2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series Targets a Higher Realm

by Mike Duff | Car and Driver

Photo credit: Mercedes-AMG

From Car and Driver

Porsche’s 911 proves it’s possible to have your engine in the wrong place and still compete with mid-engine sports cars. AMG does the same thing with the GT, but its front-engine layout isn’t nearly as unconventional as the 911’s rear-engine pendulum. With a V-8 up front and tucked behind the axle line, the GT is far less offensive to Newton’s laws. While most AMG GTs cost less than $200,000 and compete with a mix of front-, rear-, and mid-engine cars, the new $400,000 Black Series version is vying for buyers in a class where a jewel-cased engine between the driver and the rear wheels is the norm.

The GT Black Series will be the top Benz in terms of performance until the much-delayed AMG One arrives. It’s the brand’s most powerful road car, and the Black Series branding is a sort of AMG equivalent to a 30-year-old single malt. The AMG GT R is a potent machine, but the Black Series treatment moves this GT closer to the performance level of the GT3 racer.

Photo credit: Mercedes-AMG

Under the long, louche hood and tucked well behind the front axle line is a new version of AMG’s 4.0-liter V-8 that uses a flat-plane crankshaft instead of a crossplane crank. The new engine’s 7200-rpm redline is only 200-rpm higher, but AMG says that the better thermodynamic balance from the flat-plane’s firing cycle that alternates between cylinder banks creates more balanced gas flow. An equally important change is a pair of bigger turbochargers that deliver up to 24.6 psi of boost. Peak output rises to 720 horsepower. The ratio of horses to pounds has been shifted further by extensive use of carbon-fiber composite. The fenders, hood, and tailgate are all carbon rich, as is most of the cabin trim. The Black Series sheds a claimed 77 pounds compared to the GT R.

Aerodynamics measures are similarly extreme. The surface area of the Black Series’s front end is covered in vents, scoops, and intakes. The radiator grille is larger and toothier, and beneath it sits an extended front diffuser big enough to require motorsports-style tension ties. Both the diffuser and the huge rear wing have manually adjustable positions. An active element is on the trailing edge of the wing. Peak downforce is more than 880 pounds at 155 mph. Suspension is also owner adjustable, with more negative camber available when aligning, as well as adjustable anti-roll bars.

Photo credit: Mercedes-AMG

The Black Series has been designed for life on the racetrack, and that’s all that AMG allowed us to experience—with multiple laps on the Lausitzring in northeast Germany. Originally built as a superspeedway with a 2.3-mile tri-oval layout, our drive was on the tighter infield course still used by the German touring-car series. It’s a track that still includes committing to turning onto the start-finish straight while facing concrete barriers and zero runoff.

A familiarization lap is enough to sense the darkness of the Black Series’s heart. It is hard and angry and unyielding under even modest pressure. Steering is ultra direct and brimming with the sort of vibration and unfiltered sensation that normally gets filtered out by chassis engineers. Even at a tire-warming pace the engine feels mighty, the 590 pound-feet of torque is nearly ever present as the peak extends from 2000 to 6000 rpm. Carbon-ceramic brakes squeal and grumble when cold, and the combination of six-point harnesses and the optional carbon-fiber bucket seats—which sadly won’t be available in the United States—make the experience feel like sitting in a race car waiting for a green flag.

Photo credit: Mercedes-AMG

This arrives on the second lap when pacesetter and multiple DTM champion Bernd Schneider, clearly convinced our tires are warm enough and that we know the track as well as we need to, drops the hammer and heads off in the leading car at a seemingly impossible pace. Fully unleashed, the Black Series’s engine delivers predictably forceful longitudinal loadings, combining organ-sloshing G-forces with a soundtrack that, even experienced through the insulation of a crash helmet, comes close to being painful. AMG’s claimed 3.2-second zero-to-62-mph time is hugely impressive, but it’s the claim of a sub-9-second dash from rest to 124 mph that is more indicative of this GT’s potency.

The Black Series is reassuringly comfortable under huge braking loads, and it turns into the Lausitzring’s faster corners with the security that comes from copious downforce. But getting it to rotate in tighter turns soon proves to be trickier than expected, certainly than it would be in its mid-engine competition. There’s more understeer in the setup, perhaps to keep us from spinning into the walls, and after a couple of laps of trying to match Schneider’s pace we end up further and further from slower-corner apexes.

Photo credit: Mercedes-AMG

Relearning a lesson often cited in the days when even the fastest racers had their engines at the sharp end—slow in, fast out—improved the Black Series’s behavior. It has more than enough firepower to compensate for lower entry speeds. Traction is huge, the vast 335-width rear Michelin Cup 2 tires delivering massive grip, but it is also possible to make the rear end playful using the variable traction-control system, which stays active even with the stability control turned off to allow precisely controlled rear-end slip. This makes it both easier and much less scary to slide around than a car with most of its mass in back.

We don’t have confirmed U.S. pricing for the Black Series yet, but considering what AMG charges in Europe we can expect it to break new ground for both the brand and front-engine sports cars. When the GT makes it across the Atlantic, it might be pushing $400,000. That’s more than the considerably quicker McLaren 765LT and about twice as much as the GT R Pro that sits beneath it in the AMG hierarchy. The Black Series is definitely a special car, but not that special.

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