Mercedes-Maybach S-Class: Surprisingly, Its IWC Dashboard Clock Is Its Least Luxurious Element
by Martin Green
It must have been a horror for Mercedes to see its position as the ultimate German luxury automobile brand challenged by BMW, Audi, and Volkswagen. Three brands that initially have, and in the case of Volkswagen still does, produce entry-level cars.
Mercedes’s board of directors must have more than a few sleepless nights over the fight between Volkswagen and BMW over the control of Rolls-Royce/Bentley (see The Bentley Bentayga: You Will Love The $160,000 Dashboard Clock Option).
When the dust settled around the British automobile icons, BMW had become the proud new owner of Rolls-Royce while Volkswagen controlled Bentley. Mercedes’s supremacy as the oldest and most regal German car manufacturer was on the line – or so it must have felt to the company’s board.
But it had a trump card to play: at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show it introduced its own new ultimate brand: Maybach. This even had seasoned car journalists digging into their archives because this once-great German marque hadn’t made any cars for more than half a century.
Those first Maybachs were touted as the most luxurious cars in the world, rivaling both Rolls-Royce and Bentley. And they were!
Customization options were nearly endless, and some Maybachs have, for example, even been delivered with marble flooring. How is that for a car mat!
But there was a problem. First of all, Maybach’s history was really a thing of the past and not as alive as that of Rolls-Royce or Bentley. Secondly, at the time a basic Maybach cost 2.5 times the price of the already-not-too-shabby top of the line Mercedes-Benz S600 it was based on.
Add to that a styling that gives you the idea that the Chinese had made a knockoff S-class and it all added up to an unfortunate failure. Mercedes pulled the plug on Maybach in 2012.
What Mercedes apparently ceased to realize is that unlike BMW and Volkswagen, it doesn’t need another brand to claim supremacy. Mercedes can do this by just being Mercedes, and under current CEO Dieter Zetsche it has done just that.
So Maybach is back, but in the way it should have been it in the first place. Not as a separate brand, but as the ultimate version of an already ultimate car: the Mercedes S600.
The Mercedes-Maybach is powered by the same twin-turbo as the S600, a 6-liter V12 that provides 523 HP and, more importantly for a limousine this size, 612 lb-ft of torque. It can do 0-60 mph in 5 seconds flat, but that is not chic. Mercedes learned from its previous Maybach adventure and kept the new Maybach closer in specifications to the “regular” S-class.
The difference comes in where it really matters! The Maybach is 200 millimeters longer that the S600, and it is almost needless to say that this extra space is dedicated in its entirety to backseat passengers (this a car designed to be driven by chauffeur).
“Backseat,” however, sounds a bit derogatory – which it shouldn’t because this one puts almost every first-class airline seat to shame. While enjoying the latest season of “Game of Thrones” in 3D and surround sound, the backseat passenger in a Maybach can enjoy an energizing hot stone massage (yes, the seat’s functionality can actually mimic this!) while sipping chilled Mumm de Cramant from silver-plated, handcrafted Maybach champagne flutes while the car brand’s exclusive agarwood fragrance lingers in the air thanks to its Air-Balance system.
The original Maybach was surprisingly popular with the few people who actually bought one. Interesting is that these people used it mainly for distances that were too short to fly. Mercedes really understood that and created a private jet atmosphere for the road, only quieter and, in most cases, even more luxurious.
By basing it on the S600 and making improvements where they really mattered, Mercedes-Benz was also able to keep the price in check; the new Maybach is only about $20,000 more than the S600 costs.
It also helps that the new Maybach is an absolute beauty of a car, expressing a dynamic style that looks great from every angle. The Maybach is not as flashy as a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley, looks more regal than the BWM 7 series and Audi A8, and has the Teutonic flair that the Jaguar XJ is missing.
It’s a car without competition – that is, until the stretched Pullman version arrives!
The Mercedes-Maybach comes with a clock crafted by IWC, which is one of those details that elevates the experience of the car, at least for watch enthusiasts.
But, seriously, a car of this stature actually requires a wristwatch dedicated to it as well. May we suggest a Maybach edition of the IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar? But there is no perpetual calendar in the current Portofino collection, you say? Yes, you’d be right, too.
Just as the Mercedes S-class has become extra-sweet in its Maybach variation, I also think that a perpetual calendar in the Portofino line could achieve the same thing!
Engine: 6.0 liter twin-turbo V12
Power: 523 hp at 4900 rpm Torque: 612 ft-lbs at 1,900 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 5 seconds
Top speed: 155 mph (electronically limited)
Base price: $191,975