2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class is ultra-luxury done right
The top-of-the-line S-Class has features and tech you won't even find in a Bentley or Rolls-Royce.
Steven EwingFormer managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class truly raises the bar for full-size luxury sedans. So where do you go from there? Step on up to the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, which competes in a stratospheric segment alongside hifalutin four-doors such as the
Bentley Flying Spur
. Making its debut Wednesday, the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S580 takes the standard S-Class and seriously ups the fancy factor. That makes for a truly grandiose S-Class, and in a number of ways, it surpasses Bentley and Rolls-Royce, too.
I had the chance to check out the new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class in Malibu, California earlier this month, and man, this thing has serious presence. Love it or hate it, the two-tone gold-over-maroon paint job makes a statement right off the bat, as do the Maybach-signature 20-inch chrome dish wheels, which are standard, thank god. A range of two-tone and solid-color paint options are available, and you can also select 19- or 21-inch wheels if you're into that sort of thing, but I'm all about the car exactly as it's spec'd here. Other oligarchs might disagree, but whatever. This one's mine.
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class raises the bar for luxury sedans
Compared to a standard S-Class, the Maybach is 7 inches longer. The Maybach-specific front end treatment includes a 27-slat grille as well as polished trim around the lower air vents. The long hood has a chrome strip running down the middle, which I'll admit looks sort of weird and dare I say tacky at first glance, but it actually has a pronounced arc that you can see from inside the car and, on second glance, is great. The C-pillars have Maybach logos and, of course, they light up. Around back, there's a full-width strip of chrome that caps off the taillights, separating a two-tone paint job.
The LED headlights and intricate taillights carry over from the standard S-Class, as do the flush-mounted electronic door handles, which automatically pop out as you approach. Speaking of which, there's a way to electronically open the rear doors just by using the key fob, because only plebes grab their own handles. Those powered doors are operated by a switch inside the car, too, and it's much more intuitive to operate than the so-called "effortless doors" on the Rolls-Royce Ghost. (What a world.)
Indeed, lovely as it is, you aren't buying the Maybach for its exterior. No, you're going big because the Maybach goes big, packing a level of luxury and refinement that's genuinely above and beyond, even by S-Class standards. Compared to the base Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Maybach S580 has a unique leather headliner, open-pore wood with pinstripes all throughout the cabin (including between and behind the rear seats), new Nappa leather colors and some rose gold accents that'll match your new iPhone. The metal pedals have Maybach logos and there's a Maybach-specific scent for the S-Class' air freshener. There are a bunch of other neat details, like tiny screens for the rear quarter windows that automatically deploy with the main sunshades, not to mention a whole bunch of extra ambient lighting, including light strips integrated in the headliner and front seatbacks.
There isn't a bad seat in the house, though I'm definitely partial to the rear -- assuming you spec the Executive Rear Seat Plus package which, for some weird reason, isn't standard. This is how you get the two individual seats with a fixed console between them, as well as plush matching pillows. The seats themselves can recline and have leg- and footrests, and there are full-body-length massage programs, as well as heating and cooling. Between the seats, the console comes with folding tables, temperature-controlled cup holders, two USB ports, two HDMI ports and a wireless phone charger. Naturally, you can also order a refrigerator to keep your champagne cold, and what better way to sip that bubbly than out of Maybach-specific silver flutes that come with specially designed holders that lock the glasses into place. (Don't pull some amateur-hour move and spill your Veuve.)
If you don't spring for the mega-fancy rear-seat setup, you get a three-across bench with a large, fold-down console, like the normal S-Class. However, regardless of seating arrangement, every Maybach will come with Mercedes' new rear passenger airbag, where a big, almost tent-like airbag deploys out of the front seatbacks, protecting the rear passengers in the event of a crash.
Every Maybach S580 will have the MBUX rear seat entertainment system, with two screens mounted to the front seats and an additional, removable tablet in the center console -- just like on the regular S-Class. Riders will be able to stay connected with standard onboard Wi-Fi, and use the built-in MBUX software to send things like radio stations or navigation directions to the main, 12.8-inch OLED display up front.
All the awesome new tech available in the 2021 S-Class comes standard in the Maybach, including the Burmester 4D surround sound system, the next-generation MBUX interface, the augmented reality head-up display and the reconfigurable 3D instrument cluster. All the best safety tech is on hand, too, including adaptive cruise control with route-based speed adaptation, active steering assist, lane-change assist, automatic emergency braking with cross-traffic assist, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, car-to-X communication software, parking assist and Mercedes' Pre-Safe Impulse Side tech that automatically moves you away from the doors during a collision. That's not all, of course. If it's standard on the S-Class, it's standard on the Maybach.
The current Mercedes-Maybach S-Class can be had with V8 or V12 power, but the 2021 model will launch with just one engine. The Maybach S580 will be powered by Mercedes' excellent 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with EQ-Boost mild-hybrid technology. On its own, the V8 produces 496 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, but the 48-volt EQ-Boost starter-generator can add 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of supplemental oomph as needed. The mild-hybrid system also smooths out the operation of the stop-start system and can shut off the engine while coasting for better efficiency (this is often referred to as "sailing"). That power gets sent through a nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive is standard.
If you're bummed about the lack of a V12, well, don't be. This V8 engine is great, with more than enough power for this big luxury barge. Consider this: Bentley offers the Flying Spur with 8- and 12-cylinder options, and the V8 is totally the way to go. I'm sure the Maybach S-Class will be a similar story. And if you simply have to have a V12 for bragging rights, don't worry, I'm told one is on the way.
Mercedes' Airmatic adaptive air suspension is standard, and depending on what wheels you get, the Maybach S-Class has either 4.5 degrees or 10 degrees of rear-axle steering. There's a new Maybach drive mode, too, which actually makes the ride even plusher than the standard Comfort setting, and deactivates the stop-start system so passengers don't have to worry about feeling any little shudders. Serenity now!
I'm sure there's a bunch of stuff I'm missing, but that's because the list of features is way, way too long to list. Not only is the Maybach S-Class every bit as comfortable and well-appointed as its key competitors, the Bentley Flying Spur and Rolls-Royce Ghost, it has better onboard tech and a lot more standard safety equipment. No, it doesn't have a Flying B on the nose or the Ghost's cool Starlight Headliner. But the Maybach should also be less expensive than these competitors while offering lots more kit and caboodle.
How expensive, exactly? That remains to be seen. The current Mercedes-Maybach S-Class starts around $175,000 with the V8 engine, but I'd expect this one to fall closer to $200K considering how much more stuff you get standard. The 2021 S-Class will arrive in the US early next year, and this Maybach version should follow a few months later. Get ready for the good life.