EngineTwin-Turbo 6.0L V12
Power523 HP / 612 LB-FT
Curb Weight4,597 LBS
As Tested Price$204,635
So when we say we wish Karl Benz's eponymous firm had produced the Mercedes-Maybach S600 in 2002 instead of the gilded blunder of the separate Maybach brand and its 57 and 62 sedans, we just can't know if the formula would have worked 13 years ago. But we do know the formula adds up superbly right now.
A little history: Wilhelm Maybach helped Gottlieb Daimler build a high-speed, four-stroke internal combustion engine in 1885. Eventually Maybach went to work for Daimler's new car company and designed the first Mercedes, the 1901 35-hp model considered the world's first modern car. Maybach left the company after Daimler's death, started a company building zeppelins, then joined his son to start the Maybach car company. Together they developed super luxury cars including the DS8 Zeppelin models that competed with Rolls-Royce. A reviewer in 1933 wrote, "The Maybach Zeppelin models rank among the few cars in the international top class. They are highly luxurious, extremely lavish in their engineering and attainable only for a chosen few."
As is this Maybach S600. It's a whopping 28 inches shorter than the departed Maybach 62, but since it's 8.2 inches longer than a standard S-Class, there's a very different driving experience. Two-thirds of a foot isn't much, but the Maybach is 639 pounds heavier than an S550, or 231 pounds heavier than a standard S600. From the driver's seat we could feel every additional pound and inch over those other models. It is as if Mercedes threw out the aluminum and steel and chiseled this sedan from basalt. We've driven scanty few cars where we've been genuinely glad for blind-spot detection and 360-degree cameras – this is one of them.
It's a whopping 28 inches shorter than the departed Maybach 62, but 8.2 inches longer than a standard S-Class.
The Maybach's wheelbase is four inches longer than that of a Bentley Mulsanne, even though the overall car is almost five inches shorter than the Big B. That long wheelbase translates into tranquil steering response – the S550, S600, and Maybach S600 all have the same 2.3 turns-to-lock, but this sedan feels like it takes more effort.
It even looks heavy. The S550 comes standard with 18-inch wheels, the S600 with 19-inchers. The Maybach S600 hunkers close over Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber, 245/40R20 in front, 275/35R20 in the back, wrapped around 20-inch, polished dinner plates that are a $3,900 option – not the prettiest wheels, but the "correct" wheels, as editors Ewing and Gluckman say. All that length between the wheels, the extra eight inches all in the rear without any extra height, the nearly solid discs – they visually represent at least two of the definitions of "gravity."
The 6.0 liter V12 with 523 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque has no trouble moving the burden – it will glide from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in five seconds and shifts are imperceptible. That's 0.2 seconds behind the S550, half a second behind the standard S600. You need Sport mode to make it happen – in Eco mode the engine management prioritizes frugality, rolling away from stops in second gear with stately progress. Waking it from slumber in Eco requires a jackboot to the throttle, but the sedan comes to life quickly as its entire 612 lb-ft is available from 1,900 rpm. We wish there were a non-Sport mode that permitted hastier responses without the need to cruise in a gear lower than normal.
In a straight line it performs like royalty.
Stuttgart engineers graced the Maybach with manners when it comes to yaw, but in any sharp corner you'll be more focused on making sure the trunk follows the line you want. Still, the Maybach handles admirably for what it is; we wouldn't roll our eyes if we spotted it in a future Transporter film. In a straight line it performs like royalty, with a large horseshoe brace preventing the back end from getting flexy except on certain deplorable surfaces. The sole sour suspension note concerns Magic Body Control. It really is like magic when it works, making bumps and potholes disappear such that we had to remind ourselves not to be so heedless in the next car we drove. Then it would stop working and no human entreaties would bring it back. We cruised one section of road four times trying to get Magic Body Control to respond to a series of speed bumps, but it had clocked out for the day.
The Maybach S600 is a spaceship built around a capsule, said capsule being the area behind the front seats. The 'lesser' S-Class models provide 43.1 inches of legroom while the Maybach trim provides 49.2. Let's put that in perspective: the Rolls-Royce Phantom offers 43.5 inches of rear legroom but it's 15 inches longer than the Maybach, the Phantom Extended Wheelbase has 3.5 inches more legroom than the Maybach but it's 25 inches longer overall – and nothing in the back of the Rolls-Royce reclines. If you can lay down in a car without your inner ear revolting, the Maybach supplies the most serene environment in any car anywhere.
The Maybach supplies the most serene environment in any car anywhere.
The rear doors are shorter than on a standard S-Class, so your head is inconspicuous behind the C-pillar even when sitting up. Mercedes added more sound deadening, placed extra sealer around the rearmost triangular windows, and ducted the rear deck to reduce thrumming. The only thing it's missing is an outlet for a nightlight and somewhere to put an alarm clock.
Our only quibbles are that the champagne fridge takes an unwelcome bite out of trunk space – four cubic feet – and we wish the rear entertainment screens were larger. But this is us, quite literally, complaining in the back of a limousine.
Yes, in its appointments the S600 Maybach is the supremely nice Mercedes cabin we can also see most of on the AMG models, all diamond-quilted seating surfaces, contrasting wood and Nappa leather, and a stitched leather headliner. The Maybach gets minor exclusives like certain wood and chrome trim on the doors, and Agarwood as a scent for the atomizer.
The Mulsanne starts at $303,700, an army of Benjamins and Grants beyond the $189,350 Maybach S600.
What we really mean by that is, no, it doesn't look like or feel like a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce cabin. Our feeling about that is: it's not supposed to, and this is why it works. The Mulsanne starts at $303,700, an army of Benjamins and Grants beyond the $189,350 Maybach S600. And as Mercedes learned, the bulk of customers who pay $300,000 for a car seek the ineffables that no amount of nice things can equal.
To finish the history lesson we began with, come World War II the original Maybach car company switched to making engines for military vehicles, then shut down at war's end. Mercedes bought the rights to the name in 1960, but by then Mercedes had nearly a decade of experience building what would become the S-Class, which began with the 1951 Mercedes Type 300, followed by the legendary 600 Pullman three years later. It's the segment Mercedes has owned ever since: the S-Class defines mass market luxury, accessible to small town CEOs, appreciated by rulers, respected by the public but not ostentatious enough to cause riots, and most importantly, not in competition with Rolls-Royce and Bentley.
This is the best limousine you can buy that doesn't come from Crewe or Goodwood.
The Maybach S600's 8.2 extra inches and rear accommodations put daylight between it and every segment competitor. And its price puts daylight between it and the heavyweights, making this the best limousine you can buy that doesn't come from Crewe or Goodwood. Mercedes didn't need the Maybach brand in 2002, it needed a higher grade of S-Class. This is it.