2007 Maybach 57S

Mark Gillies
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You might think that linking the words "sporty" and "Maybach" creates the ultimate automotive oxymoron, but a sporty Maybach is exactly what American buyers--who account for 50 percent of the car's world market--want, the automaker says.

It's not as if the regular Maybach is mechanically underendowed, but the 57S (for Spezial) is positively John Holmes-ian. Its 6.0-liter, twin-turbo V-12 makes 603 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, versus 543 hp and 664 lb-ft for the stock 57, enough to spear this 6000-pound behemoth from 0 to 62 mph in 5.0 seconds and on to a top speed of 171 mph. Maybach also retuned the air suspension, lowered the ride height by 0.6 inch, and fitted thicker antiroll bars and twenty-inch wheels.

Cosmetic changes include a revised grille and rear bumper plus unique monotone black or silver paint schemes. The cabin gets made over, too, with available piano black trim and even more gorgeous leather.

The 57S drives remarkably well, although its considerable mass eventually overpowers the outside tires when cornering, even with the air springs in the sportiest setting. The road-crushing ride is unperturbed by the stiffer suspension, and the lack of noise from the 275/45 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s is amazing.

We still don't quite get the Maybach, though. If you want to flaunt your wealth, the Rolls-Royce Phantom does it better: about 2000 have been sold worldwide, compared with 1500 Maybachs. The 57S is better to drive than the standard Maybach 57 or 62 or the Rolls, but the Audi A8 and the Mercedes S-class are more entertaining. Still, if you like to drive fast and terrify three cossetted passengers and also need to telegraph your status, the Maybach is the only game in town.

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