As you raise the pace, it becomes clear there’s more than mere power making this car respond like you’re prodding a rattlesnake with a stick. There’s less weight too, 70kgs of it to be precise, dropping the already slimline SLS’s kerb weight down to just 1550kg which is less than a base spec C 200 CDI saloon and, perhaps more relevantly, 80kg less than a Ferrari F12.
But it’s the combination of a rev range extended all the way to 8000rpm and gearing dropped through the floor that keeps this car coming on and on at you. I lost count of the number of times I pulled a paddle to call for an eighth gear that’s not in the box.
Driving fast on a cold, dark and damp pre-dawn morning in the Welsh Marches forces the new electronic diff and every stability system into an intense overtime. Because of the immense width of its body and hair-trigger response of its throttle, this is not an easy car to drive slowly.
To drive quickly in these conditions forces you onto the same schedule, and you’d be forgiven for regarding that as too much effort for too little reward.
But teleport yourself to a dry, open and deserted road, give yourself broad daylight and enough ambient temperature to get its Michelin Cup tyres into their operating windows and the car is literally transformed.
What it does better than any rival, including the F12, Lamborghini Aventador and certainly the only other SLS still on sale, the GT, is combine old school feel with state of the art dynamics. So it grips like a mid-engined supercar, but with the balance, steering feel and desire to drift of something from another era.
I’d not choose it over the F12 not because the Italian is even faster but, ironically given that one is a Benz and the other a Ferrari, the F12 is far more civilised, compact and therefore usable. But I’d take it over the Aventador, who’s wonderful looks and mighty engine are betrayed by a poor gearbox and nose-led understeer. Whatever else the SLS Black does, it never, ever understeers.
The SLS Black Series is a strange car, stranger still for the three-pointed star on its nose. For whatever their other strengths and weaknesses, you can usually rely upon a Mercedes to be the most accessible, easily understood car in its class.
The SLS Black is quite the reverse, a car you could drive on the wrong road or the wrong day and come away thinking it as a frightening, pointless car that takes the fundamentally sound principle of the SLS and runs over the hills with it, stretching it further than it was ever intended to go.
But then you could drive it on the right road and right day, and come away thrilled and inspired that this is like no other road car Mercedes has ever made, all previous Black Series cars included. I incline towards the latter view.
Fact is, if you have £230,000 to spend on such a car, you also have £100,000 to spend on an S-Class or Range Rover to drive on all those occasions (which is probably most of them) when you need an SLS Black like a knife to your throat. When the conditions are right, however, it offers an experience unlike that of any other car on the road today.
It’ll make you work for it but, believe me, whatever you put in, you’ll get even more back in return.