While we’ve featured a few big Benzes that have fallen on hard times here on CC, this one perhaps takes the Kuchen. Walking past an underground garage in the middle of Tokyo this morning to pick up Tatra87 from his domicile, I spotted what I at first thought were just two large black Mercedes sedans, then I realized that while the left one is an older W140 S-class, the one on the right is a Maybach, Mercedes’ separately branded attempt to build an ultra-luxury sedan even larger and significantly more luxurious than an S-Class to compete with Rolls Royce etc. I’m making two big assumptions here, the first being that this is the oldest version, a 2003, and the second that this is the smaller (shorter) and cheaper version with a base price in the U.S. of $311,700 (in 2003 per Car&Driver magazine). And now it’s covered in filth and finger dust graffiti.
Fittingly, the concept for the new Maybach (as there had been a Maybach brand producing vehicles prior to WWII) was unveiled at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show. Finally entering production in 2002, these first generation cars would generally be considered to not have been a success, at least in the United States. The most common criticism was mostly that it looked too much like the regular Mercedes S-Class to most people not in the know.
There were two versions initially, the 57 and the 62, with the numbers denoting the length in decimeters (equating to 5.7m and 6.2m). Thus the main externally visible differences were wheelbase and length differing half a meter between the two models. The shorter of the two was deemed to be aimed toward the wealthy owner/driver, and the longer of the two toward the even wealthier that supplied a chauffeur to handle the manual labor, i.e. driving.
Power for the 57 (the base model) was provided by a twin-turbo 5.5l V-12 engine generating 543hp and 664lb-ft of torque. Although the car weighed around 6,000 pounds this was enough to propel it from 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds, not that such a statistic was particularly relevant to its mission; that being to provide the ultimate in luxury to the discerning buyer.
While initially projected to sell around 2,000 units per year, after a decade the car and brand was shelved with total sales having only achieved around 3,000 examples. Curiously though after a couple of years, the Maybach brand was resurrected yet again in 2015 as a sub-brand for some of the absolute top Mercedes cars and has been seen on at least one stand-alone concept vehicle… The particular example featured here may in fact run just fine, there’s enough brake dust on the wheels to show it was in heavy use before being parked, but the thick layer of dust and lots of finger graffiti indicates it has been here for quite some time and may very well have a serious issue, not the least of which is that there is likely less than a vibrant used car market for something like this.
Ed. Note: Some graffiti deemed too offensive for publication was digitally removed from the images.
“Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.”
Nice one, Ozymandias!
I like the hood ornament/logo. Even though the majority of the very rich were not victims of the 2008 financial crisis that event may have helped put an end to this brand.
I think I’ve seen three Maybachs on the street; two in Chicago (I might be confusing one of the two with models seen at the Auto Show), and one in LA by the Bonaventure Hotel were Jackie Chan was making a movie (Rush Hour 3, I think).
Actually being Japan its possibly worth nearly nothing so not worth trying to sell unless by auction for export, how the mighty are fallen from tank engines during WW2 Maybach devolved to a badge engineered benz and even at the horrendous asking price new get abandonned to sit unused,
This also happens to 7 series V12 BMWs here $250,000 on the road new a nice one in good going order might fetch 3k an owner told me depreciation at its best, but since everything that can go wrong usually does and costs a small hill of money to rectify nobody bothers.
These were all over London a year or so ago when I visited. Mostly with Arab-state plates, and almost always illegally parked. I was told by my friend (perhaps with tongue in cheek) that it’s quicker and cheaper to pay the parking fines than to find and pay for legal parking parking.
This is why towing parking violators is always encouraged.
Another tribute to management hubris.
While Maybachs were generally shown in Mercedes showrooms, they had a special exhibit, custom made by Steelcase. The Steelcase dealer I worked for in metro Detroit installed several of them. More ambitious/expensive for the dealer than VW’s presentation of the Phaeton, but far short of FCA requiring an entire separate showroom for Fiat.
Maybach is a terrific example of trying to sell something that money can’t buy: cache. Everyone knows what a Rolls-Royce looks like and what it represents. A Maybach? Not so much.
Mercedes would have been much better served resurrecting the Dusenberg or Packard marques for a super-luxury car. It would have been easy to create an instantly recognizable retro Dusenberg-style bumper or a Packard grille. But what’s recognizable on a Maybach?
I’m pretty sure not too many people know Duesenberg or Packard any more.
And those who do remember Packard see it as being in line with Cadillac or Lincoln, not above.
Yeah, it was kind of a stretch, but you get the idea.
In Germany, anyone who knows classic cars knows what a Maybach was. Most likely in the neighboring countries, too.
It’s only when you cross the Atlantic that the name loses its meaning and history, because Maybach’s were never sold in the US in the Thirties.
For Germany, Mercedes picked on the one available name that could go up against Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
Sorry, I hate to be Mr. Grammar Person. But “cache” means a stash, not class.
I want to see the digitally removed graffiti !!!
Curbside Classic Red?
Curbside Classic…After Hours.
Relieved I’m not in a party of one in immediately pondering what it may have been.
Yet the brand was at the top of the automotive category of the Luxury Brand Status Index of 2008.
I wonder how many people with the money to buy a Maybach voted for it as #1?
I actually drove one of these when it was new.
The father of a good friend of mine worked for a Mercedes-Benz dealership, and by the early 2000s he served as the dealership’s general manager. I knew their family very well, and they all knew my interest in cars, so we’d often end up talking about the latest Mercedes models. Like all dealership employees, Mr. N always had dealer cars at his house, though I never drove one.
One day in 2003 I went over to their house to watch a football game, and was astonished to see a Maybach in the driveway. I expected Mr. N to offer me to sit inside of it, but amazingly he said “Would you like to take it out for a drive?” At halftime of the game (OK, I really wasn’t focused on the game too much), he handed me the key and said “Have fun!” I then went out, unaccompanied by anyone else, to enjoy a drive in a $300,000, 500+ hp car.
Words can’t quite describe what it was like to drive this car… just a little different from my Ford Contour! What I remember most was the acceleration. It was faster than anything I’d ever driven, but that acceleration was completely silent and smooth. Everything about the car functioned meticulously and precisely — like an enormously complex Swiss watch. Just absolute perfection.
The area where I drove it was a high-income suburb awash in luxury cars. Drivers of many other cars stared, trying to figure out what on earth this thing was, so it was clearly different than an S-Class… though it’s gigantic size factored into that too. Cars have gotten bigger in the years since this Maybach was made, but in 2003 this was a seriously large car. Large and imposing.
But was it worth $300,000? No. Maybe in the $150,000-$200,000 range it would have found a few thousand more takers, but $300k was way beyond anyone sane person’s ability to rationalize a purchase like this.
In the years since then, I have seen only one other Maybach. It was in Washington, DC and it belonged to the ambassador of Equatorial Guinea, an impoverished, corrupt nation with a tiny upper class swimming in wealth. I guess that’s the market for such cars, and I wonder how many Maybachs ended up as vehicles for dictators and their friends?
But despite the fact that this car ended up being a big, expensive flop, I look back and smile at my half-hour behind the wheel of a Maybach.
Ever driven a Tesla Model S? It would be an interesting comparison since the Model S, with its instantaneous electric motor torque, is supposedly stunningly fast and a major factor in its appeal. I wonder if the Tesla could be considered a much cheaper (but certainly not cheap) high-tech version of the Maybach.
That would be an interesting comparison; I’ve never driven one.
Yes, Teslas are silent and smooth. But they’re also very tinny – Teslas aren’t built to the same standards of solidity that the legacy makers hold themselves to.
Tesla may be right that cars are going to be more disposable in the future. That remains to be seen. But their cars feel that way.
It;’s exactly the kind of car I’d expect an African despot to drive.
Just like the Mercedes 600 was THE car for third world dictators in the 70s.
Always felt that this was a big mistake of Mercedes’ part to dropping the marque. After all, BMW has Rolls-Royce, Volkswagen (Audi) has Bentley, Mercedes now has . . . . . the S class? Yeah, a nice luxury ride, but not in competition with the competition.
So what I Maybach was a money loser? The Mercedes line was certainly making enough profit to make up the difference. And, you don’t go up against the two biggest names in luxury with a marque that known for everything, from good luxury sedans to . . . . . taxi cabs and front drive econoboxes. You just spend the necessary decades to get your brand up there with the other two.
If they had done a better job on the styling, these might have succeeded, but there were just…odd.
Sort of a longer, droopier S-class that was simultaneously similar and puzzling. The insect-ish headlights didn’t help. Driving something that looks like it’s about to be stepped on by a giant foot is not really an aspiration of the upper crust.
At least in short-wheelbase 57 form, I always thought these were very beautiful cars. As others have said, there just wasn’t enough distinction to justify paying the premium for a Maybach over an equally attractive W220 or W221 S-Class other than exclusivity.
And that was a big price premium to pay for, especially as the Maybach 57/62 was based on the older W140 S-Class. By the time it hit the market, it was already somewhat dated, and very much so after a few years on sale.
That hood ornament makes me think Mickey Mouse.
Yeah, there’s not much I can comment on these. No one was going to buy an uglier, more expensive S-Class who’s only real advantage was reclining seats in the rear. While the Rolls-Royce Phantom introduced wasn’t that better (In my opinion, the pre-refresh Phantoms have not aged well at all.) and the Bentley Arnage (the only comparable model they had to these at the time) was starting to show its age, at least those models were bespoke in design and function and thus, were more successful in the ultra-luxury market they occupied.
Also, yes, brand equity played a part in this too. Until I got older, I always assumed that the only Maybachs were these things and nothing else. Though the fact Mercedes still hasn’t learned their lesson is disconcerting. Still. its better to just make it a trim level rather than a full-fledged line.
Should have brought back Horch instead. The name is pre-graffitied for customer convenience.
Daimler-Benz does not own the Horch name; Volkswagen does.
Anyway, to me the Maybach was no better, no worse than an early ’90s Buick Roadmaster being made into a Cadillac Fleetwood, a Ford Contour becoming some sort of a Jaguar or a Chevrolet Cavalier made into – presto, chango – a Cadillac Cimarron. It’s what they do, just at a bit more MSRP and chutzpah in Daimler’s case.
It seems that adding a super exclusive and expensive marque to the top of a manufacturer’s line is always a money losing proposition. Lincoln and Cadillac both went down that road in the 1950s. VW was mentioned with their Phaeton. I went to my local Mercedes dealer to check out the new CLS 500 and saw that they had a Maybach in the showroom. It was imposing but I guess that there is a very limited market for cars in that price range. Back in the day when Mercedes built the best car they could, they would just price them accordingly. The S class was pretty impressive and there was always a market for late model used Benzs. Too bad they couldn’t have kept the Maybach going, Benz needs something on the high end to bolster their image. T.V. commercials extolling how “affordable” a lease is on a mini Mercedes doesn’t contribute to their prestige image.
So I guess it belongs to Louie.
It’s design is as inspiring as a Hyundai.
To me it looked like an upsized Toyota Camry of that era.
Lookit there—side marker lights and reflectors, even though they’re not required outside the U.S. and Canada! Touch of luxury, that is!
“Curiously though after a couple of years, the Maybach brand was resurrected yet again in 2015 as a sub-brand for some of the absolute top Mercedes cars and has been seen on at least one stand-alone concept vehicle…”
That strikes me as the equivalent of Ford having decided that instead of the 1965 Galaxie LTD, they’d call their new top trim level the 1965 Ford Galaxie Edsel.
Used to see one infrequently, parked at the Hillstone restaurant in Phoenix. The curtains (!) in the back were always closed, so couldn’t see who or what went on in the car.
Must have been a lot of self-reinforcing God-complex discussion at the board when this unstately pile was approved. And when they unwrapped their finest ever creation, the best of an illustrious best, it took the marketplace to say out loud that their king was naked, that they had instead produced a form both vulgar and bland topped by a silly name no-one could agree how to pronounce. Not a recipe to extract cash from those with an excess of it.
I was aware it didn’t do well, but didn’t realize the scale of the fail numerically.
I was a brief passenger in a 62 being picked up at Las Vegas McCarran airport and taken to the MGM Skylofts. It’s a very short ride but was cool to feel like a rock star for a few minutes. I did appreciate the rear compartment overhead instruments and adjustable opacity glass roof. Didn’t have much time to play with much else on the short ride. 😊
Some trolls pointed out that there was a little bit of resemblance (especially in side profile) between the Maybach and this car… (Hyundai XG 350L)
Plummeting values, no surprise here. If you can’t afford to buy and service a new one, no surprise, you can’t afford to service a used one. Thus values sink like a stone hitting the surface of a pond. By 1937, a 1930 V16 Cadillac could be bought for virtually scrap value, so nothing is new under the sun.
Yes, depreciation on super-premium cars like this are horrendous. But at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone buying one new really cared. Consider it as one considers buying a very expensive designer dress (haute couture). Those ladies will willingly spend thousands (or tens of thousands) on an outfit that they will wear in public ONCE and never again. These outfits then sit in the closet of the owner, never to be seen again for the most part.If that lady does move said outfit on, either via donation or sale, the new owner does not think that it will be an outfit that one can wear on a regular basis to work, do they?
This could also compare to a meal at a 4 star Michelin restaurant. The experience is what one pays for, not the ingredients and labor. Some things, albeit expensive, are worth the price to people with more money than most.
In my teenage years I thought these were hot stuff and I really wanted a Maybach 62 after reading Car & Driver. I saw a few in NYC and while I thought they were cool, they were not all that distinctive and my interest in these has cooled for other reasons as well.
There is one of these seen regularly in the Dublin suburb of Dalkey, owned by Enya.
The interiors on these were lovely, but I always thought they were too garish and catered for those with more money than good taste. Looked too much like an S-Class in drag to be convincing. It must be a pretty serious flaw that has it parked up like that.
When these first came out my immediate reactions were why build this, and why did the styling look like a supersized Toyota Avalon with a Hyundai XG350 grille?