2021 Mercedes-Maybach S680

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Which massage program? This is the first important choice to be made after settling into the rear seat of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. The big limo will convey me to my hotel, a journey of 30 minutes or so.

It’s been a long and tiring day of travelling, talking and testing, and my back could definitely use a little love. On the large touchscreen fixed to the front passenger seat ahead I tap the Energising Comfort icon. Of the six massage options offered Comfort looks like the best. It’s a spa-style hot-stone relaxation program, which alternates between massaging shoulders and back.

With the seat’s built-in air bladders inflating and deflating in a soothing rhythm and the concealed heating mat warming my spine, I recline the backrest and let my head sink into the softness of the headrest’s down-filled cushion.

This journey will be a taste of the kind of comfort normally available to only the very wealthy. And it makes perfect sense to ride in the rear instead of driving …

Think of the Mercedes-Maybach as a German-flavoured alternative to a Rolls-Royce and you’ve got the picture. Just like the Brit brand – owned since 2003 by BMW, by the way – this ultimate S-Class is designed for those who can afford to employ a chauffeur.

Compared to the long-wheelbase version of the plain Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is 18 cm longer and its silhouette features an additional side window. All of the extra length is devoted to increased space for the rear-seat passengers.

Though little known outside car-nerd circles, Maybach is a name with a long and varied history. More than a century ago engineer Wilhelm Maybach was the right-hand man of Gottlieb Daimler, the early car maker who gave his name to the company that today owns Mercedes-Benz. Maybach left Daimler in 1907 and two years later started his own business.

Maybach built engines for World War I Zeppelin airships, luxury cars from the 1920s to the 1940s, and, perhaps most famously, engines for most of Germany’s World War II tanks. The name was acquired by Daimler-Benz in 1960, and Maybach was launched as a stand-alone ultra-luxury car brand in 2002. The move was a flop, and in 2015 it became, as Mercedes-Maybach, a mere sub-brand.

Despite Maybach’s reduced status, Mercedes-Benz does strive to make the cars distinctive. The car I’m riding in wears one of 10 two-tone colour combinations offered, but this is optional. The paint is applied by hand and the job takes up to two weeks, which explains why in Europe it adds around $23,000 to the price.

There are plenty of other ultra-luxury options, including powered rear doors that can be opened remotely and closed with a gesture by the rear-seat passenger.

Looking around, I notice that this car seems to have almost every extra, except one … the $6000 pair of silver-plated champagne goblets. No problem. A hotel room minibar beer is more my style, and budget, anyway.

Even lacking the final bubbly touch, the rear of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is like riding in the best seat of a luxuriously fitted out executive jet … but quieter and likely smoother. The stunningly silent cabin features active noise-cancellation tech and the air-spring suspension simply exterminates road bumps.

Less obvious are the safety features. This limousine gets basically every advanced safety system Mercedes-Benz has ever invented. It also comes with the very latest version of the company’s MBUX infotainment tech, though extending its full features to the rear seat occupants add more cost.

The car I’m in has the smaller Mercedes-Maybach S-Class engine, a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 with mild-hybrid tech. It’s the budget buy; opting for the non-hybrid twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12 engine adds – in Europe – $83,000 to the price tag. The big engine will be the only option in Australia when it arrive later this year, where prices start at $565,800.

Still, I can’t hear my driver complaining. The Maybach is surely very much like a top-of-the-range S-Class to drive, and I know from experience that the S580 is not a bad steer for a heavyweight limousine.

And that extensive options list includes tech to reduce chauffeur suffering, like a rear-wheel steering system to helpfully tighten the turning circle of this very long limo and super-smart headlights that can project guidelines or warning symbols onto the road surface.

Night is falling by the time we reach the hotel. When the car comes to a halt my driver presses a button and the very large and undoubtedly heavy rear door beside me swings silently open. This taste of the mega-rich lifestyle has come to an end.

Money, it’s said, can’t buy everything … but now I know exactly what kind of extreme rear-seat car comfort it can get you.


Price: $565,800

Safety: Not rated by ANCAP

Engine: 6.0-litre V12 twin-turbo; 463kW/900Nm

Transmission: 9-speed auto; AWD

Thirst: 14.1L/100km (est)

0-100km/h: 4.5 secs


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