Even though the brand has decades of heritage behind its name, Maybach has transformed into something a little bit different post-2000.
Founded in 1909 by Wilhelm Maybach, the brand only started producing cars in 1921. Maybach was purchased by Daimler-Benz in 1960, and was subsequently used to produce elite special edition models of top-end W108 and W116 S-Class cars. The concepts that would become both the Maybach 57 and 62 were shown at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, and these two models would define what we now know as “Maybach” until the brand’s discontinuation in 2013.
This year though, parent company Mercedes-Benz brought back the Maybach name with a bang. Situated at the very top of the S-Class range, the S600 Maybach is the most luxurious and opulent Mercedes-Benz product currently available. In fact, it’s so differentiated from the “standard” S-Class that they don’t even technically call it a Mercedes-Benz. At an exclusive North American media event, we were offered the keys to a 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 for an extended evaluation and to determine whether it really is the epitome of chauffeur-driven perfection. At a starting price of over $230,000, the only real rivals in the luxury segment are the Rolls-Royce Ghost and the Bentley Mulsanne. Even the most plush of Audi A8s and BMW 7-series’ have a hard time keeping up with the sheer level of exclusivity delivered by the new Maybach.
Despite being geared strictly towards luxury without any intentions in the sporting department, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 is not without its merits under the hood. It’s hustled along by a 6.0L twin-turbocharged V12 motor, mated to a seamless seven-speed automatic. Output is 523 horsepower, available between 4900 and 5300RPM, and a ground-crushing 612 lb-ft of torque, which peaks between 1900 and 4000RPM. In a lighter car, these numbers would be approaching supercar territory, but it’s important to keep in mind that the Maybach weighs over 5,200lbs.
Even still, acceleration is satisfying and, dare I say, quick, and the shifts of the transmission are almost unnoticeable altogether. The big Maybach is in its element cruising along on the highway, carrying any and all passengers in the utmost of comfort and serenity. The thick windows isolate the cabin from any noise whatsoever, and the suspension damping is simply marvelous. Even just starting the monstrous V12 is a near-silent experience, though you can hear a distant roar from the exhaust both on startup as well as at full throttle acceleration.
Though handling isn’t even one of the top ten priorities of the average Mercedes-Maybach buyer, the large European limousine corners very competently for a vehicle of its size. Steering is fully electric and absolutely effortless, much like the rest of the car’s operation. However, there is a sport mode that stiffens things up considerably, and also adjusts the suspension to minimize body roll ever so slightly. This does have more of an effect than it sounds – the S600 feels like a linebacker during the Super Bowl. Tons of muscle and straight line speed when required. Just don’t ask it to go around any corners, or it might kick the back end out on you. Something tells me the typical Maybach buyer doesn’t want to induce oversteer.
On this particular instance, we were also offered some track time with the Maybach on a closed course, so naturally we accepted. I mean, what other chance would I ever have to put a 5,200lb. limousine onto the racetrack? With our Creative Director, Krish at the wheel, I decided to take a seat in the rear accommodations of the S600. This car was equipped with the $15,000 Extended Leather Package as well as the $8,500 Executive Rear Seating Package. This does take the price of our tester well over the quarter-million dollar mark, but what’s inside will immediately make the price tag simply irrelevant. Attention to detail is just staggering, such as the Burmester speakers that spin and retract back into the dashboard when the ignition is turned off.
It’s one of those things – if you have to ask how much, you probably can’t afford it. Every single surface inside the Mercedes-Maybach S600 is upholstered in the softest leather available this side of a Rolls-Royce. Even the roof liner is Nappa leather, and the rear seats recline, heat, ventilate, and massage. There’s a remote control in the back that toggles all of these things, including multimedia on two screens, located on the headrests of the front seats. Additionally, the rear passenger cabin boasts a refrigerated compartment, rear folding tables, and even champagne flutes. On top of it all, there are two slick little pillows stitched in matching leather, with the Maybach symbol embroidered on them, placed on the seats. These pillows complement the deep-carpeted floor mats beautifully.
Even at 6’1, I was able to recline fully and not have my legs touch the back of the front seats. It was a surreal experience, to get a decent massage while being spiritedly chauffeured around the track at Monticello Motor Club. All this while enjoying the perfection that is the Burmester High-End stereo, easily one of the best automotive audio applications I’ve ever heard. The system is just as capable of replicating “Highway to Hell” as it is “Hotel California” and Eminem’s “Without Me”. Mercedes-Benz offers all connectivity options imaginable, including USB, iPod, Bluetooth, and satellite radio.
Up front, the interior isn’t too far off from an S-Class, which is already regarded as the standard in luxury motoring anyhow. All of the main switchgear is the same, including COMAND infotainment, the same lovely two-spoke steering wheel, and gorgeous leather upholstery throughout. Our specific car was finished in unique Designo leather with diamond stitching on the seats as well as the door panels and dashboards. Regular S-Class features are also on board, including heated armrests (an industry first) and a full suite of driver aids such as radar-guided cruise control and full collision mitigation.
At first glance, it’s not immediately evident what this car is, if not just a long-wheelbase S-Class with optional, larger wheels. There is no “Maybach” logo on the hood, which proudly wears its three-pointed star. The C-pillars, trunklid, and interior all bear the Maybach symbol, but even the center caps on the unique 20” wheels “only” have the Mercedes-Benz monogram. But, the entire current generation is immediately able to identify with the Maybach name, thanks to pop culture icon Rick Ross, whose record label imprint is called “Maybach Music”. Never that the combined fuel rating suggested by Mercedes-Benz is 15.3L/100km on premium, or that it’s too long to fit in most residential homes’ garages – this is a Maybach.
After spending some time with the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600, we came away in awe. Not necessarily at its driving dynamics or power numbers, but at the sheer attention to detail that goes into the development and production of such an exclusive flagship model. It becomes blatantly obvious that no stone was left unturned when designing this vehicle inside and out, and the result is something staggeringly unique and exclusive. The select few who will get to own this vehicle are a lucky bunch; those who want all of the panache and luxury of the Rolls-Royce Phantom but want a more understated look. The Maybach name is back – and it’s on a car worthy of the name.