Key to the Highway

Observations about cars and the auto industry

2012 L.A. Auto Show: Mercedes-Benz

Black Series. The words themselves conjure up images of German witches gathered round an AMG model instead of a cauldron. This time out, the magic potion has been poured on the SLS AMG, already Mercedes-Benz’s top-of-the-line model. An SLS AMG Black Series promises to bring another 39 horsepower from the 6.2-liter, twin-turbo V-8 to a car that already checks in with 583. Torque goes up a modest bit, from 468 to 479 lb.-ft. AMG has trimmed the weight on this SLS model to give it a horsepower-to-weight ratio of 5.49 lb./hp. The catchy carbon fiber accents are optional, but the adjustable rear wing is standard. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission feeds power to an electronically locking differential. Top speed is 196 mph. The Black Series will arrive in select dealers Summer 2013 in limited numbers. Its arrival in the lineup relegates the SLS GT to base model status.

If that doesn’t stir your soul, perhaps the Ener-G-Force concept SUV will. That is if you can get past its resemblance to the Isuzu Vehicross. It’s thought of as possibly being the basis of a new Gelandewagen, thereby updating the G-Class from looking like it was drawn just after World War II. Hydrogen fuel-cell powered, the Ener-G-Force is a civilian version of the automaker’s entry into a police vehicle design competition being held in conjunction with the L.A. show. Designed at Mercedes-Benz’s Southern California studio, the vehicle features a 360-degree topography scanner that adjusts spring and damping rates in the suspension for the surrounding terrain. Range is 500 miles and the battery packs are hot swappable.

Finally, Mercedes-Benz brought out the GL63 AMG, a hot rod version of the popular SUV powered by a 550-horsepower, twin-turbo V-8 producing 560 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s a faster way to get groceries or drop the kids at soccer practice. It features stop/start to improve fuel economy and the Driver Assist package is standard. Along with standard 4matic all-wheel drive, the GL63 is festooned with AMG styling cues.

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