When it comes to high-end, luxury automobiles, there’s no doubt about it: There are a slew of options today. From the long-wheelbase Land Rover Range Rover to the Rolls-Royce Ghost to the Porsche Panamera Turbo, there are a variety of flavors. It’s sort of like Baskin Robbins.
But if you’re seeking pure, unadulterated luxury then there’s really only several vehicles that can deliver on this type of experience. That would include the Rolls-Royce product portfolio and the Bentley Mulsanne. Then there’s this, our subject: The Mercedes-Maybach S560.
The Maybach name should be familiar. Resurrected in the early 2000s, the Mercedes-owned brand opened up stores in high net worth areas and produced a limited run, über luxury vehicle. Competing against the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley with a price tag starting at about $300,000, it was considered one of the ultimate luxury vehicles. There was just one problem: It looked a bit too similar to the then S-Class sedan and after the initial excitement around its rebirth, sales plunged. Eventually, the three-pointed star killed off the marque in 2013.
Mercedes isn’t a company that accepts defeat easily, however, and the Maybach name was brought to life — again — but it would exist differently and as a Mercedes sub-brand. Relaunched in 2014 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Mercedes trotted out the new vehicle, which was essentially a long-wheelbase S-Class. Or, was it?
The curiosity was killing me. I just had to know if it really was a gussied up S-Class or if it really brought something new to the table that could compete with the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Having piloted many rollers and flying Bs, I felt that I had the credentials to evaluate this important issue. So, here we are.
When my S560 test car arrived, I carefully inspected the outside and the first thing most folks will realize is that the Maybach isn’t tremendously differentiated from the standard S-Class. The only tells are the elongated and redesigned rear door, and the Maybach badging that’s proudly displayed on the front grille, C-Pillars and around the back of the vehicle. More discreet buyers are actually debadging their vehicles so they can blend in more effectively. There’s also unique wheel and tire packages, but if that’s what you’re looking at to decipher a product, you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Now, when you open the doors and get more acquainted in the back seat of a Maybach though, that’s when you’ll quickly realize that this isn’t just your typical Mercedes S-Class. That’s because its rear seats are far more adjustable and there’s a lot more legroom — the Maybach is about 10 inches longer than the standard car. Should you desire, there’s the ability for heating, cooling and massage.
But, really, that’s only the start. That’s because the show starts when you hit a button that changes, well, everything. When you hit that magic switch, your individual rear seat reclines, a leg rest powers into position to support your lower extremities and the front passenger seat moves as far away from you as possible then tips forward to provide the maximum amount of space. To ensure optimal comfort, a tiny footrest is deployed. You suddenly went from your typical motoring experience to something akin to flying to Dubai in business class.
When I tried it out for myself, I was staggered. Being 6 feet, 8 inches tall and feeling accommodated in all directions within an automobile’s cabin is a reality I am not accustomed to. I sure could get used to it though.
The ultimate test was about to come, however. I picked up a high-flying investment banking executive that has a newborn at home and is used to working 80-90 hours on a good week. It’s not out of the ordinary for them to be shuttled via Lincoln Town Cars to and from their Ridgewood home, but would a Maybach leave a lasting impression? On the hour and change ride home they checked emails and even managed to sneak a nap in.
I think, ultimately, the answer lies in their last words when I got them to their destination, “You made my week.”
Having spent plenty of my own time being chauffeured around in a standard Mercedes S550 with the CEO of a company I worked for in a previous life, I have to say that the Maybach experience is just one step beyond the standard S-Class when you’re a rear seat dictator. That’s because it’s quieter, the ride quality is more isolated to handle bumps better and its interior is more tricked out.
Then there are the little details. While your typical S-Class has a lot of leather inside, this is — again — another level. Take, for example, the leather lined headliner and the door jambs. This is stuff you just don’t see unless you’re in a Rolls-Royce or flagship Bentley.
But there’s a silver lining. While it has this super special interior and amazing rear seats, it doesn’t forego the S-Class driving experience. Although we’re sure that you’d rather be in the back seat during your time with a Maybach, if you wind up piloting the car you won’t wind up doing a lot of “work.”
This isn’t the case with a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, however.
In the British luxury vehicles, they require constant attention due to their steering set ups and rather ponderous body movements. Driving at low speeds in a parking lot is gets annoying fast as these luxury autos tend to require a lot of adjustments to shift these boats around. And, at high speed, the Phantom requires a lot of attention to keep it steady with an underhanded approach to steering. Fetch your chauffeur’s cap if you’re ever behind the wheel and be prepared to “punch in.”
Driving a Maybach, however, is much more straightforward. That’s because it feels pretty much exactly like a standard S-Class — you just have to take into account the added length of the vehicle. Overall, there’s a nice balance between comfort and sport. Whether your trying to park or getting up to triple digits on the highway, the Maybach isn’t fussy in the slightest, which is a change in the right direction for high-dollar, luxury automobiles.
Essentially, the only assignment you’ll be given when driving a Maybach is to enjoy yourself. So, turn on the massaging seat and prepare to relax. My favorite thing about the Maybach was that when I did arrive at my destination, I felt calm and well rested. I was ready to attack the day. It was though I had just spent time at the spa, whereas in any normal vehicle I probably would have some tension to sort out on my walk over from the garage.
For me, I like the discretion that comes with a Mercedes-Maybach and that’s what I’d have. With a base price of $168,600 for the S560 model, you’re getting a relative bargain as the Rolls-Royces and Bentleys I’ve noted are typically more than double the price when equipped with the options most buyers want.
If you find the current Maybach lacking with presence, just hold your horses. At the time of this writing, Mercedes has announced the 2019 Maybach will get an updated exterior design that differentiates it from the standard car. This includes optional, two-tone paint schemes as well as an all-new front grille that has vertical-running lamellas as opposed to the more traditional, horizontal look featured on the standard car.
By Richard Posluszny
Richard Posluszny is a freelance writer based in Bergen County.