You may have heard about the recent Oxfam study showing that nearly half the world’s wealth is tied up amongst a handful of people, to the tune of $110 trillion. But when it comes to personal transportation, today’s royalty is still looking for that bargain basement deal. Luckily for the landed, the new Mercedes-Maybach is targeted right at the sweet spot—a private jet on wheels, for a steal.
That’s a different approach than Maybach took last time around. In 2003—looking to cash in on the booming ultra-luxury market owned by Bentley and Rolls— Mercedes decided to build a new luxury brand on top of their top-line vehicle, the S-Class, without making any major modifications. The wealthy balked. The combination of a lack of heritage, derivative styling and a $350,000 starting price meant that when Daimler shuttered the brand a decade later, only 3000 of Maybach’s 57 and 62 sedans found buyers. That car’s move into obsolescence was marked by one very destructive Jay-Z video.
Yet, only a few years after Maybach’s demise, Mercedes is at it again with the beleaguered brand, this time with a new approach. At the 2014 Los Angeles auto show, the company announced the revitalization of the Maybach, now as a sub-brand of Mercedes with a whole new marketing take: drop the price, re-engineer a few choice items to raise the luxury, and see what happens.
This time around, Mercedes has priced the Maybach S600 at $189,350, placing it just over half the cost of the previous version. Confusing? Yes. However, the director of product strategy and planning for Mercedes-Benz, Johannes Reifenrath, argues that it makes sense. “We want to provide our luxury buyers with the highest technological advancement available in the S-Class. In order to do that we have to have scale and be priced competitively,” he said.
If history is any indicator, that strategy might pay off -- 2014 was the first full year that the all-new S-Class was available for purchase and Mercedes-Benz says it sold more than 100,000 of the cars globally.
Having learned from their lack-of-heritage mistake previously, Mercedes is drawing a distinct line between its 300-series from the 1950s directly to the S-Class and the Mercedes-Maybach. The 300s were large touring cars—known as Parade Cars that came complete with VHF mobile telephones (yes, in the 1950s), writing desks, and dictation machines. Today’s Mercedes-Maybachs come with just as many accouterments, focused mainly on the backseat and its executive passengers.
The car is eight inches larger all around, allowing for more legroom for passengers and driver. Executive seats and a Chauffeur package are standard in the Mercedes-Maybach S600, allowing passengers to lie nearly horizontal while they are pummeled (pleasantly) with a hot-stone massage and soothed by the Burmeister sound system. Cabin comfort, temperature, and even scents are customizable via individual controls in both the front and rear seats. Concerned that your driver is taking the wrong road to your 4:00 p.m.? Thankfully, the GPS will show you your position, available traffic cameras, and weather for the road ahead, all via your personal screen on the back of the headrest.
In addition, Mercedes boasts that the Maybach has the world’s quietest cabin—we believe it. A clever microphone and speaker system in the car makes it easy to communicate with the driver without disturbing the almost-oppressive tranquility of the cabin. If that’s not enough, a champagne refrigerator, heated and cooled cup holders, even tray tables, are available for a breezy $1900—a small price for the privilege of being always on the cusp of drink service.
But this car isn’t all creature comforts. Somehow, the Maybach S600 is able to combine the luxurious solidity of a penthouse with a surprising bit of muscle. The V12 twin-turbo engine puts out a whopping 523 hp—barely 100 hp shy of its S65 brother—which means that even with the extra eight inches in length, the Maybach has significant pickup. That oomph works fantastically with features like Mercedes’ Magic Body control, an active air suspension that swallows speedbumps and potholes whole, and the bevy of adaptive cruise controls. Ultimately, you’re left with a huge, fast, self-driving limousine—not unlike the luxury private jet the Maybach’s owners will likely know well.
When combined, the features and price ($189,350) of the new Maybach might just revitalize the brand and, for the first time, pose a real market threat to other ne plus ultra brands like Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Mercedes is targeting the Maybach heavily at the Asian markets, with predicted sales of the car to reach as much as 60% in China alone. Mercedes only anticipates 10% to be sold in the U.S. While the uber-rich might not have mourned Maybach’s passing a few years ago, this latest, longest entry is more than worth a monocled glance.
Photos by Mercedes