As life goes on, you become able to make some choices, and I had one such decision to make the other weekend, around a new Mercedes-Maybach S650. Go in the back or the front, of the pub?
Actually, I’ll confess to my CC counsellors that I hadn’t realised that the Mercedes-Maybach S650 was actually on Britain’s roads. Britain gets short and long wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class variants and I was aware that there was an extra long wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S -Class available at least in some markets, which I had assumed to be Germany, perhaps North America and, of course, Asia, and that there was an intention to re-use the Maybach name in some way. But I didn’t know I could buy one at home. Obviously, I don’t car shop in the right places.
Maybach was a business based in Friedrichshafen in southern Germany, principally building aero engines and diesel engines for rail and marine use, as well as limited numbers of high end luxury cars. In some respects, it mirrored the pre-war Rolls-Royce business. Car production stopped in 1939 and never resumed. The business was absorbed by Daimler-Benz in 1960, and then built limited numbers of specially adapted Mercedes W108 and W116 ranges, always badged as Mercedes-Benz.
The previous Maybach 57 and 62, profiled here by Jim Klein, were not what could be called a commercial success. Designed to compete with the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Ghost from BMW and the Bentley Mulsanne from VW, sales totalled around 3000 in 9 years from 2003 before it was suspended without a direct replacement, contrasting with over 3000 Rolls-Royces or 8-10,000 Bentleys (of all types) a year. The cricketing term is “retired hurt”.
Explanations vary. Possibly the style; looking like a very long wheelbase (almost stretch limo to some) version of an S-Class or E-Class may not have had the appeal of a bespoke style; the name has a strong history but it’s from a long time ago (a what? Made by Mercedes? A posh Mercedes then) and, frankly, the quality of the competition. Is there a better luxury saloon than the Phantom? Really?
So, surprise was indeed the keyword, when on a Sunday afternoon, there was Mercedes-Maybach S650 parked outside the pub, on what we call trade plates. In other words, the car was not registered but on the road under the care of a motor trader, distributor or possibly manufacturer (hence the term “trade plate”).
The car itself was sufficiently understated as to need a second glance to verify its identity. My first assumption was a black S Class and then that it was a long wheelbase S Class. But then I noticed fully the revised rear roofline and pillars, the V12 badge and the unfamiliar logo, and realised it was something more than just a Mercedes-Benz. As Marks and Spencer say in their advertising, it’s not just a Mercedes-Benz, it’s a Mercedes-Maybach.
The Maybach is a clear derivative of the current S Class. It is 8 inches longer, a touch taller and all the extra space is in the rear compartment. Unsurprisingly, the equipment level is best described as indulgently opulent – soft leathers in various colours, sliding panoramic roof, ventilated front and rear seats, electric sunblinds, electrically adjustable and massaging seats, a glass cabinet, four-zone climate control, reclining rear seats, and heated armrests and steering wheel are all standard.
The infotainment is inevitably top drawer – sat nav, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, DAB radio, Wi-fi hotspot and a TV tuner, alongside a rear entertainment package which includes 10in screens, a DVD player and wireless headphones. Much of this can be controlled from your Smartphone.
Power comes from the Mercedes 6.0 litre V12 with 630bhp and 737 lbft (a nice round 1000 Nm in German) of torque. Speed is limited to 155 mph, as is the German norm, and 0-60 is 4.7 seconds. This is no slouch Brougham. Yes, it is 260lb heavier than the equivalent S Class, but that’s not a bad place to start by any means, and bulk aside, the driving experience is as good as you’d hope. There’s even a Sport button, presumably for the chauffeur (optional, customer specified equipment) to use on the way home.
The only chargeable options are the £7200 (UK market) First Class Cabin option, with twin rear seats rather than a bench, inset tables, cupholders and silver champagne flutes or £13000 worth of extra soft leather. Obviously. You can’t expect to spend £183,000 on a car and not need to spend more.
Even so, the interior has the look of one of those first class pods you see as you walk through a Boeing or an Airbus – objectively very luxurious and comfortable but not actually that memorable in appearance or definable in style.
If you want to place the car in a context, I guess you could consider the Maybach 57 and 62 as equivalent to the Mercedes-Benz 600 (Grosser) and the Mercedes-Maybach S650 as a fully optioned 300SEL 6.3.
And it faces tough opposition. The Bentley Flying Spur and Mulsanne (just leaving production this year), and Rolls-Royce Ghost will not roll over lightly. The interiors of these are also more special in visible craftsmanship, with more individuality being permitted, and indeed expected. Rolls-Royce say 95% of their cars are personalised in some way, something Mercedes-Maybach seem to be avoiding. The British cars also have the advantage (or disadvantage depending on your preference and the circumstances) of clearly signalling their presence to all.
In absolute, objective terms, the Mercedes-Maybach is a strong high luxury car, albeit with very unfamiliar branding. In subjective terms, it probably misses the mark for many. In Europe, you could imagine a large corporation buying a Mercedes-Maybach for the CEO to be chauffeured about in, when the big Mercedes-Benz look is almost expected, and then the car being sold into to the luxury airport or hotel chauffeur market, but also see that the individual purchaser would be deterred by the anonymity of it. Hence I walked past it, almost.
Daimler has clear ambitions for the Maybach sub-brand. In addition to the S650 (and 4 litre V8 S560 in some markets) there are now G-Class G650 Landaulet, which has Middle Eastern market written all over it, and the GLS600 based on the new GLS series, with suitable grilles and equipment to justify a price of £180,000.
To be honest, I almost missed it entirely, as it looks so like an S-Class in airport limo black. But I was concentrating on entering the pub, which I can afford to go into.
Sometimes you just need to show the proles that they are indeed a lower, degenerate subspecies.
The three–pointed star on the boot-lid has more cachet than the vaguely Chinese-looking Maybach badge on the C-pillar – I presume that’s why it needs both.
Sort of the same mindset we used to see in the Daimler-Chrysler days – “We will build it our way. You will love it.” At least VW and BMW made an attempt to understand that buyers wanted something beyond what looks like a bigger, grander version of what they are already making.
Was this the Chrysler Imperial of ultra-high end cars? Certainly some unique and desirable attributes, but in the end too many people can’t tell it from the lower priced brand. And it did not help that the Mercedes star was in the center of the decklid.
After Maybach failed as a division, relaunching it as a sub-brand is the equivalent of if Ford had decided to call the ’65 Galaxie LTD the Ford Galaxie Edsel.
I understand a GMC Hummer is on the way…
Mercedes Imperial was my first thought. At least the earlier reincarnation had a clear differentiation. I used to see Jay Z’s 62 all the time in the mid oughts when his record label’s and my ad agency’s offices were in the same building. (And there was a manufacturer-exemption Toyota Century in the parking garage, assigned to Toyota’s NYC-based US finance head.)
If the Maybach GLS didn’t have the 3-pointed star and the Mercedes Maybach license plate in front, I would believe you if you told me it was a new Lincoln SUV. Borrring. And since I’m in a curmudgeonly mood, I’d say the diamond tuck upholstery of the sedan is indeed memorable and definable. Memorably and definably tacky.
I noticed a few Maybachs in the mid 00’s in the tonier neighborhoods in Manhattan, and I always thought they looked like a sort of weird JC Whitney-ized S Class. They were “A Thing” briefly around Gansevoort St., etc in the last few years before the ’08 meltdown, usually rolling up to the newest, latest, hottest club/hotel/lounge. As someone steadfastly unimpressed by ballers and cokewhores in Gucci and Chanel pouring themselves out of a absurdly overpriced transportation vessels, maybe I should keep my opinions to myself. But today’s not that day. I found them to be laughably silly at the time, and I am rather surprised to see that they’re still pumping them out. I must be out of touch.
Maybach was a bad idea. Mercedes had told the world that they make the best cars in the world – only that Maybach was even better. How could they justify that before customers who bought for example an MB S600 (W221)?
Lately I read that Audi asked Bentley to answer the Maybach with a special model. Bentley refused, because they didn’t take Maybach as a competitor. And rightly so.
That was the problem. The Maybach 57 and 62 models debuted circa 2004. They shared their electronics suite and general design sense with the W220 (2000-2006) S-Class. However, because the W220 had been significantly cheapened and cost-cut in a bid to increase sales and profits…the 57 and 62’s structural architecture was that of earlier W140 (1992-1999) S-Class. The W140 was far more solid and premium than the W220.
The 57 and 62 had some awkward design language compared to the more-effortless designs from Bentley and especially Rolls-Royce. However, they still looked alluring…right up until the W221 (2007-2013) S-Class debuted. It looked cleaner, featured newer technology and was cheaper. That Maybach didn’t make any meaningful updates to the 57 and 62 for their entire tenure (which lasted through CY2012) was the nail in the coffin.
In the airport-limo black; it does very much blend in with the rest of the S-classes out there.
But a new option is the two tone, and I think it looks stunning outfit like this.
Not distinctive enough to be convincing – the original Maybach was an S-Class with a fancier grille and nicer paintwork, the treatment here is like the Ghia badges Ford used to put on the high line versions of its everyday cars in Europe. For Maybach to succeed, the cars should look totally different from their “parent” car, and IIRC, that fancy interior or one very similar to it is available on the regular S-Class either as part of the Designo package or otherwise.
To me it just looks like a big black garden slug. Visually repellant. It needs some style.
This is really more a competitor to the entry-level Bentley and Rolls-Royce sedans. It does battle against the Flying Spur (all-new for 2020, on a new RWD platform) and the Ghost (soon to be redesigned). It is not a competitor to the Mulsanne (soon to be discontinued) and Phantom (all-new as of 2018).
Daimler does have plans to expand the Mercedes-Maybach range. There is a Mercedes-Maybach S 560 Convertible, which is going to be discontinued, as a new S-Class is due soon and Daimler has decided not to do any two-door variants of it. They also recently showed a Mercedes-Maybach GLS-Class, which looks exactly as ghastly as you would think it does.
Really, all of the Mercedes-Maybach models look really tacky and Pimp-My-Ride-like when done-up in their characteristic two-tone paint, IMO. But you can’t say they aren’t opulent as hell.
Those wheeltrims are straight off my 1990 Rover. What’s going on there?
I don’t know, but at least you found them.
I forget these even exist. Should tell you how successful they are when a person like me who likes studying and keeping up with luxury cars finds them forgettable.
I don’t even think the problem with bringing back Maybach lies in the name, the problem is they keep making slightly fancier S-Class sedans. If they want this to succeed, they need to give it some visual distinctiveness to separate it from the normal range of S-Class sedans. It’s fine if it shares pieces with it, but when the only thing most people would differentiate is a hood ornament, that’s not going to do much good.
I understand the whole “stealth wealth” aspect, and too some degree I think that’s what they’re going for. But it still remains a car that just seems like the 1%ter equivalent of a Volkswagen Phaeton.
Sport mode in a Maybach… hehehehehehe
If they’re moving into SUVs, that means its cachet is growing somewhere. Our local MB dealer had a white two-door Maybach drophead for a while. Could hardly tell it wasn’t a Mercedes-Benz.
Could hardly tell it wasn’t a Mercedes-Benz.
That’s because it is a Mercedes! 🙂
Maybach is now just a top trim line for Mercedes, like AMG. It’s not a separate brand anymore.
I’m amazed every time a manufacturer repeats Austin’s mistake with the 3 Litre, namely offering for sale an upmarket car which looks almost the same as its lowlier brethren (the 1800 “Landcrab” in this case). VW did it with the Phaeton, Cadillac with the Cimarron and MB seems to keep hitting its head against the wall with these “Maybachs”. How hard can it be to design something that looks related to the last SW 42s made by the original company?
They all of them need to think in terms of motorcycles, perhaps.
One could make the longest wheelbase Kawasaki in the world, and, hell, fit it with a V8, and chrome the entire frame. And put leather on the rest.
And everyone would say, “My, what a long and shiny Kawasaki”.
Even though your Austin 3 litre is EXACTLY as ridiculous as this thing in another era, it does have be said that at least BMC made really significant (if entirely pointless) changes to the mechanicals and panels to justify the price!
No, Mr Carr, surely the cricketing term applicable overall here is “ball tampering” – and as an Aussie, surely, I should know. What a 5000lb load of utter bollocks.
But I must admit to liking the idea of the too-well-off being taken for a ride by the need for their wheelbase to be longer than anyone else’s. And covered in more leather.
Also amuses me that the name of this wondrous piss-take sounds exactly like “my back!”, though thinking now of what physiotherapists have charged me when mine goes bung, I lose my smile and realize that their fees possibly mean they are the target audience for this thing.
Oh, and by the way, if that’s the landlord trying out that sled for size on those trade plates, and if he signs the lease, I’d place a bet that within weeks your pints will become unaffordable ethical eco-craft and your Yorkshire pud inedible grain-fed curated egg-bake soufflé.
Ofcourse, if he does sign the lease and no such Maybach-payment changes occur, you and your village must surely have been paying well-handsomely for your evening ‘arfs for a long, long time.
How much did this thing cost new, in $?