Latvian builder of the world's most outlandish armored vehicles, Dartz, is back, this time with its very first "spy car." The Prombron Black Shark is a battle-ready armored SUV built atop a Mercedes AMG GL platform. It offers up to 1,500 bhp (1,118 kW) of roaring engine output combined with a unique scaly look and opulent interior. Even before the questionable customization choices that Dartz's mega-millionaire customers will undoubtedly add, the Black Shark is one of the world's most ostentatious vehicles.
Dartz uses a lot of movie references in introducing the Prombron Black Shark. That's partly because its vehicles have found stardom in movies like The Dictator and The November Man. We assume the other part is that the type of super villain or international man of mystery that would require a "spy car" with champagne set and bespoke cigar humidor packed below a military grade "sniper-prevention roof" exists only on the big screen.
The Black Shark represents Dartz's way of staying ahead of the coming surge of super SUVs from the likes of Bentley and Lamborghini. It remains above that riffraff by following a three-point ethos of "German engineering perfection," "Soviet military power" and "Russian imperial opulence." Dartz refuses to even entertain the plebeian term "SUV," believing it doesn't properly encapsulate its bespoke creation.
"For our customer this term degrades the car to a category including farmer's trucks and grocery shopping utility vehicles," says Dartz founder and owner Leonard Yankelovich. "Luxury corporate owned brand releasing their serial-made car on steroids is still a far cry from the values that our brand and products bring to the customer. Our customers already have all common supercars, limousines, but this is the only bespoke product they get as the best of them all."
The Black Shark's German engineering comes in the form of its base biturbo V8-powered Mercedes GL63 AMG, with Dartz also offering the option of AMG's biturbo V12. While the AMG performance brand adds enough power for the average rich guy looking for a high-performance Mercedes, it's not nearly enough for Dartz's brand of customer. The company tunes the engine into a completely new stratosphere with a ceiling of 1,500-bhp. That's well over double the 600-range hp the biturbo V12 offers in AMG vehicles.
Of course, someone with the means to buy a Black Shark will likely never get to personally engage with those 1,500 horses … he'll hire a driver to handle that. Dartz ensures that the driver remains alert and reliable with a Vigiton driver vigilance telemetric control system, which monitors the driver's alertness to ensure that he gets the precious cargo (the megalomaniac inside) safely to its destination. And if the driver happens to slack off a little, Mercedes' Driver Assistance automated hardware is there to keep the car in line.
The highlight of the Black Shark's robust "Soviet military power"-esque protection suite is the absolutely gnarly Kevlar-titanium body work that renders the original G63 unrecognizable. The rugged, angular shell includes half decagon fender flares, a battering ram of a front bumper, a chunky, reinforced rear-end and a rotating bulletproof grille with customizable monogram. Dartz offers armoring packages right up to the B7 level and includes a signal jammer and explosives detection system as preventative equipment.
A rolling sledgehammer with 1,500 bhp at the pedal doesn't sound ready for any type of performance driving more intricate than speeding in a straight line, possibly through a concrete barricade. However, Dartz promises more nimble capabilities thanks to the input of tuner Misha Charoudin, whose past experience includes cooking up a homemade Nissan Juke R. We're not sure what a competitive lap time in the "grotesquely over-equipped armored mini-bus" division is, but Dartz suggests Charoudin's work results in such a time.
Dartz ensures the Black Shark owner can limit entry by way of a fingerprint and retina scanner system. The Shark's "anti-papparazzi" shocking door handles deliver a jolt to trespassing fingers, while the electrochromatic windows conceal the identities of those inside. A special light and sound system helps to disperse crowds. The Dartz V2+ mobile application provides remote-monitoring features, allowing the owner to view the vehicle's location, equipment status and surroundings.
The V2+ mobile application provides a bridge to the final piece of the Dartz design puzzle: imperialistic-level luxury. Dartz calls the two Black Shark models "V8 biturbo V2” and "V12 biturbo V2," not because there is an extra pair of cylinders on demand, but because each model comes with two Vertu bespoke "luxury" smartphones.
In covering Vertu phones in the past, we've found they're typically fancily dressed phones comparable, sometimes inferior, to regular mobiles in hardware specs, sold for absolutely exorbitant price tags. In the case of the Black Shark, the Vertu phones include leather trim matching the vehicle interior and a prepaid "Vertu Concierge" for "24-hour worldwide assistance, priority bookings, accessing money-can't-buy events or finding the perfect gift." We assume the second phone is for the owner's spouse or, more likely, illicit lover.
As far as the interior treatment, Dartz doesn't put its now-infamous whale penis leather on the menu, but it says brashly, "Yes, we are using bizarre leathers, deal with it." What you'll be dealing with is PETA-incensing leather and floor mat options that include alligator, crocodile, ostrich, python, shark skin, sheep skin and stingray. For entertainment, there's a multimedia system with both a PS4 and Xbox One, Bang & Olufsen sound and LTE connectivity. Dartz doesn't mention what it's using as a TV, but we imagine it's a bespoke 4K screen priced 10 times more than it's worth – diamonds lining the bezel wouldn't feel like a surprise in this particular vehicle. For unwinding, there's the champagne holder with sterling silver flutes, a humidor and a stash of golden shisha tobacco.
Dartz plans to build 10 Prombron Black Sharks, with five special editions headed to China and five models headed elsewhere. It treats the price simply as 6Z – that is, six zeroes. Such a price hasn't stopped one of the first customers from going an extra mile in having the Dartz painted in Tiffany Blue and bedazzled with Swarovski crystals, according to the company.