Mercedes’ SLS AMG is a classy, elegant supercar. A simultaneous nod to the 300 SL gullwing’s past and a thrusting burst into the future. It is a halo car that embodies the Mercedes-Benz ethos. This one isn’t, though. Not anymore. This one would make Daimler’s top brass cry. Because this is the car that Kourosh Mansory built, an SLS that has been dragged kicking and screaming through the looking glass into an alternate, evil world.
The Mansory Cormeum is a 660-hp monster, and although it’s named after an operatic score, it looks like the Batmobile after a week-long meth bender. But the more I look, the more I like it. Then I drive it, and like turns to love. This car is an absolute animal, and the truly crazy thing is there’s a twin-supercharged, 800-hp version on the way.
For those laughing at Mr. Mansory, and you’re out there, he’s laughing harder than you. His customers include Middle Eastern royalty, Hollywood stars and Russian gazillionaires. He has more than $10 million of metal in his workshop at any one time, and his operation is about to branch out into fashion with a flagship store in Moscow. A recent tie-up with Lotus means he’s broken into the mainstream motoring world, and he supplies carbon fiber to a number of big manufacturers.
These wild-eyed tuner cars are more than an oddball passion; they are his shop window and his chance to show off his prowess with the black art of carbon engineering. Every car is a business card for the motor trade and even Bugatti, which was less than amused with his rendering of the Veyron, relented when they looked up close.
As for the sales, there’s a small, moneyed sector of society that just cannot get enough of these crazed creations. They won’t be able to anyway—Mansory will only sell 15 to keep them exclusive.
The SLS is a pure wonder to look at, too, part GT racer, part Batmobile, it has a nose that somehow manages to blend the SLS, SLR and even Ferrari Enzo. The front end is a massive 2.6 inches wider than the stock car, and 3.3 inches wider at the rear, so rest assured more or less everything in between is new.
The sculpted hood comes with carved-in slats behind those Ferrari 599-esque lights and the box-section sides pay homage to some serious sports cars. The rear wing and diffuser are pure racing car, and the naked carbon with metallic strands woven through are a love-or-hate thing, but whatever your opinion you have to admit it’s spectacular and perfectly finished.
There’s more on the inside, lots more, and though much of it is simply a cover, and therefore not a weight saver, it certainly makes an impression and fits the Mansory mold to perfection. It’s ostentatious, ridiculous even, but the work is perfect and customers are queuing around the block.
In the dash is an LCD screen, too, which apparently comes in handy for track use and monitors g-forces, speed, lap times, everything. There’s a new steering wheel dressed in yeah-you-guessed-it, and a shifter knob too, although that’s a rather generous term for the tiny stub in the center console. It does look light, though.
Mansory provides interiors to many other tuners, and his work is absolutely as good as it gets. But it’s time to forget the visual impact, at least until cars coming the other way almost crash off the road getting a second look, because it’s time to fire up the beast.
Three words spring to mind: Oh. My. God. Actually I have a fourth, but it isn’t suitable for print. Mansory has modified the air intake, engine management and then, of course, strapped a massive exhaust can to the rear. The 6.2-liter V8 was a monster before, now it’s plain scary. Mansory doesn’t talk much about acceleration figures, but this thing is just mad: Count on it breaking the 62-mph mark in 3.5 seconds and topping out at 205 mph or more. With 200 pounds shorn from its hips and all that extra power courtesy of a stainless steel sports exhaust, new intake and aggressive engine remap that makes full use of the SLS’s magnificently reworked version of the classic Mercedes V8 it’s just plain ferocious. And with all semblance of sound deadening gone it sounds like exiting the eye of the storm as it hits peak torque at 4850 rpm.
Now, Mansory cannot fix the car’s weak point, that relatively sluggish automatic gearbox. We’re not talking super slushy, but it simply isn’t up to this kind of rabid performance that would otherwise take the SLS into true Ferrari- and Lamborghini-baiting territory. Even with this handicap, though, expect the twin-supercharged one to rock their world in the worst way.
The car feels lighter on its feet, it sounds more urgent and even though the automatic ’box takes care of all the gearchanges, it feels frantic now. That’s partly down to the dropped, adjustable suspension, sitting 20mm lower than the factory car on stiffer springs that sacrifice a touch of civility, but gives the Cormeum even greater involvement at lower speeds. There’s a touch of induced anxiety at the wheel, a fidgeting at normal pace that somehow makes the car feels more alive. At higher speeds, though, that dropped, stiffer suspension really comes into its own as the Cormeum refuses to roll in the bends, and with the other mods it slices through corners much more effectively.
All those wings help push the car to the deck in faster corners and it just hangs on to the road now, no matter what you ask of it. That monster rear wing in particular ensures you have to really want the back end to step out with a pure stab on the throttle to send the Michelin Pilot Sports wrapped around race-style centerlock wheels into a frenzy of overactivity. Even then, the OEM Mercedes electronics will step in to keep things in check. Unless, of course, you’ve turned them off.
That’s not an option today, and we’re invited to feel the full force of this dark-side SLS for just a few moments at a time. But as the Benz skips through its gears and plunges deep into three figures once again, by this dirty, dark, dangerous beast that the SLS has become, I decide I quite like it this way.
And, just for a fleeting moment, I wish I had the money to join Mansory’s most exclusive club. If only to see the tears streaking down the Mercedes purist’s faces.
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
6.2-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. Stainless steel sport exhaust, Mansory software
Lowering springs (20mm), spacers
Wheels and Tires
Mansory centerlock alloys, 9x20 (f), 11x21 (r)
Michelin Pilot Sport PS2, 265/30 (f), 295/25 (r)
Full carbon-fiber/aluminum weave, front apron, side skirts, roof cover, rear spoiler, diffuser.
Full Mansory leather, Alcantara and carbon-fiber trim, carbon bucket seats, drilled aluminum pedals
Peak Power: 660 hp @ 6800 rpm
Peak Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 4850 rpm
0-62 mph: 3.5 sec.
Top Speed: 205 mph