2021 Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series first drive review: Wolf in wolf's clothing
It's a disgustingly hot day in Florida, but the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series isn't breaking a sweat. This thing looks like it's come straight out of hell, all snarly and bulgy, ready to beat me up and take my lunch money. So you'll forgive my brief moment of intimidation while approaching the Magmabeam orange coupe, the phrases "most powerful AMG V8 ever" and "there are only two of these in the country right now" echoing in my head. Black Series or not, the AMG GT is a total brute. And with 720 horsepower and some absolutely insane aero, this one's... well, it's a doozy.
AMG redesigned the GT's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 for the Black Series, adopting a flat-plane crankshaft design that results in smoother, stronger power delivery, not to mention a superbly sonorous soundtrack. The Black Series barks and burbles like any other GT, but the increase in aural quality comes down to refinement. You can play one of my lousy high school rock band's demo tapes just as loud as a record professionally engineered by Steve Albini, but only one of them's going to make it to the radio.
In addition to 720 hp, the 4.0-liter V8 puts out 590 pound-feet of torque. All that power shoves its way to the rear wheels via AMG's Speedshift seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, allowing the GT Black Series to hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds -- 0.4 seconds quicker than the not-a-slouch AMG GT R. More impressively, the Black Series can hit 124 mph in under 9 seconds, and if you've got an autobahn or airstrip long enough, it'll top out at 202 mph.
The Black Series' extended use of carbon fiber results in a roughly 70-pound weight reduction over the GT R, and that's despite the addition of a whole bunch of aero bits. There's a vented hood, two-stage front splitter, new wheels and one of the most ridiculous rear spoilers I've ever seen. Check it: There's a small ducktail spoiler in addition to a two-tier wing that looks like a brutalist bookshelf, and if that's not enough, there's a small, power-retractable flap on the tippy top. All told, Mercedes-Benz says this extreme aero package results in 882 pounds of maximum downforce, keeping the Black Series flat as a pancake through corners.
Those aero improvements are one of the reasons why, despite looking like a banshee, the GT Black Series is shockingly easy to tame on the track. Credit also goes to the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 R tires, which offer heroic levels of grip. Still, for as delightfully devilish as this coupe looks while parked in the paddock, out on the track it's hardly a handful. Progressive turn-in and an easy-to-modulate throttle make it easy to attack corners both quickly and precisely, and there's only the slightest playful shimmy from the rear end when you lay back into the gas and let 'er rip down a straight.
The Black Series has a borderline absurd level of adjustability, but I suppose that means you can also tailor the driving experience to match your exact skill level. There are four preset AMG programs -- Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master -- that alter many of the GT's parameters based on how good you are (or how good you think you are). On top of that, the Black Series-specific coilover suspension has three-stage adaptive dampers, with Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus settings. If that's not enough, twist the yellow-rimmed dial just below the central air vents to explore the nine different levels of traction control. Or, you know, go wild and turn it off.
However you choose to set up the Black Series, it's a fantastic partner for an afternoon of hot lapping (and it's Florida in June, so I mean hot lapping). AMG's tough guy is tactile and precise as you speed from corner to corner. In many ways it's a lot like a Porsche 911 GT2 RS -- immensely capable but reassuringly approachable. I'm certainly not saying this is a great car for first time track drivers, but the Black Series has a level of authority to its action that inspires confidence and makes you want to try harder and push faster.
Equally as impressive as the power and stability are the Black Series' brakes. The huge, carbon-ceramic stoppers slow things down quickly and smoothly, and you can dive deeper into braking zones and really give the pedal a jab knowing the sudden action isn't going to upset the GT's balance. A lot of carbon-ceramic brakes are tough to modulate and have touchy pedal feel, but that isn't the case here. Of course, my time with the AMG GT Black Series is only limited to a few laps around The Concours Club in Opa-Locka, Florida, so I can't speak to their grabbiness should you decide to use the Black Series for a quick jaunt to Walgreens. I can't really speak to the suspension's off-track stiffness, either, but I'm going to assume this thing isn't exactly supple.
On that note, in terms of livability, the Black Series is theoretically no better or worse than a standard AMG GT. The interior is just as cramped and hard to see out of, but still finished in exquisite materials with supportive sport seats. It's easy to get in and out while wearing a helmet, though I wish my arms were about 3 inches longer when it comes time to reach for a strap and close the door. Dinamica suede lines the dashboard and steering wheel, and the center console still requires a weird contortion of your right hand to put the gear selector in Drive or to reach the buttons on the passenger's side. Mercedes' MBUX tech is rock solid, displayed on a 10.3-inch central touchscreen with standard (wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. There's a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, too, meaning that even though the Black Series is a super-focused track car, it doesn't skimp on cabin tech.
Then again, the AMG GT Black Series shouldn't skimp on anything, considering its $326,050 price tag (including $1,050 for destination). And while I could waste digital ink trying to put that price into context, it doesn't matter, since fewer than 400 of these Black Series coupes will be imported to the US, and every single one is spoken for. I just hope someone got a Magmabeam orange GT to match their new Cigarette boat.
Considering the current AMG GT coupe's time on this earth is short, this 720-hp riot on wheels serves as one hell of a swan song -- one that follows in the footsteps of rockstars like the CLK63 AMG Black Series, SLS AMG Black Series and C63 AMG Black Series. It's a tremendously special sports car packing the best of what AMG has to offer, and though it looks like a lunatic, it's a rewarding beast to tame.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.