The Mercedes-Maybach S650 is the silliest car I've driven all year — but I can't argue with its incredible interior luxury
- I drove a Mercedes-Maybach S650, a super-luxury sedan that was crammed with high-ended features.
- The bling is impressive and impressively expensive, but the Maybach is still a stretched S-Class.
- A stretched S-Class with a 621-horsepower V12 engine, however.
- The Maybach is rather silly, but there's no question is delivers an ultra-premium passenger experience.
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The Mercedes-Maybach S650 is, alongside the Bentley Bentayga, one of the two most exasperating vehicles I've ever driven. The Bentayga is a massively overpriced Audi with a Bentley front end and engine, while the Maybach S650 is a massively overpriced S-Class Mercedes with a hulking V12 motor and a glorious interior.
On balance, the Bentley remains the most cynical attempt to extract money from the well-heeled and brand-conscious buyers I've ever experienced, while the Maybach is a tad more virtuous because it's merely silly. The Bentagya filled me with rage, while the Maybach just made me grin and shake my head at the chutzpah.
The Maybach treatment adds over $25,000 (R412,000) to the S-Class's price tag, and what you get for the cost of a used A220 is gobs and gobs of luxe. I experienced this firsthand when Mercedes loaned me a 2020 Maybach S650, which stickered at $224,125 (R3.8 million), up from a base of $202,550.
How did we get here? Well, Maybach was a standalone nameplate from the early 2000s until 2013, when a lack of affluent consumer interest led Mercedes parent Daimler to pull the plug. Maybach returned a few years ago, this time as a designation, akin to Mercedes-AMG, the carmaker's high-performance sub-marque.
Despite the V12, I didn't find the Maybach S650 any more interesting to drive than other Mercedes, with which I've been generally impressed. So I could move on to wallowing in the throwback appointments that strive to put the Maybach in a league with Bentley's saloons and Rolls-Royce's road-going yachts.
Here's a rundown of all the bling:
As silly as I thought the Mercedes-Maybach S650 was, the "designo" Manufaktur Deep Green colour scheme was anything but. It was simply gorgeous.
Mercedes-Maybach is to haute-luxe what Mercedes-AMG is to high performance. This is an S-Class sedan, stretched to limo dimensions, with all the appointments turned up to 11.
The S-Class is Mercedes' sedan flagship. I'm not sure what that makes the Maybach. Maybe a yacht? The designers didn't hold back on the chrome trim.
The Maybach badging isn't overdone. The name dates to the dawn of the 20th century, when the auto industry was full of small, prestigious coach-builders and makers of bespoke motorcars.
Founder Wilhelm Maybach was responsible for the development of the internal-combustion engine, and a key figure in Germany's creation of the automobile, as well as its contributions to aviation.
Unlike other Mercedes, this Maybach gets just that designation on the home grille trim and ...
... the tri-star hood ornament stands alone, minus the badge found ion other models.
Those Maybach wheels are 20-inchers, forged, and $3,900. You might also notice the V12 call-out.
Behold! The mighty 12-banger! It's a twin-turbocharged mill, making 621 horsepower. Combined city-highway fuel economy is 16 mpg, and the power is sent through a seven-speed automatic transmission. This is one mighty yet smooth motor.
Before we get to the lush interior, let's consider the cargo hold. It's not huge.
That's bad if you travel with a steamer trunk, but good if you want to max out the rear seats' legroom.
You actually get a lot for your $202,000, prior to the options list: wireless charging, a rear sunshade, ambient interior lighting, and a host of driver-assist and safety features.
The Mercedes instrument cluster is an analog-digital affair, and the screen joins with the infotainment layout to dominate the dashboard.
Maybach nods are scattered through the cabin. That's a Nappa leather steering wheel, by the way.
Mercedes' infotainment system is pretty good, responsive but with a learning curve.
It's controlled using this touchpad-knob-and-buttons command center. Bluetooth device pairing, USB ports, and GPS navigation are present, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
A curved bank of buttons allows you to shift through the functions.
The analog clock sits in a sea of rich, lined wood trim.
The trim package adds $1,300 to the price.
It really is lovely, and it pairs beautifully with the diamond-stitched "Savannah" leather.
The Burmester premium audio system is among the finest available in the industry. It creates an extremely detailed, robust soundscape that's magnificent for opera and jazz, but does fine with popular forms of music.
These pillar-mounted speakers extend and retract. The setup is actually rolled into the base price and won't be unfamiliar to S-Class owners. There's a CD player in the glove compartment.
Cupholders! But nicely concealed. And, yes, a smoking package, complete with a retractable ashtray.
These are some of the most beautifully-made door-lock buttons I've ever seen.
I often considered the "chauffeur's view" while I drove the Maybach around.
The rear seats are a world of their own, as they should be in a plush limo of this caliber.
The designo floor-mats are a plus-$600 choice, and they get the Maybach logo.
Legroom is spectacular, and the seats are effectively recliners, heated, with cupholder coolers.
Rear passengers have their own climate-control center.
There's also a seat-back entertainment system.
There's a remote control ...
... And two pairs of wireless headphones, each with its own case.
Tray tables are stowed in the compartment between the seats, à la business or first-class seat.
The tray can be unfolded to offer some serious real estate.
There are also pillows. Maybach pillows.
And they can be moved around, sofa-style.
The pillowed headrests are fixed, and they add $300. In total, the Maybach had more than $22,000 in extras, with the top two being the exterior paint and the snazzy wheels.
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