While the platform, the suspension, and the fuel tank were taken largely from the sedan, a second firewall had to be added, and the seats, the steering column, and the pedal box were moved back by 15.7 inches. As a result, the Exelero looks and feels like a proper coupe, not like a two-door notchback. Interestingly enough, the proportions and dimensions of the 2005 version are quite close to those of the prewar original.
On the long back straight of the track, the Exelero's aerodynamic qualities are patently obvious. Despite the in-your-face frontal area, front-end lift is well contained. Three manually activated tail spoilers keep the rear planted. The drag coefficient of the model made from the winning proposal of Fredrik Burchhardt was 0.35 when it first checked into the wind tunnel, but that was trimmed to 0.28 by selectively blocking off the air intakes, lowering the ride height, fitting a flush underbody, covering the rear wheel arches, and mounting dished wheel rims.
"The Exelero is the work of four students from the renowned design academy in Pforzheim," explains Leschke. "They started off with a given packaging concept and with the brief to come up with a modern, unique, and innovative shape. I am very happy with Burchhardt's winning effort, which meets Fulda's mission and advances Maybach design to a point that may well provide valuable insight for future production models."
Although the Exelero definitely won't go into production, it feels as solid as if it were milled from a single piece of metal, like those SLR-style turbine wheels. Even though the engineers were able to use numerous carryover components, the exterior and the interior were built from scratch by Stola, Turin-based prototype specialists. Neat features include the four pillars for the roof, the sleek greenhouse, the ground-effect rear venturi, and the complex bodywork around the wheel arches. Although it takes a fish-eye lens to capture the 23-inch wheels in their full beauty, the massive rear tires look almost lost from certain angles in their voluptuous all-black surroundings.
At mid-afternoon, I feel like a king, and I'm beaming from ear to ear, reluctant to relinquish my new toy. But all good things must come to an end, and they do at the service area. The Fulda mechanic finds that the tire temperatures are close to the flamb point and the pressures have gone sky high, while a Mercedes-Benz engineer tells me that the day's supply of 110-octane fuel is pretty much depleted. Although the consumption is not as exorbitant as at Nardo, where the Exelero averaged 2.4 mpg, there is no doubt that the V-12 combusted enough juice to punch a few more holes in the ozone layer above Stuttgart.
Although this show car is about as politically correct as the Cadillac Sixteen or the Chrysler ME Four-Twelve, it does its job. It puts the Fulda name on a map that used to be dominated by Michelin, Pirelli, and Bridgestone. And it also moves the Maybach image away from that of a conservative S-class clone, pushing it more toward a bespoke coachbuilt driving machine. I have already reserved a place for the mighty mauler in my dream garage, right next to the Heinz Phantom Corsair and the original Batmobile from Gotham City.