Mercedes revives the Maybach nameplate yet again. Will it enjoy more success this time round? Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Mercedes-Maybach S-Class plots a new course for the German giant, leveraging the Maybach badge as a super-luxury bespoke version. Customers get loads of space in the back, some of the greatest rear seats ever to grace a passenger car, a whisper quiet ride and the choice of rear-wheel drive V12 or all-wheel drive V8 twin-turbo powerplants.
The fragmentation of Mercedes continues apace. Alongside Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG we know have Mercedes-Maybach. Unlike its Maybach 57 and 62 predecessors, this time round the Maybach nameplate is attached to something a little more discreet. Lower key it might be but it's beautifully executed. It's also something of a toe in the water for Mercedes. Should customers take to this super-luxury version of the S-Class saloon, there could well be Maybach versions of the S-Class Coupe and possibly even the E and CLS lines. Don't for one moment think that Mercedes has the equivalent of a Ford Ghia badge here. The Maybach S-Class isn't just a normal long-wheelbase S-Class that's had an enthusiastic run at the options list. This one is something very special indeed.
Power comes courtesy of the most appropriate engines on offer, namely the 455PS V8 and the 530Nm V12. Both record identical 5.0 second sprints to 62mph and 155mph top ends but the difference between the feel of the two powerplants will mean that there will be many willing to stump up for the twelve-cylinder unit, despite it making do with the older 7G-TRONIC transmission rather than the nine-speeder in the V8. That's largely due to the massive torque generated by the twelve-cylinder unit; some 830Nm at just 1,900rpm. Another key difference between the two cars is that the V12 drives the rear wheels, while the V8 powerplant sends power to each corner, something that the Chinese market in particular values. Standard equipment includes an enhanced version of the AIRMATIC full air suspension system.
Design and Build
If you weren't looking out for it, it's likely you wouldn't immediately spot the difference between the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and the Mercedes-Benz flagship. The front end is a lot less overt, to put it politely, than the old Maybachs and now features a surprisingly modest grille. The key distinguishing feature is in the side treatment. In comparison with the long-wheelbase version of the S-Class, it's 20cm longer but the rear door has been shortened by 66mm and therefore appears to blend into the overall composition, with no triangular window which instead has been relocated into the C-pillar. As a result, the rear seats are situated beyond the door cutout, which creates a feeling of exceptional privacy and exclusivity. The B-pillar is also covered in chrome. Forged 20-inch alloy wheels have been specifically designed. Overall the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is 207mm longer than the S-Class with long wheelbase. 200 mm of this is the result of the extension between the B and C-pillar. All this additional space is used to boost comfort for rear passengers. The rear seats are a pair of magnificent recliners and there's twice as much rear knee room compared to a standard S Class. The maximum backrest angle is 43.5 degrees and a Chauffeur package is also standard. The front passenger seat can be folded forward and the rear seat placed in an extended recline position for breaks. It also includes a heel support, which extends from under the front passenger seat. This allows a reclined position for sleeping and resting comfort.
Market and Model
Mercedes has yet to announce pricing for its Maybach uber-limo but it's not going to be quite as stratospheric as the previous cars that bore the badge. For passengers in the rear, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is the world's quietest production saloon car. Positioning the passenger away from the side windows and towards the rear window and triangular windows creates a new acoustic situation. Equipping the car with special seals optimise the noise insulation, bonded triangular windows with a special seal, a generous area of insulation around the single seats, intelligent air ducting around the parcel shelf and sealed inertia reels on the seat belts all serve to shave off decibels. Equipment includes a panoramic sliding sunroof, airbags in the seat belts, HD-quality Bluetooth, a ten-speaker stereo with Frontbass, and the Exclusive trim package. This comprises fine-wood trim that surrounds the entire rear seating system. The front centre armrests are finished in nappa leather and the exclusive nappa leather upholstery features embossed Maybach crests. Another special feature in the dashboard is the IWC-branded analogue clock. The numbers are individually milled and applied.
Cost of Ownership
We're not sure who buys a top-end limousine and devotes too much consideration to the fuel economy, but for what it's worth, the V8 version of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class will return a combined economy figure of 31.7mpg, while opting for the V12 will see that figure drop to 24.1mpg. Emissions figures are 207 and 274g/km respectively. A bigger issue might well be residual value. The previous Maybach didn't fare too well in this regard, especially when it was compared to the Rolls-Royce Phantom, the car it was designed to beat. It's fairly easy to find a 2004 Maybach 62 for under £60,000 whereas a Phantom of the same year will still command around 50% more. Mercedes will hope that fate doesn't befall this Maybach model.
Where the last Maybach was a bit 'new money' for many, the latest Mercedes-Maybach S-Class dials down the bling but ramps up the desirability. We've already been utterly seduced by the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class saloon and taking that car and adding extra luxury won't spoil the appeal one iota. There's no shortage of people who want luxury but don't want to be ostentatious about the fact, and there doesn't look to be anything that touches the Maybach in that regard. It's early days yet, but we think Mercedes has finally hit upon the right market positioning for Maybach. That said, it's fairly easy to pull off this trick with an S-Class plus twenty percent. Repeating the act on an E-Class or a CLS while still retaining the Maybach badge cachet is going to be altogether trickier.