The Mercedes-Maybach GLS600 SUV is a standout example of luxury and excess.
When it comes to the wealthy, there's certainly no accounting for taste. Some hella-high-end companies like Rolls-Royce want us to believe we're entering a time of toned-down "post-opulence," but for every tastefully spec'd, under-the-radar Roller hitting the road today, there's another one done up in pink chrome.
That in mind, meet the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS600. This two-tone, nearly three-ton SUV clearly and unashamedly embraces its fancy side.
No, you don't have to option the GLS600 with a color-split paint scheme or these bright, 23-inch wheels; slightly less ostentatious 22s are standard, as are a wide variety of solid body colors. But considering every Maybach comes with a super-blingy front fascia and chrome B-pillar treatment, you might as well lean into it. The spokes on the 23s mimic the tapered vanes of the Maybach-specific grille, as do the metal plates capping the power-folding running boards. The Maybach is also the only version of the GLS-Class that has the small Mercedes-Benz hood ornament rather than the dinner plate-sized logo in the grille, with Maybach badges on the D-pillars and a new font for the model designation on the tailgate.
Unlike the new Maybach S580 sedan, which has a 7-inch-longer wheelbase than the standard S-Class , the GLS600 is the same length as any other GLS SUV. But since mega backseat legroom is the name of the game with a Maybach, Mercedes-Benz has jettisoned the GLS' third row of seats and moved the second row back 4.7 inches. The US-spec GLS600 comes standard with a three-across bench seat and a fold-down center armrest, but considering the palatial two-chair arrangement seen here is a no-cost option, you'd be a fool not to go this route. Can you even imagine opening the rear door of a Maybach and finding a bench seat? Send it back.
The fancy rear thrones are comfy as heck, with plush headrests, power leg rests and matching pillows. Naturally, these chairs are heated, cooled and have a bunch of massage functions. US-spec models don't get the front-seatback-mounted screens -- Mercedes says American customers prefer to be left to their own devices -- but a wireless charging pad comes standard, as does a removable 7-inch tablet in the center armrest. Oh, and don't even think of ordering a GLS600 without the champagne (or water, I guess) fridge between the seats ($1,100). The matching champagne flutes ($800) are a must, and you'll definitely want the folding tray tables ($1,050) because at some point, you'll probably have to do some work on your laptop. Stupid real world.
The Maybach GLS has two exclusive Nappa leather seating choices, as well a special Designo piano-black trim with pinstripes. Those options aside, the Maybach comes with every other comfort and convenience feature in the GLS' arsenal, including heated and cooled cup holders, a Burmester 3D surround-sound audio system and a panoramic moonroof. There's even a specific Maybach scent piped in through the air freshener (which you can mercifully turn off).
The Maybach GLS600 gets the same MBUX infotainment tech as other GLS-Class models. There's a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster with reconfigurable displays, paired with a same-size touchscreen running the main multimedia interface. Embedded navigation with augmented reality directional tech is standard, as is the nifty artificial intelligence voice assistant -- you know, the "Hey, Mercedes" lady. Sadly, this isn't the major MBUX upgrade found in the new S-Class. Guess you'll just have to buy one of those, too.
As you'd expect, the Maybach comes standard with the GLS' complete suite of driving aids, including full-speed adaptive cruise control, steering assist, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, the whole nine yards. The Maybach also has the GLS' E-Active Body Control chassis tech, which uses an onboard 48-volt mild-hybrid system and four-corner air suspension to iron out body motions (or just bounce).
The GLS600 also introduces a new Maybach setting to the built-in drive modes. This one's specifically geared towards making your rear passengers happy as clams, with lots of small tweaks designed to keep the GLS600 steady and smooth at all times. The nine-speed automatic transmission shifts less frequently and doesn't use first gear, the stop-start system is deactivated so no one feels untoward vibrations and the throttle response is flattened so there are no sudden jolts of acceleration. The air suspension automatically selects its Comfort setting and turns on the Curve Control, which lets the GLS lean into corners to reduce lateral cornering forces on the vehicle's occupants.
Needless to say, the GLS rides like a dream. You barely feel bumps. You barely feel turns. If you spill your champagne while being chauffeured in Maybach mode, you should probably just fire your driver, because it certainly wasn't the vehicle's fault. Sure, a few small irritations make their way through the chassis, but what do you expect with 23-inch wheels and 285/40 front and 325/35 rear tires? Maybach mode in the GLS600 is so nice that I actually fell asleep for a few minutes while being driven around Los Angeles on a test loop (and it wasn't even super early in the morning!).
Obviously, the GLS600's mission is to be smoother than the Grammy Award-winning 1999 hit Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20. And even without the tricks of the Maybach drive mode, this GLS is perfectly set up to deliver on that core mission. The steering is nicely weighted and rewards gentle inputs, and the brakes are strong but easy to modulate.
The Maybach's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is a massaged version of the engine used in the GLS580, paired with the aforementioned 48-volt EQ-Boost mild-hybrid tech. The GLS600 packs 550 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque -- increases of 67 hp and 22 lb.-ft. over the GLS580 -- with an additional 21 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of supplemental oomph available from the EQ-Boost system. 4Matic all-wheel drive is standard and Mercedes says the Maybach GLS600 can accelerate to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds -- 0.4-second quicker than the GLS580. Not that 0-to-60 runs really matter here.
Mercedes-Benz isn't planning to offer a V12-powered GLS like it does with the current Maybach S-Class. And since Maybach is technically a sub-brand of Mercedes-Benz in addition to AMG, there won't be any sort of Maybach-AMG version, either. That'd defeat the purpose of this thing, anyway.
The GLS600 competes with other top-dollar luxury SUVs like the Bentley Bentayga , Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography and even the Rolls-Royce Cullinan -- and interestingly, it's the least-expensive SUV of the group by some margin. At $161,550 including $1,050 for destination, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS undercuts the base price of all three, with the Land Rover coming in closest at roughly $180,000. Load a GLS up with two-tone paint, 23-inch wheels and all the interior options and you're looking at roughly $190,000. Mercedes officials tell me you can't load one of these up over the $200,000 mark. That said, the GLS lacks the nearly endless personalization possibilities that come with buying a Bentley or Rolls-Royce, so if you're all about monogrammed floor mats, well, the Maybach might not be for you.
Being the bargain of the bunch isn't all that important when you're talking about a six-figure luxury SUV, I suppose, but the Maybach's appeal extends well beyond its price tag. This model's back seats are nicer than what you'll get in a Bentayga or Range Rover, and the Maybach has far better infotainment and driver-assistance tech than anything else in its class. Of course, you can get at least 75% of this experience with a fully loaded GLS580, all of which kind of makes the Maybach feel slightly less special. But that last 25% is all the over-the-top stuff that really makes the GLS600 stand out. And for a lot of ultraluxury customers, standing out is all that matters.