Mercedes-Maybach S-Class: A beast to discover from the back seat | Automotive | Drive
No one likes a driver in the back, but the Mercedes-Maybach really isn’t designed for the person in the driver’s seat. Openly luxurious in every way, the truth is that most owners will probably never get their hands on the heated leather-wrapped steering wheel.
But first, a little history.
Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau. The name barely emerges from the language, but it was the title of a company founded by Wilhelm Maybach in 1909. Together with his son Karl, Wilhelm originally built engines for the Zeppelins used in World War I, and, later, for German tanks in World War II. In 1960, the company was purchased by Daimler-Benz and produced commercial diesel engines before the Maybach name returned as a luxury flagship car for Mercedes-Benz in 2002.
For once, the German automaker got it wrong, as global sales of the Maybach 57 and 62 – the numbers indicating the length of limousines – never lived up to expectations. The company ceased production in 2013, but, thanks to a small number of loyal customers, returned in 2014 as a sub-brand. Heavily based on the Mercedes S-Class, the Maybach S600 has sold 60,000 cars – enough to inspire this lavish new model which Mercedes hopes will take sales to a new level.
I spent most of the test drive wallowing in the back, in more comfort than a first-class airplane seat (remember that?). Because here is a level of personalized well-being and cocooning rarely encountered in the most chic of executive lounges.
Fully equipped with every gadget, gadget and driving aid imaginable, the top of the line S 680 is the pinnacle of automotive luxury – a true rival for the best that Rolls Royce and Bentley has to offer. It might sound like an odd statement, but for once Mercedes is the poor cousin of this particular market segment. For my money, however, the latest all-sing-and-dance Maybach is actually more comfortable in the rear than vehicles from these two British brands.
And while I loved driving a giant 6.0-liter left-hand drive V12 through the Cotswolds, the backseat is where the real story is – from seat belt airbags to the Mercedes rear entertainment system. MBUX is a space unlike anything you’ll find in any other car.
To achieve such levels of comfort, the S 680 £ 201,335 is stretched 18cm longer than the “long” version of the Oceanic Mercedes S-Class – itself a car that won’t win you many friends in one. supermarket parking. Even with four-wheel steering, the Maybach is as agile as an oil tanker.
Most of that extra length is devoted to a cocooned aft cabin, which is now more opulent than ever. A system called Active Road Noise Suppression filters out all low-frequency rumbles and has been compared to noise-canceling headphones.
Less subtle is the ambient lighting display which seems to appear incongruously on each trim panel. If a motorway driver indicates to the right while a car is passing in the outside lane, the ambient lighting in the right door will turn red. At the rear, lower the heating on the mini-tablet installed in the center console and the lights on the back of the front seat turn to ice blue. Fortunately, the lights can be dimmed or turned off completely.
There is also a lot of sound in the cabin. Not the barely distinguishable V12 engine, but a new Burmester 4D audio system with 30 speakers and 1750w. The huge subwoofers are hidden behind the front seats.
Included in this car are optional silver-plated champagne flutes, cleverly designed to clip neatly onto custom glass holders. Of course, there is a bottle cooler in the middle of the aft bulkhead.
Most Maybach buyers swap the standard backseat for two individual airplane-style seats in nappa leather. For rear passengers sitting diagonally to the driver, this seat will almost recline into a bed, as the front seat automatically slides forward to allow more rear legroom.
Each rear seat faces an 11.3-inch touchscreen that complements the mini-tablet present in the center armrest. The latter can be used inside or outside the vehicle and fits perfectly into a jacket pocket.
The rear doors operate from a button on the edge of the roof liner – not to be confused with a jacket hook – or can be opened remotely from the driver’s seat. A wireless cell phone charger is hidden in the center armrest, along with all types of AUX slots ever created. There is so much tech going on that I’m glad my driver David spared me the task of reading the manual. Most owners, I’m sure, will only scratch the surface of what the Maybach has to offer.
Nowadays, many cars have voice recognition, for making phone calls or changing radio stations. Hey Mercedes voice assistant does just about everything and even has an attitude. You do not believe me ? “Hey Mercedes, tell me a joke.” The response is quick: “I’m sorry, I’m German, I don’t have a sense of humor.
The system can entertain passengers on long journeys with a general knowledge quiz, or tell them that you are stressed and the ambient lighting is dimming, the air conditioning cools down and the volume of the music drops a notch or of them. I swear I dozed off listening to the waves crashing onto a beach in beautiful surround sound. You can even perform a training exercise to stretch tired muscles that haven’t been soothed by the massage functions and heated and cooled seats.
The Maybach has air suspension, with extraordinary ride comfort and body control. The “Driver” setting is a bit soft, but go for “Comfort” and the balance is about right. An augmented reality head-up display flashes vital information on the road, while a roof-mounted camera sends real-time images to the center display screen, adding blue arrows for navigation directions by satellite.
The MBUX rear entertainment system even recognizes eye direction, body language and hand gestures. Sensors monitor trip data so that an “energizing coach” can create a “wellness program” for passengers, improving sleep quality and reducing stress levels.
Need to escape the paparazzi? No problem, there’s a 6.0-liter V12 under the hood. It produces 612 hp and will hit 62 mph in 4.5 seconds. There’s also the choice of a 4.0-liter V8 model, which starts at a sizable £ 160,000.
Even if you really want to drive this thing, the Maybach doesn’t encourage you to do so. Like its sister Mercedes S-Class, the S 680 is one of the few cars ready for Level 3 semi-autonomous driving, which could be approved by the UK government by the end of this year.
Such incredible levels of technical refinement don’t come cheap, of course, but I bet this latest Maybach will shudder other luxury car makers. The S 680 is a limousine for a new generation of younger entrepreneurs.
Mercedes-Maybach S-Class – The Vitales
Model: S 680 4MATIC
Price: from £ 201,335
Engine: 5980cc V12
Economy: 16.7 mpg
Top speed: 155 mph
0-62 mph: 4.5 seconds
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