2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 Review
It’s like flying business class, only better.
SANTA BARBARA -- It's like flying business class, really. There you are in your high-style seating pod as if you were flying Virgin Atlantic, and you lean back in the quilted leather upholstery of the executive-style seating with your head in the soft pillow and your legs outstretched, and the 5.1 surround sound plays as you watch an information video on the high-def screen. You unfold the tray table from the center console and pour yourself a sparkling water.
Sure, the 2016 Maybach-Mercedes S600 is just like airplane, only instead of being trapped in a soulless box at 40,000 feet, you have a full view of the landscape rushing past your window. You can forget about those limp spargel salads from the flight attendant, because there is some new exotic food being served at the bottom of every off-ramp, probably with a drive-through lane for your convenience.
Downton Abbey? Get over it
As Americans, we're still so provincial, always wishing we were British. Present us with a car like the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600, and we think immediately of stuffy rich people and chauffeurs in white gloves. We're at once offended by what we interpret as pure extravagance and yet hopelessly envious.
Well, it's not 1921 anymore, so it's time to grow up. Sure, the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 is indeed all about the rear-seat experience. (Don't pretend it isn't.) But you should consider that this car slides into the position once occupied by big, black executive-class cars meant to transport people of consequence. The Lincoln Town Car is dead, and neither sport-utilities like the Lincoln MKT nor luxury minivans like the now-departed Mercedes-Benz R-Class have filled the gap.
The Maybach is more like the beginning of a trend in executive-class transportation than the end of one. It is useful where the traffic is slow, like the ring road in Beijing where the average speed is now slower than it was when bicycles were the primary transportation device. It is useful where the traffic is fast, like Europe, where terrible flying weather for cross-country travel means the automobile becomes the equivalent of a private jet. Moreover, the Maybach S600 can be a mobile office, a kind of calling card in business circles.
Is it an extravagance? Well, any automobile that is larger and more luxurious than a smart fortwo can be thought of as an extravagance.
Expanding the envelope
Probably you're thinking that the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 is nothing but a stretched Mercedes-Benz S-Class. And you're right, this is an S-Class chassis with a wheelbase that has been stretched 7.9 inches. And why not? The S-Class is already thought to be best car in the world by many, so simply expanding the car's envelope is a good strategy. Compared to a dedicated super-luxury package like a Bentley Mulsanne or Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Maybach S-Class is less expensive, so the potential sales volume goes up. And as we're reminded by Johannes Reifenrath, the director of product strategy for Mercedes-Benz, the Maybach can also incorporate all the sophisticated electronics of the S-Class, not just the latest active-safety measures right now but also the autonomous driving features that are sure to come.
So there's not much mystery beneath the skin here. Beneath the hood of the Maybach S600 you'll find a 523-hp, twin-turbo 6.0-liter V-12 matched with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The S600 has the S-Class's automatic body control, and it comes with 20-inch forged wheels. The Maybach's rear doors are actually 2.6 inches shorter than those of the S-Class, a change that ensures the rear-seat passengers can be concealed from the outside by the rear pillar of the roof. Nevertheless, the Maybach's bodyshell incorporates the largest one-piece side panel now being made in series production.
Flying low in the rear seat
It's all about riding in the rear seat, isn't it? There's indeed plenty of space, some 37.9 inches of headroom (0.5 inches more than a standard S-Class) and 12.8 inches of kneeroom (6.3 inches more than an S-class). You can recline the seatback 43.5 degrees as a panel beneath your calves rises to support your legs. An array of rear-seat air vents controls the temperature while a special sensor creates separate climate zones for each rear passenger. The Maybach S-Class also offers a panoramic sunroof.
There are the usual luxury accoutrements you might expect in a car like this, like the standard-equipment champagne flutes concealed in the center console and the optional system that gives the rear compartment the scent of Maybach's signature Agarwood perfume. (Both of which we find a little creepy, actually.) Since we're Americans, we'll probably better appreciate the way you can work in the back seat. An aircraft-style aluminum tray deploys from the center console table, and it's both sturdy and features a leather insert to deliver a good writing surface. The Burmester sound system delivers not just 5.1 surround sound for entertainment audio but also has HD voice amplification for telephone calls. Most of all, the rear compartment is an especially quiet place in which to work, which is partially a consequence of the way in which the passengers sit away from the side windows and beneath the rear window.
Finally, the rear seat of the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 is an exceptionally safe place. It starts with close attention to structural integrity. Then there's the seat-belt buckle extender, which comes out to make the buckle easy to locate and then retracts to ensure the belt is cinched across a passenger's pelvis, not his belly. An airbag in the seat cushion will deploy in a crash if the passenger is reclined, preventing him from submarining beneath the belt. The lower belt portion of the three-point belt also incorporates its own airbag, which effectively increases the width of the belt to distribute impact forces across a broader area. And finally side impacts trigger the deployment of the usual thorax and window airbags.
It's the future, not the past
At a starting price of $190,275, the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 isn't exactly for everyone. And since Mercedes identifies the 212,000 people who compose the world's super-rich (assets of $30 million) as the prime audience here, the Maybach S-Class even starts to seem irrelevant.
But we can see a little bit of the future in this Mercedes S-Class. When the traffic is congested and vehicle counts in downtown areas are restricted (as they already are in London and Singapore), a hire car starts to make a lot of sense. Certainly the preference of drivers in China for cars with large rear seats -- cars as different as the BMW 3 Series GT and the Toyota Corolla -- shows us that there are circumstances in which a back seat can be considered a necessity, not just a convenience. And with the popularity of smartphone applications for arranging car transportation, everyone in the U.S. is already getting used to the idea of taxi service, whether plain or fancy.
And should a Maybach-Mercedes S600 show up at the curb the next time you schedule car service, we can assure you that you'll be very, very happy.
2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 Specifications
- On sale: April
- Price: $190,275 (base)
- Engine: 6.0L twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve V-12/523 hp @ 4,900-5,300 rpm, 612 lb-ft @ 1,900-4,000 rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed automatic
- Layout: 4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD sedan
- L x W x H: 214.6 x 76.0 x 59.0 in
- Wheelbase: 132.5 in
- 0-60 mph: 5.0 sec
- Top speed: 155 mph