First Drive review: Mercedes-Maybach S 600 (2015)

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2015 Mercedes-Maybach S 600 review by Gavin Conway for The Sunday Times Driving

Mercedes-Maybach S 600, £165,700

IF YOU want to know who’s got money and how much, you could do worse than ask the Swiss bank UBS. It has published a report called, rather grandly, the World Ultra Wealth Report. It concludes that there are 211,275 “ultra-rich” people, collectively worth a mind-bending £20 trillion. A separate and less laudatory report published last week by Oxfam claimed that, by next year, 1% of the world’s population would own more wealth than the remaining 99%.

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Not all these ultra-wealthy people decide to forgo the luxury of limousines and drive old Volvo estates (see main article, left). In fact, for many even standard luxury is not enough, which is why we have this — the Mercedes-Maybach S 600. It is aimed at people for whom the long-wheelbase S-class, already one of the best luxury limos in the world, is a little spartan.

The new car is 8in longer than the long-wheelbase S-class but has slightly shorter rear doors because the rear quarter-light (the small triangular window) is built into the C-pillar instead of being part of the door. This means the C-pillar can be wider – the idea is that people sitting in the back will be less visible through the rear-door window.

2015 Mercedes-Maybach S 600 review by Gavin Conway for The Sunday Times Driving

And that’s the key to understanding what this car is all about. Mercedes-Benz reckons that only a tiny percentage of customers will drive the car, so it has gone to extraordinary lengths to optimise the experience for those in the back. And what an experience it is — kneeroom in the rear is double that in the long-wheelbase S-class and there’s far more headroom. Mercedes-Benz says this is the most refined saloon it has made. In fact, it says this is the quietest car in the world.

While buyers in other countries will be offered a selection of engines and luxury options, Britain will get its Maybachs fully loaded with every conceivable gadget, including silver-plated champagne flutes. Something called “first-class” seats replace the standard bench seat in the back, allowing passengers to recline luxuriously and to choose heating and massage settings. The Magic Body Control suspension system scans the road ahead and smooths out bumps at speeds up to 25mph so plutocrats need never spill their bubbly. The car is powered by a stupendously able 523bhp 6-litre V12.

The Air-Balance package wafts perfume through the cabin. Mercedes describes it as smelling like “the luminous golden warmth of resin married with a striking woodiness”. No it doesn’t. It smells like a bag of Haribos.

If the Maybach name sounds familiar, you’re probably remembering the standalone model that Daimler-Benz, which had acquired the brand in 1960, rather expensively engineered in 2003. It designed and built the car from scratch, which resulted in a price of around £320,000 for the Maybach 62. Sales were never as high as the Germans hoped, and production ceased as the end of 2012.

For the first part of my experience with the new Mercedes-Maybach, I had a black-suited, white-gloved chauffeur to give me the full Gordon Gekko treatment. The rear seats recline so far — to 43.5 degrees — that Mercedes has installed an airbag in the seat back to push you bolt upright in the event of an accident and prevent you from slipping under the main passenger airbag. Each of the rear seats has 27 electric motors to make sure even the most demanding billionaire can find just the right adjustment. Open the back of the rear centre console and you’ll find a fridge with those silver-plated champagne flutes.

2015 Mercedes-Maybach S 600 rear seats - The Sunday Times Driving

The rear seats tip back more than 45 degrees The rear seats tip back more than 45 degrees This car is spectacularly refined and quiet, as promised. And to ensure a driver won’t ruin the atmosphere by having to raise his voice if there is a lot of ambient noise or music, it has something called voice amplification — two microphones in the rear-view mirror housing that pick up the driver’s voice and play it to the rear seats via the parcel-shelf speakers.

Another feature is the Air-Balance package, which wafts perfumed and ionised air through the cabin (I know, I know). The Maybach gets its own fragrance called agarwood — it’s from a tree. Mercedes describes it as smelling like “the luminous golden warmth of resin married with a striking woodiness”. No it doesn’t. It smells like a bag of Haribos.

But with all that loveliness going on in the back, would you want to get behind the wheel? I did, and the first thing to report is that the twin-turbo V12 provides hilarious performance. Driving the wheels through a seven-speed automatic, this monstrous engine hurls all 2,335kg of Maybach to 62mph in just five seconds. But steer into some twisting country roads and you begin to feel the weight of the extra sound insulation and body strengthening — it weighs about 150kg more than the long-wheelbase S-class.

Mercedes says there may be more Maybachs in the pipeline, perhaps an SUV version based on the GL-class and maybe even an E-class Maybach. Either way, it seems there’s never been a better time to be ultra-rich.

Mercedes-Maybach S 600 review by The Sunday Times

Verdict ★★★★☆

The back-seat comfort of a Rolls

2015 Mercedes-Maybach S 600 specifications

  • Engine: 5980cc, V12, twin turbo
  • Power: 523bhp @ 4900rpm
  • Torque: 612 lb ft @ 1900rpm
  • Transmission: 7-speed automatic
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph in 5.0sec
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Fuel: 24.1mpg
  • CO2: 274g/km
  • Price: £165,700
  • Release date: Order now; delivery in June


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