The Maybach brand returns to the road
“Drive on, James."
Is exactly what you want to say when you sit in the new Mercedes Maybach S-Class, now available in Malaysia.
Billed as a chauffeur-driven vehicle par excellence, the new Mercedes Maybach S-Class marks the revival of the Maybach brand, absent from the market since 2012 when parent company Daimler decided to retire the brand following a poor reception to the marque’s post-Global Financial Crisis models.
And now it is back.
Three years is a fair amount of time to be away from the market; just enough time for the brand to be missed and just enough time to engineer its comeback. That the return of the Maybach is attached with S-Class credentials is a statement of intent: to take what Mercedes has perfected with its S-Class, then hone and polish it to the elevated peaks required to bear the Maybach brand. Two variants make up the reintroduction – the S500 and the S600, with prices starting at RM 1,350,000.
From the exterior, the Maybach S-Class is reminiscent of the mainline S-Class, though longer and discreetly bearing the double M logo. This seems a canny choice for the reintroduction – with the Maybach S-Class aimed to the emerging affluent class of Asia, who may not be familiar with the pedigree of the brand, the idea is to ease familiarity by using the recognisable silhouette of the S-Class. It helps that the Mercedes S-Class is also already one of the best cars in the world, and the Maybach just amplifies its virtues.
At some point the constant comparisons with the S-Class will seem repetitive, but driving the new Maybach feels like driving an S-Class. Agile and sensile, it slips through traffic like a hot knife through butter, the V12 twin turbo engine powering this beast to great speeds that somehow seem unnoticeable inside.
This, however, is a vehicle made to be chauffeured in; so as wonderful as it is to drive it, if you were in the market for a passenger-driven vehicle, the standard Mercedes S-Class fits the bill better. This is a car for those that want to slip into the backseat, enunciate a destination, and then recline in blissful disregard. So it is in the rear that the best of the car is to be found.
Here is where the greatest differences between the Maybach S-Class and the S-Class are to be found. The Maybach is extensively roomy, almost doubling the kneeroom of the standard S-Class (from 166mm to 325mm). The rear seats can each be reclined individually, to a maximum backrest of 43.5 degrees; this, together with the ample space, seems like something a leading airline would trumpet about its first-class cabins, something straight out of a private jet.
The temptation to just lie back and have the seat’s hot stone massage function take over is powerful; those that resist will find a host of tricks to occupy their attention. Like the individual media screens, sound filtered through a cutting-edge Burmester 13-speaker surround sound system. The seven colours of ambient interior lighting. The individual climate control zones for each seat. Or the special concoction of agarwood-based fragrance that wafts in with the Air Balance air ionisation and filtration system, making the interior subtly smell like an aromatherapy parlour.
Even as ground is covered outside at 250 km/h, it never feels less than sheltered inside the lounge. For an automobile with this much power, the level of silence in the seats is nothing short of astounding. Even the seatbelt inertial reels are sealed to reduce noise. The coordinated operation of the Magic Body Control suspension and Road Surface Scan forward cameras also gives the vehicle one of the smoothest, steadiest rides in any sedan. A typhoon could be raging outside, and a Maybach passenger could barely feel or hear a thing.
Is it safe to say that Maybach is back? Yes. Yes it is. From this comeback, the Maybach brand is expected to start spreading its wings over to other Mercedes automobile lines over the next few years, a development we cannot wait for.
Meanwhile, it’s time to go. Drive on, please, James.