil cooler fitted to replace the factory unit. The rear axle also benefits from a pair of oil coolers. Finally, the ECU is extensively remapped to supply appropriate fuelling and spark to keep this monster motor happy.
It took the MKB engineers a year to reach this high. The new SuperFlow dyno they acquired during the project certainly helped, but it was a long and arduous process to ensure that everything was right with this €86,000 motor. Even now, with all that experience behind them, it still takes three months to build an engine like this to perfection.
From behind the wheel, there is absolutely nothing to give away the fact that this car is not a normal SL65 AMG Black Series. In normal driving, the car is as docile as you'd expect, and you can just leave it auto and drive around like you would in any SL.
Find an open stretch of road, or better still an airfield runway however, and witness firsthand this car's transformation from sophisticated hot rod to wingless jet fighter. Because the power delivery is so progressive and consistent, the P1000's ability to warp time and space is not as obvious or spectacular as one whose turbos come on song suddenly after a lull. Instead, the thrust is of the kind that epitomizes the mailed fist in a velvet glove.
The other thing to bear in mind is that for all its carbon and other lightweight bits, the 4,100-pound SL65 Black Series is a lot of weight to push around. In addition, this car does not have the all-wheel-drive advantage of the similarly heavy Veyron to help it leave the line cleanly, deploying all its power effectively on any road surface.
Thus, you can feel that some of that massive grunt is being lost when conditions are not quite right, and the traction control light flashes insanely, threatening to burn itself out. And when you demand power on the fly, you can feel the monster motor take a deep breath to fill its huge lungs before spitting you down the road like an F-16 on afterburner.
If it is instant response you're after, then the P1000 will never match a much lighter machine with a large-capacity, naturally aspirated engine. But while such a car would respond more instantly, once the bi-turbo motor spools up, it delivers hits at a level that no normally aspirated motor can hope to match, and keeps on going with the momentum of a runaway train.
With such huge twist on tap, you soon learn to stop chasing the redline and just ride the beefy torque curve. This is especially important on a twisty road, since lighting up the fat rear tires coming out of bends is a fruitless exercise that only results in speed reduction, rapid tire wear, and maybe even some heart-stopping moments.
While the MKB P1000 is the most powerful road-legal Mercedes-based car ever, because of the massive drag from its widebody, this is arguably the wrong SL model to use for top speed. And while I respect the mission, as a die-hard torque junkie, I just prefer the idea of using the normal factory axle ratio to experience its potential acceleration more of the time.
MKB SL65 P1000
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
6.0-liter V12, sohc, 36-valve. Balanced internals, handmade alloy intake tract, custom MKB-spec KKK turbos, custom intercoolers, ported and gas-flowed cylinder heads, MKB camshafts, custom springs, 200-cell metal catalysts, custom MKB exhaust, custom MKB software
OEM AMG assemblies
Wheels and Tires
MKB alloys, 9.5x19 (f), 11.5x20 (r)
Michelin Pilot Sport 2, 255/35 (f), 335/30 (r)
Peak Power: 1,015 hp @ 5700 rpm
Peak Torque: 959 lb-ft @ 3300 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.6 sec
Top Speed: 219 mph