With so much understated performance, the euphoric state this car brought out in me was reminiscent of when I first drove a Mercedes 500E close to two decades ago. I remember the shock I got from so much performance in a family hauler. But with twice the power, the VRP E55 has exponentially warped ahead of the competition, even by today's standards. To put it into perspective, at just over 4,000 pounds this car sports a power-to-weight ratio bettering a current Porsche Turbo by 10 percent. In fact, it's closer to that of a 997 GT2. With that kind of performance and room for five nestled inside the luxury of a Mercedes-Benz, there's nothing left to be desired. This is my kind of ride.
The black SL65's power is boosted with VRP Tuning's VR700-65 package. With a larger air-to-water intercooler core that flows 60 percent over stock, the pressurized airflow can enter the engine at a cooler temperature and protect against engine knock. A water pump providing a 50-percent increase in flow to the intercooler keeps the charged air optimally cooled.
In order for more air to make it through the forced induction system, VRP had to come up with a larger intake. And because the engine bay is so tight, the company produced a dual "Y" piping with four 3-inch conical air filters to reduce the bottleneck.
To fill the larger chambers, VRP uses Powerchip tuning software that's tuned in house. Not only does it maximize performance by changing the fuel and ignition maps, but boost is increased to maintain 22 psi up top. AMG advertises the stock boost pressure of the SL65 at 22.1psi (1.5 bar), but according to VRP it's a midrange boost spike that tapers to 17 psi by the time peak power is reached.
This explains the huge gap between peak torque and horsepower, and this, coupled with the boost drop, is indicative of small, taxed-out turbos. "On the SL65, most of the power is made by keeping the stock turbos from running out of air up top," says VRP's Vadim Fedorovsky. Having started with an already crazy baseline of 497 hp and 640 lb-ft of torque at the wheels in stock form, the VR65-700 spun the rollers to an unbelievable 578 hp and 755 lb-ft of torque-that's enough twist to make 400 wheel horsepower by only 2800 rpm. I repeat-horsepower. Assuming an 18-percent drivetrain loss through the automatic five-speed, the peak numbers equate to 705 hp and 920 lb-ft.
With numbers like these, some might wonder how streetable the car really is. Having already been in several cars that come close to this level I was expecting a violent, fish-tailing tire burner that would snap my neck as soon as the tires got hold of the pavement. But this wasn't so. In fact, while the turbo whine is indeed louder, the car drives as smoothly as stock, only with a speedometer needle that swings around in a massive hurry. The tall, autobahn gearing and smooth shifting of the SpeedShift five-speed, coupled with the grip of 295mm rear tires and a curb weight of 4,555 pounds makes the VR700 SL65 a fairly tamable beast. It's not too scary, but is an absolute blast.
The ride remains stock-like smooth with a stock suspension that's been lowered one inch from factory specs. The 20-inch RennTech Monolite wheels provide the finishing touches and are the only signs of any upgrades from the outside. And although sleek, it's not as if the general public doesn't get the idea this car is a serious performer, with its big wheels and the V12 Biturbo badging on the gills. Still, few could know the hurt this car will put on the majority of today's exotics. Cruising the coast topless doesn't get better than this, but with so much grunt you'll probably want to strap down your girl's Louis Vitton bag.