A nice man just arrived at my house to take away the metallic two-tone (Tiege light gray and Rocky Mountain light brown) Maybach 62 that we've been driving for the past ten days. During that time, we have told at least one hundred curious, sometimes awestruck fellow travelers what a Maybach is, how it's pronounced ("MY-bock"), how fast it goes (very), and how much it costs (plenty). My wife became an expert at putting them into the reclining rear seats and demonstrating the refrigerator, the audiovisual system, the electroluminescent roof panel, the electrically managed curtains, and the snappy little receptacles that hold a pair of champagne flutes for rear-seat celebrants. Somehow, the fact that our Maybach did not have the optional glass partition between driver and passengers made everything seem very democratic and congenial. The only person who did not ask for the full tour and demonstration was the state trooper who ticketed Mrs. Davis for going 90 mph on I-90 outside Deadwood, South Dakota.
I have always believed that the best way to evaluate a new car is to drive it across our country. Put another way, whenever I'm really intrigued by a new car, one of the first thoughts to light up my synapses is, "What would it be like on the drive from New York to Los Angeles?" It is good for the soul, and equally good for one's sense of whatever it is that sets the United States apart in the community of nations. America is so vast, and so much of that vastness is so beautiful, that I always return to my home feeling buoyed up and restored by the sheer goodness of the place and its people.
Six months ago, we discussed such a journey with the Maybach people. Could we drive a Maybach from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Santa Fe, New Mexico? Tom Quinn, who used to do illustrations for Car and Driver magazine in the 1960s, has become one of the country's leading wildlife watercolorists, and he had invited us to the opening of a three-man show at the Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe--"From Wild Skies," a show dedicated to birds of prey, in which he, Swedish painter Lars Jonsson, and sculptor Tony Angell would show a broad sampling of their work.
Leaving Santa Fe, we would turn north to Jackson, Wyoming, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, then homeward via Cody, Wyoming, where we'd wander through the Buffalo Bill Historical Center with its vast collections of western art, historic firearms, and relics of the Plains Indians.
The appointed day arrived, along with a Maybach 62--the long-wheelbase limo. Ninety-nine percent of our Maybach experience had been in the shorter-wheelbase 57 model, and Maybach management's feeling was that we should now experience the larger, longer version. Friends suggested a chauffeur's cap for me while the Memsahib watched DVDs and drank champagne in the back, but the western countryside was so unfailingly beautiful that neither of us could leave the front seats lest we miss something along the way.
The car is at least as impressive in the Rocky Mountain switchbacks as it is on the interstates. Having 543 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque at your beck and call makes it possible to stay with the fastest traffic--usually motorcyclists, who then gather around at the next fuel stop, politely asking what it is and why it goes so fast. Some of our fellow journalists like to carp and grumble about the Maybach, especially its appearance. But the average citizen, seeing one for the first time, approaches it as though it were the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre. People pulled alongside us out in the middle of nowhere and held up signs that said, "Beautiful car!" Nobody neglected to mention how handsome it was after shyly asking for the show-and-tell tour. On a purely personal, driving-enthusiast basis, it drives like a Mercedes-Benz S600 and becomes smaller and more maneuverable with each passing mile.
The purchase price, $377,750, is staggering, but you can have the shorter-wheelbase 57 model for nearly the same price as a Lamborghini Murcilago, which makes selection of the Maybach seem the ultimate in practicality. No car has ever served to introduce us to such a warm and friendly cross-section of America. We're richer for the experience.