Desert Storm: A More Special Maybach

The oversize, overendowed, and pretty much over-everything undertaking known as Maybach was supposed to supplant Rolls-Royce as the acme of automotive overindulgence. Mission not accomplished.

The Maybach’s V-12 engine produces a staggering amount of tug, enough to pull this three-ton vehicle from zero to 60 mph in a wink over five seconds. Innovations, such as a refrigerator for one’s Veuve Clicquot and a pair of rear armchairs styled after the fold-flat sleeper seats in Lufthansa’s first-class cabin, are everywhere. Luxury levels—piano varnishes, rare woods, and absolutes of handcraftsmanship—are high enough to tempt any chauffeur out of retirement. Nevertheless, Maybach’s world sales, which once were expected to top 1,000 cars a year, settled somewhere between 240 (the rumor) and 400 (the company report) in 2006. In the United States, where early projections called for the company to sell 500 of the limo-sized sedans per annum, only 115 Maybachs have gone to good homes. Last year, rival Rolls-Royce purred to a record of 805 beautifully clumsy Phantoms sold worldwide. U.S. drivers purchased half of them.

Suggested reasons for the Maybach’s modest sales figures range from the car’s design to a lack of brand-name recognition to price: The car’s styling is too sedate; the Maybach name has yet to reclaim the cachet it held before the marque vanished more than 60 years ago; the price point (starting at $335,500 for the entry-level 57) has been a source of objection even among those for whom price should be no object.

Fortunately, at least for those who believe in brave starts and underdogs, Maybach is not giving up. After a preview at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, the Maybach 62 S curtsied in February for the international media in Dubai, a place not known for its poverty or inconspicuous consumption. The 62 refers to the car’s length of 6.2 meters (20.5 feet), and the S stands for special, or maybe sybarite. It is a velvet brute, with 12 cylinders that have been bored out to displace 6 liters and produce 612 hp, which allows the 62 S to lay claim to the title of world’s fastest sedan.

The Maybach clearly is a Dubai kind of car. The residents and guests of the emirate apparently know and appreciate their vehicles. Indeed, the Burj Al Arab, that well-exposed and outlandish hotel shaped like a dhow’s sail, offers a Ferrari 360, a Lamborghini Gallardo, and a Bentley Continental GT as guest rentals. The hotel could have purchased Maybachs for its airport shuttles. But as a sign of the luxury sedan times, it instead chose Rolls-Royce Phantoms.

Maybach, www.maybachusa.com

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