The ultra-luxury SUV market is now one of the more attention-grabbing segments in the industry. Traditional luxury car manufacturers such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley have shown us their rendition of all-terrain opulence, drawing the attention of the top one-percenters and their social media followers. The success also dawned on other European carmakers to give us their absolute greatest effort in a non-traditional SUV format and the latest on the red carpet is the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC.
The Mercedes-Maybach brand might be foreign to many but it is actually a collaboration between two of the oldest car brands in history with roots tracing back to the early 1900s. The joint partnership is displayed proudly right up at the front of the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC with the iconic Mercedes-Benz three-star hood ornament displayed above the Maybach engraving on the oversized front grille, and both the Mercedes-Benz and the Maybach logos can be found in various locations inside and out.
The styling is unmistakable as a modern Mercedes-Benz SUV with additional chrome elements to distinguish it from a standard GLS, and the optional 23-inch Maybach forged wheels gave it extra flair to round out its stately package. Buyers who prefer to stand out in a crowd should opt for Mercedes-Maybach’s optional two-tone paint scheme, but the rich Obsidian Black Metallic gives a bit of subtlety and lets the interior do the speaking.
The interior of the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC is rich and sophisticated and the black on black colour combination does nothing to hide its sheer lavishness. Lucky occupants are greeted to silky smooth Nappa leather all around, including the pillars and headliner, and there are plenty of Maybach logos to remind you this is not just a regular Mercedes-Benz but one that is made by the best craftsmen in Stuttgart.
From the driver’s seat, the Mercedes-Maybach differs little from a standard GLS 580 4MATIC but that does not mean it is not laden with state-of-the-art technology available to its driver at his or her fingertips. The connected dual-screen remains one of our favourite displays in the industry, and the MBUX infotainment system is not too difficult to use once you overcome its learning curve.
Drivers have access to adjusting the front passenger’s seat as well as climate control throughout the cabin, but we wish it could have also given access to the second row including seat adjustment and massaging function so the chauffeured can enjoy a full-service experience.
The multifunction steering wheel is excellent to touch thanks to the addition of lacquered wood and it even manages to deliver a surprisingly good road feel. The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 is actually a decent driving vehicle despite its mammoth footprint, but all that really does not matter as the driver’s seat is arguably the worst seat in this ultra-luxurious limousine since the real stars of the show belong in the two executive seats behind.
Meticulous effort has been placed into ensuring the comfort of its passengers including a Curve driving mode, which allows the Mercedes-Maybach GLS to actively lean into bends like a motorcycle to reduce the lateral forces on the passengers; a Road Surface Scan feature that uses its onboard cameras to continually record, monitor, and activate the suspension system in advance of any bumps ahead to minimize any body movements.
There’s also a unique Maybach drive program intended for use only by chauffeurs. In this drive mode, the priority is focused on delivering the least amount of disturbance to the second-row passengers; the throttle response is dulled, the engine power delivery gets flattened, its transmission is tuned to start moving the car in second gear with fewer gearshifts throughout, and the start/stop function deactivated, all in attempt to deliver the smoothest ride possible for its VIPs inside.
Swing open the rear doors and you are greeting by the two captain’s chairs that resemble ones found on a first-class flight cabin. The oversized leather seats have been moved back 120 millimetres from a standard GLS to allow room for the powered footrest, and the extra supportive backrest can be reclined up to 43.5 degrees making it ideal for a full restful journey. There is a dedicated option for the passenger-side rear seat, a.k.a. best-seat-in-the-house, to move and fold the front passenger seat forward in at the touch of the button, thus creating a maximum of 1.34 metres of legroom.
The two rear seats share a partition unit in the middle that holds the remote-control tablet for different comfort features including massaging functions and rear entertainment screens, fold-out tables, two cupholders plus two secured champagne flutes, and a refrigerator that extends into the 525-litre rear luggage compartment area.
There is not a lot of better way to unwind than taking a ride in the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC. The amount of comfort you feel riding backseat is a foreign concept to most. Passengers are completely isolated from any noise, vibrations, and harshness, and they are even treated to its Maybach’s own signature fragrance that is described as “the white Osmanthus blossom, floral and light, is rounded off by a gentle leather note and spicy tea”. Our palate was not sophisticated enough to digest that complexity but we can confirm it is a distinctive and pleasant scent that is worthy for the world’s elites.
If the rear passengers do not want to share the same music through the standard 27-speaker Burmester high-end 3D surround sound system, Mercedes-Maybach had also provided a set of Mercedes-Benz Bluetooth wireless headphones for each of them.
The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC is equipped with all of the latest-generation Mercedes-Benz driving assistance features as standard to ensure the safety of everyone inside. These systems include everything available on the standard GLS 580 4MATIC, plus a dedicated cushion airbag in the rear seat cushion that is intended to stop the rear passenger from sliding under the seatbelt when they are in a reclined position in the event of a frontal impact.
With a starting price of $199,400 and an as-tested price of $230,200, the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC belongs in rarefied air amongst the elite of automobiles. It might look a bit understated when compared to the Rolls-Royce Cullinan or the Bentley Bentayga, but rest assured everything else in the package is as exclusive as any and the Mercedes-Maybach GLS is truly deserving for the lucky few who get to call the ultra-luxurious SUV their own.
Photos by Desmond Chan