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Don’t Call It a Comeback

The Mercedes-Maybach S600 quietly and comfortably introduces a new brand and makes a name for itself...

People of substance have long gone to great lengths to make auspicious entrances. Alexander the Great had his elephants. The Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I may never have conducted a triumphal equine procession, but he did commission a 177-foot-long depiction of one. And in the modern era, potentates, pontiffs, and pop stars have used large and luxurious motorcars to impress their public.

Perhaps no automobile marque has served this purpose more than Mercedes-Benz. In the 1920s, it produced the 630, an example of which served as transport for German President Paul von Hindenburg. Pope Pius XI, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, and von Hindenburg rode in Mercedes-Benz 770s, which the company produced in the 1930s and early 1940s.

In 1951, as Germany’s economy recovered from World War II, Mercedes-Benz introduced the glorious Type 300, which became known as the Adenauer because Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of West Germany, used a variety of closed- and open-top models to travel to state affairs. Mercedes-Benz followed the Type 300 with the Type 600, which it produced from 1963 until 1981. The Pullman-length version remains the brand’s most famous limousine. It seems that everybody who was anybody during that era had a 600. Aristotle Onassis, Hugh Hefner, Elvis Presley, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Kim Jong Il all appreciated the comfort and status conferred by the stately 600.

When the 600 went out of production in 1981, it left a void in Mercedes-Benz’s luxury lineup, in the United States at least. The company made a handful of S-Class-based Pullman sedans, but they were never officially imported to this country. Mercedes-Benz did not have a limousine-class sedan to compete with Rolls-Royce and Bentley until 2002, when its parent company, Daimler, resurrected Maybach, a luxury-car brand that had been dormant since World War II. Daimler produced two versions of the Maybach: the long-wheelbase 62 and 57. (The numbers represented the cars’ lengths in decimeters.) Prices for the various variants and special editions ranged from about $350,000 to more than $1 million. Daimler expected to sell 2,000 Maybachs a year, half to U.S. customers. But the Great Recession tempered the demand for an über-luxury limousine, and when the final Maybach rolled off the assembly line at the end of 2012, the company had produced fewer than 3,000 total units.


Now the Maybach is back. Again. Sort of. In April, Mercedes-Benz launched a car that by its name, and its purpose—though not its $189,350 starting price—evokes the 600 and the Maybachs of the recent and distant pasts. The Mercedes-Maybach S600 also marks the launch of a new brand.

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Unlike the Maybach 57 and 62, which bore the double-M badge on their grilles, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 sports the Mercedes-Benz silver star, the same emblem that adorns the S-Class sedans and coupes. But on the left edge of the deck lid is the word Maybach, and applied to each C-pillar is a discreet double M. The name and logo suggest that occupants will be ensconced in the most luxurious and opulent Mercedes-Benz available. Daimler, to make the Mercedes-Benz model lineup more decipherable, has created two sub-brands: Mercedes-AMG for high-performance variants and Mercedes-Maybach for the most exclusive and prestigious models.

Compared to the S-Class sedans, which previously held the latter distinction, the Mercedes-Maybach S600, at just under 18 feet long, is 8.2 inches longer and offers more than 6 inches of additional legroom for rear-seat passengers. But the extra space is just one of many comforts that media members enjoyed earlier this year in Southern California, where Mercedes-Benz introduced the car to the press with an 80-mile chauffeur-driven ride from Santa Barbara’s historic Belmond El Encanto hotel to the Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria.

According to the engineers who joined the media members for lunch at the winery, one of the design objectives was to make the rear of the cabin the quietest of any production sedan. Having achieved that goal, it seems reasonable that Mercedes-Benz would make the car available with an optional refrigerator (concealed in the rear center armrest) that can be stocked with a pair of silver Champagne flutes to toast the tranquility.

In any chauffeur-driven automobile, the rear seats have to be comfortable, and the Mercedes-Maybach S600’s do not disappoint. They rival a well-used Eames lounge chair. They recline to a 43-degree angle and are equipped with power-actuated calf supports. Seat-belt air bags and active belt buckles ensure that passengers are protected while they are reclined. The optional Executive Rear Seat Package Plus, a two-seat configuration instead of the standard three-seat setup, adds a center console with the refrigerator, Champagne flutes, and tables that fold out like those on an airplane seat. The console also has cupholders that can heat or cool beverages. The rear seats are situated behind the door openings for maximum privacy, and the triangular window that is part of the door glass in the S-Class sedans has been relocated to the C-pillar.

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The interior is lined with hand-stitched leather. It covers the seats, the consoles, the doorsills, the pillars, and the headliner. An optional pillow-stitching pattern can be specified throughout, even on the dash and on throw pillows that are suitable for a Roman feast. Mercedes-Benz offers a choice of seven color schemes for the interior and 14 colors for the exterior. Especially impressive is the Designo Magno Alanite Grey exterior, a matte finish that contrasts beautifully with the optional and exclusive 20-inch slotted wheels.

The Mercedes-Maybach S600 further caters to the sybarite’s auditory, tactile, visual, and even olfactory senses. The seats are equipped with a feature that replicates a hot-stone massage. The panoramic sunroof is available with the optional Magic Sky Control function that turns the glass from light to dark to provide shade from the sunlight. If there were any noise from the road or wind in the cabin, the 1,540-watt, 24-speaker Burmester surround-sound system could drown it out. An atomizer in the glove box contains an agarwood fragrance developed exclusively for Mercedes-Maybach. And an analog IWC Schaffhausen clock in the dashboard reminds the driver and passenger that the greatest luxury is time.

The Mercedes-Maybach S600 will not waste any time getting from one place to another. It is powered by Mercedes-Benz’s 6-liter V-12 biturbo engine—the smoothest in the business. It produces 523 hp and 612 ft lbs of torque from an impressively wide torque band of 1,900 to 4,000 rpm. The engine enables the car to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5 seconds, which is more than adequate for the real world.

For the driver, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 feels like the S-Class S600. Though it has a longer wheelbase, it handles just as well. Like the S-Class, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 is equipped with Magic Body Control, which uses forward-facing cameras to scan the road ahead and then adjusts the active suspension accordingly to counteract uneven surfaces. Speed bumps that would loosen even the most intractable molars can be taken at speed without calamity or upset.

The only people who might be upset by the Mercedes-Maybach S600 are owners of the original 21st-century Maybach. In terms of fit, finish, and detail, no other car came close to it, but toward the end of its production run it was hampered by an aging platform and obsolescent technology. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has leapfrogged the Maybach with its technological advancements, and the Mercedes-Maybach S600, in addition to its many niceties, possesses those same upgrades.

Mercedes-Benz, mbusa.com


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