When the call came from Maybach parent company Mercedes-Benz that my several year long wait to drive a Maybach would come to an end, my mind swirled with thoughts. After all, the Maybach brand launched in 2003 with great fanfare, and was the car the rich and famous wanted to be seen in. Rappers from Jay-Z to T.I. featured the luxocruisers in videos, and pro athletes added them to their stables of high-end whips.
But that was then and this is now, and the shine on the Maybach brand has tarnished a bit. Why? Well, a shaky economy doesn’t help matters much, but the real reason is the rise of competitors like Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Lexus, Audi, BMW and Mercedes’ own fleet of super-luxurious sedans. The high-end market has also seen a resurgence of storied brands like Aston Martin and Maserati, whose coupes and sedans offer Beverly Hills exclusivity at Santa Barbara prices. Take for example the Maserati Quattroporte, bespoke with fine Italian leathers and wood veneers; powered by a Ferrari designed V8, and underpinned with a high-tech suspension Porsche would be proud of, all for about $115,000.
So where did that leave Maybach? A bit out in the cold. So would my wait to drive this legendary marque be worth the wait?
That question was partially answered when I learned that my tester would be the driver-oriented 57 S. Maybach sedans come in two sizes, the limo-length 62 (6.2 meters) and the shorter 57 (5.7 meters). Where the Maybach 62 is about the experience of being driven, the 57 is about taking the wheel yourself. Some may think that the 57 Series, with its shorter wheelbase and lower price, is one step down the rungs of the Maybach status ladder. But for me, The 57 is Maybach. The original Maybachs produced from 1921-40 were cars that did not sacrifice luxury or performance, and were the pinnacle of pre-war technology from Germany. The 57 models stay close to these roots.
The base 57 is quite a capable performer, with a 5.5-liter V12 providing authoritative propulsion. But the 57 S takes it to the next level. Under the elongated 57 S hood, you’ll find a very potent Maybach Type 12 engine. This 6.0-liter, 12 cylinder monster comes standard with twin turbochargers and intercoolers, and sophisticated engine management software. The Type 12 produces 604 horsepower and an incredible 738 pound-feet of torque.
The feeling of acceleration in the 57 S is jaw dropping. When the twin turbochargers spool up to full boost and the 6,100 pound 57 S hurtles forward, the feeling is that of a freight train with rocket boosters. This car is very, very fast.
And all of this impressive forward motion is accomplished without cacophony from under the hood. The 57 S, as are all Maybachs, is supremely quiet. Road manners are supple, yet the big 57 S handles like a much smaller performance sedan. The 57 S rides on gorgeous 20” aluminum alloy wheels, and ride motions are controlled by an “Airmatic” dual-control air suspension.
Inside, passengers are treated like royalty. Grand Nappa leather is everywhere, covering the seats, doors, steering wheel and dashboard. The suede-like material Alcantara covers the headliner, roof pillars and sunvisors. The upper center console features a 6.5 inch LCD COMAND system that integrates navigation, radio, CD player and rear cabin controls. When you need to communicate with commoners, there’s an integrated cell phone up front and Bluetooth connector and additional cell phone in the rear. To coddle wealthy buns, the 57 S comes standard with multicontour heated seats with massage function. Bose handles the required premium audio, outfitting the car with a 600 watt, 21 speaker “Surround Everywhere” system. A lifetime subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio is standard.
Rear seat passengers are treated to heated, massaging seats that recline, though 57 models lack the executive jet lounge seats that made big brother 62 so famous. Rear seat entertainment comes via a separate system, with a DVD system and dual 9.5-inch headrest mount monitors, six disc CD changer and wireless headphones. A mini fridge resides between the rear seats. Special champagne flutes have their own special compartment.
And the 57 S is as safe as it is opulent. Remember, Maybach is the premium luxury brand of Mercedes-Benz, long a leader in automotive safety.
Which brings us to the final variable of the Maybach equation – price. At $380,000 base and $403,000 as tested, purchasing a Maybach is literally an “if you have to ask about price…” experience. Should you choose to individualize your Maybach, a full bespoke program is available. Only your wallet can limit your choices to personally outfit your Maybach.
If you are of the means to own such an expensive automobile, you should certainly consider Maybach’s 57 S. It accomplishes in grand style the main goal set out for Maybach Motorenbau when first conceived – ultimate performance with ultimate luxury.