Mercedes-Benz has brushed the dust of its hallowed 105-year old Maybach badge and given it a new lease of life at the very pinnacle of its model range.
That car, available in either Maybach 57 or Maybach 62 forms denoting their length, was positioned more as a standalone car than this new one. It was also based on dated architecture.
Daimler sold just 3000 units over 10 years, include a tiny 13 in Australia. Volume projections for the Maybach this time are significantly higher, and about half of all sales will be made in China where chauffeur travel is a way of life for the upper echelons.
Unlike the old car, the new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is marketed as just that, an S-Class that’s had a 200mm stretch in the wheelbase and taken on more gear. It even wears a regular three-pointed star badge front and rear rather than the double M badge of Maybach.
The car is clearly billed very much one part of the wider S-Class family alongside the sedan and coupe, as well as the imminent convertible and Pullman.
In fact, Mercedes-Maybach is now one bookend of the Benz range, the other being the recently rechristened Mercedes-AMG. So, 'Mercedes-Maybach S-Class' follows the same convention as the Mercedes-AMG GT or upcoming Mercedes-AMG C63
The new Mercedes-Maybach’s family ties mean it gets the most modern mechanicals and the latest technology (autonomous or otherwise) that Mercedes has to offer, and the more affordable development path has led to a big price drop to boot.
The old car was about $1 million, whereas this new one will be sold in Australia later this year from about $600K. It means that whereas the old 57 and 62 was a Rolls-Royce Phantom menace, this new one is more a rival for the Ghost, or the Bentley Mulsanne… or the S65 AMG.
Mercedes-Benz Australia already claims to have a few prospective buyers looking into adding a Maybach to their fleet. All the cars it does sell will be built to order and optioned in a multitude of directions — assuming you’re willing to pay enough, which is something of a no-brainer.
Target buyers include CEOs who need a portable office. The upcoming Pullman will be for the world leaders. Asked why it decided to have another crack at the top nut in the automotive game, Mercedes cited the projected increase in the number of “ultra-rich” people over the next five years.
In 2014, 211,275 people were classified as ultra rich, with about $30 trillion in assets in total. By 2019 Mercedes believes this will grow to about 250,000 people with $40 trillion in assets. We’ll leave the politics out of it, but you always have the comments section…
We had a drive this week at the global launch, given we were already in the US for the Detroit motor show. More than the drive, we also had a ride in the back, which is really where the action is in a car like this.
First, a quick look at what differentiates the Maybach from its S-Class siblings. Right off the bat it’s 200mm longer in the wheelbase at 3365mm, and 207mm greater in overall length at 5453mm. It also weighs about 120kg more than an S600 LWB.
All of this is behind the B-pillar, meaning it all goes to the rear passengers, who enjoy not just the extra space but also what Mercedes calls the world’s quietest car cabin, given the extra sound-deadening via better seals (in areas such as the headlight surrounds) and insulation in the bulkheads and wheelarches, and more reinforcements at the base of the B-pillar.
We can attest to this, given I had a whispered conversation with my driver at speeds of 120km/h and above. The twin microphones in the driver’s rear view mirror also made it easier for him to hear me from the back.
This voice amplification system only makes you easier to hear if you aren’t pumping the sublime 1540-watt 24-speaker Burmeister sound system, however.
Despite the extra length the rear doors are actually 66mm shorter than a LWB S-Class, and the triangular rear window has been moved into the C-pillar.
This means the seats are now behind the door cutout, giving you more insulation and privacy, as well as double the knee room of a ‘regular’ LWB S-Class. There’s also more headroom courtesy of the stretched roofline.
Featured in the back are Mercedes’ executive seats, which recline 43.5 degrees. Door controls allow you to tilt the backrest and expand the leg rest while also moving the front passenger seat way forwards.
It’s a pseudo nappa leather bed that can also massage you to sleep or warm you up on a cold night. If you want to work you can shift the seat backs upright, plonk your feet on the thick lambswool mats and deploy the twin folding alloy tables that stow in the storage area between the two rear seats.
You might also pull a cool drink from the fridge that sits in a recess between the rear seats — which also, we might add, eats drastically into the boot space — or reach for the coffee kept warm in the heated/cooled twin thermoelectric cupholders that use the Peltier effect (Google that for an interesting read).
Above and beyond in terms of trim are the new leather headlining, wood and real chrome inserts, ambient lighting via fibre-optics and fragrance dispensers that pipe aromas through the cabin.
Rear occupants get their own second climate control system, as well as screens in the back of each front seat that display various audio, navigation and multimedia options and operate via remote control and through nifty wireless headphones.
In the front seats it’s much more like other S-Class models. The only noticeable differentiators are the new front-centre armrests in nappa leather, Maybach embossing on the console, an IWC analogue dash clock and more supple trims on the doors and other contact points.
Don’t worry, your driver isn’t slumming it.
Our S600 test car is powered by a 6.0-litre biturbo V12 engine with 390kW and 830Nm from about 1900rpm, giving you indecently swift acceleration (0-100km/h in 5.0 seconds) for a car that weighs a nudge under 2.5-tonnes before any portly plutocrat steps aboard. The seven-speed transmission slurs through its ratios rather imperceptibly.
To drive, this car feels close to an S600 LWB, meaning it steers predictably despite the massive lump over the front wheels, has body roll that is well controlled and ride and refinement the match of anything on the road.
You can also chew up speed humps at 65km/h and feel scarcely more than a jolt. The Magic Body Control system is able to recognise an uneven road surface before you come to drive over it, enabling the suspension to adjust itself in order to counteract.
The presence of a Sport button is quite humorous and may as well be taped over.
In some markets you can get a ‘lesser’ 335kW/700Nm 4.7-litre biturbo V8 that uses 2.8L/100km less fuel than the V12 (8.9L/100km compared to 11.7L/100km). It also gets a nine-speed auto and, from June, will also get the option of 4Matic AWD.
No plug-in hybrid version is planned, with the regular S500 S-Class PHEV to remain the ‘green’ leader.
Given the S-Class is already far and away the world’s top-selling luxury limo — about 100,000 were made in Germany in 2014 alone — it’s perhaps easy to see why this range expansion looked so attractive to company management.
Good thing the company made the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class itself attractive enough across the board to return an aura to the Maybach badge. The reborn and re-thought car deserves to do what its predecessor didn’t.
It’s a thoroughly modern and high-tech uber-luxury limo and a worthy pinnacle for perhaps the world’s most famous car brand.