Just like the original Coca-Cola, peanut butter and jelly, or even a McDonald’s cheeseburger, sometimes, a winning formula just shouldn’t be messed with and instead, appreciated for what it is. Back in the 1960’s a man named Carroll Shelby decided to invent his own formula, but it had less to do with eating, and more to do with eating the competition. He took a relatively mind-mannered A/C Ace, which at the time, was an agile little convertible that was more fun than fearsome, and first dropped a very ferocious 289 cubic inch V8 into it, and then only a couple years later proceeded to drop the biggest Ford 427 V8 engine he could find into that Ace and turned that Clark Kent of a car into a Superman called the Shebly Cobra. It was a formula that has been done before, and replicated in numbers fashions since the venerable Cobra stormed onto the scene and stole our hearts, and rightly so — because it works. One of the more recent examples of this has been the Mercedes Benz SLK55 AMG Black Series.
The SLK started off life as a relatively … soft … car at first. It was designed essentially to be an upmarket Miata. Nice, eye-catching design, decent enough handling characteristics, passable power, but all in all, nothing that really made anyone feel more than just the wind in their hair. But then, the folks over at Mercedes performance division, code named AMG, decided to take their own little roadster and send it to the gym for some serious muscle. First came the SLK55, which was fast, but then those whacky engineers decided to channel their real inner Carroll Shelby and make a fast car, even faster yet. So did the formula work? The results speak for themselves.
A worked over 5.5-liter naturally aspirated V8 was tuned to make 400 horsepower and 383 stump-pulling pound-feet of torque, which is up 40 and 7 respectively from the run-of-the-mill SLK55. The engine has a modified intake, a higher-flowing air filter and a new custom exhaust that sounds devilishly exhilarating. But, AMG didn’t stop there. They didn’t want a car that was all go and then tripped over itself the second a bend in the road came around. The Black Series has a height-adjustable suspension that sports adjustable dampers, a front strut bar that helps keep everything as rigid as possible, while the car itself sits on big 19-inch alloy wheels shod in Pirelli PZero Nero tires all around. Those big rims aren’t just for show either. Nope, they were intentionally made that big because along with going and steering, a solid performance car also needs to stop too unfortunately. Huge 14.2-inch composite front discs and 13-inch discs out back help scrub off speed in no time at all.
You can tell a Black Series from its lesser brethren by noticing the ominously looking carbon-fiber front fenders, or the large side air outlets that help channel the atmosphere towards the additional transmission and power steering coolers, or the bigger oil cooler. Or, you could just as easily take a look at the reworked front fascia and notice a slightly different beast staring back at you than perhaps you remember the first time you laid eyes on the original easy going SLK.
But the easiest way to tell an Mercedes SLK55 AMG Black Series is just how fast it flies by you. This tiny rocket benefits not only from a series power increase, but also a 99 pound reduction in weight thanks to the removal of the polarizing hardtop convertible and in place a fixed-roof with a lightweight carbon fiber center panel. All of these little tweaks add up to some serious performance. 0-60 mph comes up in a scant 4.5 seconds, while 0-100 mph takes only 10.1 seconds, and the quarter-mile rips by in 12.9 seconds at 113 mph.
Mercedes didn’t reinvent the wheel, or try to create a new PB&J. They took a winning formula and applied it as best they could to a car that has clearly benefited from it, as have we all. With advent of the Mercedes SLK55 AMG Black Series, it has gotten even easier to enjoy a Coke and a smile. Carroll Shelby would be proud.