Cars

2022 Mercedes-Maybach S680 First Drive: Big Luxury in Every Sense

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Full Overview

The 2022 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class S680 4Matic is a glittery thing. The grille and the front intakes, the trim down the middle of the hood and across its broad rump, the frame around the greenhouse, the exhaust pipes, and the wheels all sparkle as brightly as a diamond-encrusted Rolex in a Miami nightclub. Subtle it ain’t. But, as Mercedes-Benz has learned, when it comes to Maybach, all that glitters is gold.

It didn’t start that way. Panicked by Volkswagen’s purchase of Bentley and BMW’s audacious acquisition of Rolls-Royce in the 1990s, Mercedes-Benz decided that it, too, needed an über-luxury limousine. The car it built on the W140 S-Class platform and launched to much fanfare in 2003 was as technically competent and lavishly finished as its rivals, but management decided the Mercedes-Benz name didn’t have the gravitas needed to compete with the gilded British brands. Instead of being badged Mercedes-Benz Maybach, it became, simply, Maybach.

Wilhelm Maybach was an engineer who worked with Gottlieb Daimler at the dawn of the automotive age and built his own luxury cars in the years leading up to World War II. It was a revered name among some prewar car buffs, but it meant nothing to anyone else. Before Maybach was quietly taken off life support in 2013, barely 3,000 examples had been sold worldwide. One well-placed industry source suggests Mercedes lost more than $350,000 on every car it built.

In 2015, the company did what it should have done in the first place: It overtly linked the Maybach name with the three-pointed star. The largest and most lavishly equipped versions of the W222 S-Class were badged Mercedes-Maybach, the three-pointed star standing proud on the hood, and although the decision was made so late in the car’s development there was no time to design and engineer any unique parts, it proved a runaway success. Mercedes has since sold more than 60,000 of these blinged-up S-Class models, many in China, where in 2019 demand was running at 700 cars a month.

Now That You’re Up to Speed…

The new Mercedes-Maybach is based on the redesigned W223 S-Class launched late last year. Unlike the outgoing car, though, it does have unique sheetmetal, including a new hood that sits three-quarters of an inch higher than the S-Class hood and runs back from a large, more upright grille with bright vertical bars. It also features a redesigned greenhouse that includes a slightly higher roofline, fixed rear quarter windows, and a more formal C-pillar. And more chrome. Because that’s what the customers like.

The new Mercedes-Maybach rolls on the longest of the three platforms developed for the new S-Class. Codenamed Z223, it boasts 7 inches more between the axles than the long-wheelbase platform (codenamed V223) that underpins all S-Class models sold in the U.S., and 11.5 inches more than the standard-wheelbase S-Class that’s common in Europe. All that extra length is dedicated to the rear passenger compartment, not the least because that’s where many of the cars’ owners in its three largest markets—China, Russia, and South Korea—spend most of their time, their chauffeurs handling the driving chores.

The rear seats can be reclined from a 19-degree rake to 43 degrees, while the leg rests extend 2 inches further than before and will give you a calf massage should you so desire. Neck and shoulder heating is standard, and the seat belts are presented to you like those in the front seats of Mercedes coupes so you don’t have to twist and find them. The standard infotainment screens on the backs of the front seats can be controlled via a smaller, removable touchscreen device mounted in the rear center console so you don’t have to stretch forward, either.

Among the few options to be offered to American buyers is a package that adds heated and cooled cupholders to the rear-seat center console, along with tables that fold out from it like those in a first-class airline seat. Other options include a fridge—complete with a pair of metal champagne flutes—that’s accessed via a panel between the seats, and an electric opening and closing system for the rear doors actuated by switches mounted in the roof, just above the rear windows.

The Back Is Where It’s At

Given the car’s intended function, the Mercedes-Maybach’s rear seat is where we started our test. You’re very well accommodated, though it’s not quite as plush as the pew in a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Two reasons: The seat squab feels as if it could use a little more padding, especially when the seat is reclined a little, and the ride, despite an air suspension that uses stereo cameras to scan the road to prepare for upcoming bumps, is still not quite as relaxed as that of the Rolls, mainly because of the discernible reaction of the low-profile 255/35 R21 Pirelli P Zero tires to small, sharp imperfections in the tarmac.

From behind the wheel, the Maybach feels pretty much like the new S-Class to drive. At 215.3 inches long and 75.6 inches wide, the Maybach takes up a lot of real estate on the road, but all its sophisticated systems shrink it around you, making it feel smaller and more maneuverable than you expect. The standard rear-steering system—the rear wheels pivot 10 degrees on the standard tires, or 4.5 degrees if you order the optional wider rear tires—endows this big limousine with remarkable low-speed agility, right-angle corners requiring little more than a quarter turn of the steering wheel. And so you know exactly what’s going on around you, there’s visual feedback from the driver-assist screen on the 3-D instrument panel, which graphically shows the road ahead and the movements of traffic around you, as well as traffic-proximity signals from the superb augmented-reality head-up display.

The air suspension and 133.7-inch wheelbase all but eliminate fore-aft pitching, and the electronics help keep the car on an even keel even when pushed through corners. You can’t argue with the laws of physics, but there’s a serenity to the way the Maybach devours any road that will have you wondering at times. With the bass speakers of the 1,750-watt, 30-speaker Burmester 4D audio system emitting low frequencies to counter road noise, you easily find yourself wafting along much faster than you think.

Price, On Sale, and More

Two versions of the car will be offered in the U.S. The Maybach S580 4Matic shares its drivetrain with the top-spec S-Class. Codenamed M176, the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 under the hood makes 496 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque from 2,000 to 4,500 rpm, with an additional 20 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque provided on demand from the 48-volt integrated starter-generator mounted between the engine and the nine-speed automatic transmission. The S580 goes on sale shortly as a 2021 model, priced at $185,950.

The Maybach S680 4Matic arrives in the first half of next year as a 2022 model, and although no official pricing has been announced, don’t expect much change from $215,000. The Maybach S680 combines for the first time the tried-and-true 6.0-liter V-12, codenamed M279, with Mercedes-Benz’s slick nine-speed automatic transmission and versatile all-wheel-drive system. Yes, the V-12 lives! No longer available in the regular S-Class, it’s now reserved solely for the Maybach. And it feels right at home.

The 9G-Tronic automatic transmission can only handle a maximum of 664 lb-ft, so the twin-turbo V-12’s torque output has been dialed back from the 738 lb-ft it made in the outgoing Maybach S650. You don’t miss it. With more ratios to work with and 603 horses available, the engine hustles this 5,200-pound limousine to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds without breaking a sweat, 0.2 second quicker than the S650. In Europe, the Maybach S680 will hit 155 mph, Mozart tinkling through the Burmester speakers and champagne cooling in the fridge. Here in the U.S., our love of all-season tires means it’s limited to a mere 130 mph.

It’s taken more than 20 years, but Mercedes-Benz has finally figured out a unique niche for the Maybach brand. The 12-cylinder Maybach S680 may not have the extraordinary presence of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, but it comes with much more high-tech amenities for less than half the price. Meanwhile, the V-8-powered S580 is bigger, roomier, and more ostentatiously opulent than a similarly priced Bentley Flying Spur. Those who want understated luxury will be perfectly happy with a loaded S-Class. But as the 60,000 customers who bought the just superseded Mercedes-Maybach will attest, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that bling.

Looks good! More details?

2022 Mercedes-Maybach S680 4Matic Specifications
PRICE $215,000 (est)
LAYOUT Front engine, AWD, four-door, four-pass sedan
ENGINE 6.0L/603-hp/664-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC V-12
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 5180 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 133.7 in
L x W x H 215.3 in x 75.6 in x 59.4 in
0-60 MPH 4.4 sec (mfr)
EPA FUEL ECON, CITY/HWY/COMB N/A
ON SALE Fall 2022


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