There is something dubious about driving a $189,350 car down a farm road in Ojai, CA at speeds nearly double the legal limit. It’s risky. It’s reckless. It’s illegal. The car could wreck and a quarter-million dollars of brilliant engineering and the world’s finest materials could be crumpled up in a ditch. But when you’re enjoying a hot stone massage and the scent of agarwood wafts through the air (it’s oaky, with vanilla), you don’t think of such things. And the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 — with its V12 biturbo engine ripping through the gears (it does 0-62 mph in 5 seconds) and Magic Body Control suspension eating up every pock and divot in the tarmac — does little to remind you of the inherent risks. In fact, this car is so capable, so safe, so sturdy and so powerful, you feel you can do damn well anything you want.
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After the belly-flop performance of the Maybach 57, 57S and 62, Mercedes is relaunching the Maybach name with this S600, and, finally, it’s worthy of the brand’s illustrious luxury motoring past. In the early years, back in the pre-WWII 1930s, the Germans flaunted their Mercedes-Benz 770 model, which set the high-water mark for luxury automobiles. Then came the war and with it, pragmatism. Mercedes continued making cars, but they dropped the ultra-luxe line. It wasn’t until the ’50s, with the Type 300 (nicknamed the “Adenauer” after Konrad Adenauer, the First German Chancellor), that the manufacturer began heading back to its ultra-luxe roots. Following the Type 300, Mercedes expanded their luxury line to include the “Super Mercedes” 600, an automobile that met with a modern equivalent of the 770’s high-end prowess. Opulent automobile manufacturing returned, the S-Class launched in 1972, and Mercedes advanced into their current classification of luxury. Today, the S600 is their luxury apogee.
For the driver, the Maybach offers enough horses to make powerful people feel more powerful.
The Maybach offers enough horses to make powerful people feel more powerful. Although it’s an almost 18-foot boat of a car (it’s 214.6 inches long, 8.1 inches longer than the next longest S-Class Sedan), the thing reached 90 mph fast enough to tighten the sphincters of the engineers who designed it. The exterior body is meant to exude a look of classic luxury — not boisterous, not loud, but very, very confident. The wheels, exclusive to the Maybach, are big, round, beautiful saucers. And in case anyone forgets what you’re driving or riding in, the Maybach Manufaktur logo — a double M inside an arched triangle — is sprinkled throughout the exterior and interior.
Engine: V12 biturbo
Horsepower: 523 horsepower
Torque: 612 lb-ft
0-62 mph: 5 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)
Engineered to be the quietest production sedan in the world, the Mercedes-Maybach underwent copious wind-tunnel tests to ensure that the car is both aerodynamic (it is, despite its size, relatively fluid in the tunnel) and quiet. Because sound deadening was so important, engineers set up microphones throughout the car and then shot wind at it from all angles. A shortened rear door allows riders to sit behind the door break, increasing privacy and reducing noise. Pair that with the car’s Magic Body Control suspension, which takes speed bumps as afterthoughts, and the result is a cabin so tranquil that naps are in order at any speed. The loudest noise in the cabin is the air conditioning fan (one hopes the Germans will tackle this next).
In the back, there are twin executive seats that recline to 43.5 degrees (that’s nap angle) and feature a freely adjustable calf support (your ankles deserve it). The head rests come with an extra cushion to burrow into. The center console sports thermo cup holders to heat or cool drinks, two silver-plated Champagne glasses, and two folding tables that, while airline inspired, are wholly unlike tables on planes; these are made from sturdy alloy, fold out smoothly, and feature leather inserts on the table surface.
For audiophiles there’s a Burmester system with chrome-plated tweeters that angle toward the rear passenger. Fiberoptic ambient lighting sets the mood — a luxury you never knew you needed until you have it. Looking up (as life in the Maybach usually is), the ceiling is mostly glass. In front, there’s a panoramic sliding sunroof, and in rear, there’s the optional Mercedes Sky Control technology, which allows the moonroof to switch from light or dark at the touch of a button. As a rider, this is life in the lap of luxury. From five-star hotels to Michelin star restaurants, there aren’t many environments that match the interior of the Maybach.
As a rider, this is life in the lap of luxury. From five-star hotels to Michelin star restaurants, there aren’t many environments that match the interior of the Maybach.
The car’s entertainment and control systems operate by remote and sync with displays on the rear of the seats. It operates with classic German over-engineering, but once you get the the navigation down, you can control the entire internal eco-system with your fingertips. The car creates its own wi-fi signal, which didn’t do much for web browsing on the Mercedes entertainment system, but works fine with wi-fi enabled devices. The optional fridge in the rear is shaped to accommodate three bottles of Champagne (naturally) and seems on the surface a fantastic upgrade, although the system eats up about half of the trunk space (life is, alas, about compromises).
Mercedes flaunts the Maybach with lofty verbosity, touting “trend-setting exclusivity” (oxymoron?) and preaching that the car “embodies a sensuous elegance”. At nearly $200,000, it is exclusive, and with all that Nappa leather and clean German design, the car is elegant. As a luxury option, it feels less in the mode of the Audi A8 and the BMW 7-Series, and more in line with a Rolls-Royce or Bentley. The car is flawless, and that’s reflected in the ultimate endorsement a luxury chauffeur car can make to a buyer: when you enter the Maybach’s secure and luxurious lair, there’s no adrenaline rush, but rather a casual impulse to put the seat in full recline, start a massage, take a sip of champagne and fall into a nap.