Mercedes. Maybach S600 meets ’59 W180 220S

Mercedes Engine Power Torque 0-100kph Top speed Weight Basic price
Maybach S600 V12, 5980cc 530bhp @ 4900-5300rpm 830Nm (612lb ft) @ 1900-4000rpm 5.0secs 250kph 2449kg (216bhp/ton) $205,300
W180 220S (1959) Inline 6cyl, 2195cc 106bhp @ 5200rpm 172Nm (127lb ft) @ 3500rpm 14.5secs 160kph 1350kg (79bhp/ton) $4,500

It’s a completely different animal, the Maybach. While the 220S boasts the chrome detailing down the doors, a one-piece front bumper and indicator bulbs on the fenders, and the flowing wheel arches that begat the design its famous nickname – the ‘Ponton’, German for ‘pontoon’ – the S600 is sleek and almost aggressive, the S-Class underpinnings obvious past some Maybach badges and enormous – and rather ghastly, I must say – 22in alloy wheels. Don’t mistake this for ‘just’ an equipment line though, for not only is the Mercedes-Maybach S600 one of six variants introduced since the S-Class made its 2013 debut, it’s also Mercedes’ second sub-brand alongside AMG, one designed to produce ‘a new benchmark for exclusivity’. See if you can process that: Mercedes has taken one of the most luxurious limousines on the planet, and made it better…

Comfort and civility therefore are extraordinary. The wheelbase has been extended to offer yet more cabin space, the rear seats now set back behind the C-pillar for ‘added privacy’. There’s a special ‘chauffeur mode’ that tilts the front passenger seat forward completely should the rear passenger wish to stretch out completely: it rather knackers my view of the passenger-side wing mirror but does mean my passenger can use the table and ‘First Class centre console’ without fear of jamming an elbow. Everything is either leather or high quality lacquered wood, including the steering wheel, which boasts an ornate design with only two arms. Everything is opulent and luxurious. Everything is S-Class but with – somehow – an added sense of refinery, as I find when the V12 is powered into life and we begin our test route again.

Mercedes-Maybach S600 meets Mercedes W180 220S crankandpiston-06

The suspension wafts so magnificently over everything that it’s easy to forget just how powerful that enormous 6-litre biturbo V12 up front really is: even with two tonnes to shift, there’s no road noise, no wind noise, and very little engine noise to contend with in, what Mercedes calls, the world’s quietest production saloon, a point I prove my putting the hammer down a little more. The engine, though a hefty brute, accelerates so progressively yet so flawlessly that comfort is not affected, although given the 530bhp and 612lb ft of torque potential, there’s certainly plenty of potential lingering beneath the civility, as I find out when I point the Maybach’s nose at a corner.

I’m surprised. Really, genuinely surprised. I had half expected the Maybach to hit every turn like a runaway juggernaut, my impressions at the wheel one of furious arm waving and barely controlled hysteria. Turns out though that, despite the two-arm steering wheel proving a little unusual to get used to, that those enormous wheels offer an astonishing amount of grip, and while the supple nature of the suspension prioritises a smooth ride quality, there’s just enough tautness to the operation to offer an impressive amount of balance through the turns. There’s still body roll to contend with and the threat of understeer is always present, but also an astonishing amount of manoeuvrability, more so than any self-respecting $170K(ish) luxury limo has any right to offer. All this with my seat massager working overtime – ‘fast and vigorously’ – on my shoulder blades.

Mercedes-Maybach S600 meets Mercedes W180 220S crankandpiston-16

On a straight stretch my curiosity gets the better of me, and I select Sport suspension and throttle response, give the paddle shifter a tap, and nail the right pedal, Ahmad – reclining quite happily in the back – offering no objections. I have yet to understand why manufacturers feel the need to include a Sport button on a luxury limousine designed to flow through the corners rather than attack them with vitriolic fury (it’s akin to putting a cupholder in a Caterham). While the acceleration increases more insistently than it did moments ago, it’s a moderate change, ditto the suspension geometry, the benefits of both far outweighed by the added comfort of not using them at all. Curiosity sated, the ‘Sport’ experiment is brought to a swift end.

“Including a Sport button on a luxury limousine is akin to putting a cupholder in a Caterham”

Fortunately it hasn’t sullied the Maybach experience – I’m convinced Ahmad has fallen asleep on his recliner – and while it’s difficult to see exactly how Mercedes could go about improving the S-Class civility (give or take a sizable price hike), the results speak for themselves. Scour the finest Bentley and Rolls-Royce alike has to offer and you probably still couldn’t find a better example of luxurious driving than this, the superb build and ride quality encouraged by remarkably comfortable seats, bags upon bags of room, and carpets so decadent they should come with a health warning. Understandably Ahmad hasn’t quite given up on his own ’59 220S, nor would I have expected him too: it is a remarkable example of post war build quality and remains a prominent head turner to this day. And while the looks and the interior charm of the Ponton are difficult to ignore, the quality in its 21st century counterpart is beyond anything we could reasonably have imagined, the like of which – like the W180 before it – it may take some time to see again.

Technical specifications available on page 3

HIGH RES downloadable wallpapers available HERE

Categories: Editor’s Picks,Road


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