Is the Opulent Mercedes-Maybach S600 Worth it?
Maybach is a name that either brings to mind stately opulence from the golden age of motoring, or poorly executed badge engineering and the definition of overhyped. Mercedes-Benz is hoping you will think of the former, when you see a new 2017 Mercedes-Maybach S600.
When the previous Maybach 57 and 62 models debuted in 2002, they promised unparalleled levels of luxury and comfort in the super-luxury $300,000 car market. It didn’t quite live up to expectations. Over the next decade, the big ‘bach was panned by critics and buyers, resulting only a few thousand sales. Stuttgart took a loss on every one of them while watching Bentley and Rolls-Royce outsell and out-profit the Maybach. While the 57 and 62 models were a hard lesson, it looks like Mercedes has learned from the experience.
The new Mercedes-Maybach S600 is, like the previous Maybach, based on the solid S-Class. This is a smart move, as it allows the big and expensive bits to be mass produced on a readily available assembly line. Tooling and dies aren’t cheap, and by keeping costs down, Mercedes can effectively deliver a high quality luxury car with reliability and finesse for less than the price of competitors. That’s the big news with the S600; at a hair over $191,000, it’s a hundred grand cheaper than the previous Maybach, but a step up in refinement.
While the previous Maybach was sort of flashy in its expensive Hyundai–ish looks, the new S600 doesn’t tread too far from its S-Class roots. This is smart, as the S-Class, even the base $93,000 sedan, is an attractive car. The S600 is stretched 8 inches, grille has additional chrome, and the forged 20-inch wheels look like they each cost more than a Ford Focus. The several Mercedes-Maybach touches enhance the exterior, without being overdone. Its stealth luxury in a way a Rolls can’t pull off.
A minor quibble is the addition of the Mercedes three-pointed star to the hood, rather than a Maybach ornament. This is probably due to branding concerns. The previous Maybach was a separate brand, and seemed to tell lowly Mercedes-Benz buyers that they weren’t in the same league. The combination name, Mercedes-Maybach, merges the company legacies without annoying the fan base. Think of it like Swatch-Breguet, where neither name is reduced.
Similarly, the S600’s power is more like a senate committee than a neon-mohawked heavyweight boxer. Subtle, but vast. 523 horsepower is a good amount, even for a vehicle of this size and weight. The hand-built 6.0 liter twin-turbo V12 is a work of art, and generates a crushing 612 lb-ft of torque. While that is a lot, it doesn’t compare to the sportiest S-Class; the S65 AMG. While the AMG is faster (and starts at $30,000 more), the Maybach beats the AMG in class and presence. Super-luxury rides do not need Koenigsegg levels of power or quickness. The V12 does an “adequate” job, allowing the 5,000 lb cruiser to reach 60 in just 5 seconds flat. You can pull away from the stoplight faster than the backwards hat kid in the Nissan 350Z, without spilling your post dinner eiswein.
While the driver’s cabin is much improved over the previous car, and even over the high-end S-Class models, the rear seats are where it’s at. This is where you notice it’s not “just” an S-Class, but a hand-crafted masterpiece. Car and Driver called it “sumptuous without being garish,” and it’s a fair assessment. Everything is leather, including the headliner. If it’s not leather, then it is resplendent wood. Accents are finished with aluminum. The alloy, not that GM plastic metal stuff. Heating is available for nearly everything you come into contact with, and your drinks will remain chilled in cup holders. The panoramic roof offers sweeping views for passengers in any seat, and can be darkened at the touch of a button. Good sized monitors mounted to the back of the front seats can show everything from DVDs and video games, to the status of your Burmester audio system and its 13 surround sound speakers. Keyboard/meal trays slide out from the center divider like origami, and your handcrafted Robbe & Berking champagne flutes have their own compartment.
Even your chauffer will enjoy this car, as the driver’s seat and operation controls are just about the best available. Taking a poke at those upstarts at Tesla, the S600 has dual iPad-like 12.3 inch touchscreens covering the entire instrument cluster and infotainment area. If that isn’t enough info, there is an 8 inch wide Head-Up Display projecting speed and other driver’s info onto the windshield. The 12-way power seats will keep you comfortable on road trips of any distance, and you can up the comfort with several massage options. In the glovebox, there is a fragrance diffuser that is tied to the ventilation system. For just a couple grand, you can add a subtle aroma to your S600s interior. Because new car smell is for Camrys.
While the Mercedes-Maybach S600 is another attempt at entering the highest levels of automotive luxury, it looks like the Germans may just pull it off this time. With design and convenience nearly unrivaled, and a sub-$200k starting price, the S600 could be called a bargain.