2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 review: Your chauffeur will appreciate the Maybach S600's semi-autonomous driving features
Take Mercedes-Benz's already uber-luxurious S550 flagship and then cram in more... well... everything and you'll be left standing curbside with the new Mercedes-Maybach S600. It's longer, more powerful, and most importantly, perhaps the most opulent vehicle to wear the three-pointed star.
The V-12 powered drive
The standard S-Class' turbo V-8 is replaced with a 6.0-liter biturbo V-12 engine during the transformation from Mercedes-Benz to Mercedes-Maybach. Output is stated at 523 horsepower and 612 effortless pound-feet of torque. The larger engine, however, is mated to the same seven-speed automatic transmission that still sends the torque exclusively to the rear wheels.
Direct injection and an Eco Stop-Start anti-idling system help the S600 achieve an EPA estimated 13 city mpg and 20 highway mpg. That's not bad for a land yacht that measures over 17 feet from bumper to bumper, but not good enough to avoid getting slapped with a $1,700 Gas Guzzler Tax before the bottom line.
The V-12's acceleration is effortless and smooth once under way. Around town, the buttery engine is nearly inaudible from the cabin. When stretching its legs, the V-12 delivers a nearly constant surge of torque, interrupted only for the briefest moments when the seven-speed transmission changes ratios. The engine never feels taxed or strained, but sometimes it seems like it won't be rushed. Off the line, there's an odd hesitation between pedal tip-in and the Maybach sluggishly responding moments later. This is particularly annoying when combined with the lag generated by the stop-start system. It's as if Mercedes has engineered a surly valet into the limousine's programming that will simply not be rushed, however it's more likely that this overly smooth start has into the Maybach S600's programming to keep the ride smooth for the VIPs in the back seats.
Perhaps the feature that works hardest to keep the Mercedes-Maybach's ride smooth is the Magic Body Control air suspension. The dampers soak up bumps with immense poise and, along with the well-insulated chassis, almost completely smoothes out small imperfections in the road such as cracks and unfinished pavement. The system also offers a bit of ride-height adjustment that can raise the body over larger bumps and obstructions, and even self-levels to keep the chassis as flat as the laws of physics will allow during hard cornering.
Those pampered driven
Driving a Mercedes-Maybach S600 is an interesting experience, but this is a car for those who prefer to be driven. Yes, the front buckets feature heated and ventilated surfaces, active bolsters that cradle the occupant during cornering, and multiple customizable massage programs. But the two power adjustable back seats are even more appealing.
Since I couldn't drive and be driven at the same time, I decided to spend my time with the Maybach S600 shuttling my friends around the San Francisco Bay Area, sort of like an impromptu Uber driver, so that the second row didn't go to waste. What followed was a whole lot of "Oh my god, these seats!" and "This carpet is nicer than what's in my apartment!"
Our example was equipped with the optional $1,950 Executive Rear Seat PLUS package which basically transforms the S-Class rear seat into first-class airline seating. A large center console divides the rear bench into a pair of power-adjustable, reclining bucket seats and hides heated and cooled cupholders and a pair of fold-out tables to hold the occupants' laptops, papers, or glasses of champagne. (We also had an optional $1,100 refrigerator box that tucks between those seats that could keep the bubbly chilled.) The rear seats feature fold-out ottomans and a pair of remote controls to access the standard rear seat entertainment screens permanently mounted on the front seats' backs.
While reclined, rear seat passengers can enjoy a clear view of the sky through the panoramic glass roof or electro-chromatically dim skylight at the touch of a button when the $4,950 Magic Sky Control option is present. That one got a lot of "oohs" and "aahs" and "How the heck did you do that?!" Of course, the skylight, rear side, and backlight can also be completely obscured with motorized fabric shades when darkness or privacy is desired.
All around the cabin, the Mercedes-Maybach features full-LED interior lighting with color customizable ambient light themes that could change from blue to red to white at the touch of a button and adjust in intensity. Even our noses were treated thanks to a $115 cabin atomizer fragrance option that fills the cabin air with the slightest hint of perfume.
COMAND infotainment with touchpad controller
Front and center the driver and front seat passenger face not one, but two 12.3-inch ultra-wide displays on the dashboard. One is used to display the digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver and the other displays infotainment, navigation, and other data. The driver and passenger can share that center screen thanks to a $710 SplitView option that uses a lenticular lens and an interlaced interface to display two different images on the same screen viewable from two different angles. So, the driver can be viewing a full-screen map for navigation while the front passenger fiddles with the radio or watches a video source on the same 12.3 inch screen.
The driver can also monitor certain parts of the car's operation, such as the speed and navigation information, without looking away from the road thanks to Mercedes-Benz's inclusion of a head-up display.
The Comand infotainment system is controlled by Mercedes-Benz's new Touchpad controller that builds on the standard Comand physical control knob with a glossy black touchpad that floats just above it. Users can either twist and push the knob to move around the interface or swipe and tap on the touchpad. On the address entry screen, the touchpad can also be used to scrawl letters for handwriting recognition.
On one hand, the choice of how to interact with the Comand interface is nice. On the other hand, things can get very confusing very quickly once the car is in motion and I was never really sure if I should be tapping or twisting or swiping. That the Comand software is a bit confusing with cluttered interface that features top and bottom menu bars that are constantly appearing and disappearing only exacerbates the steep learning curve. I've spent many hours behind the wheels of various Mercedes-Benz vehicles, so I quickly got the hang of it, but my passengers were frustrated to the point simply abstaining from even simple tasks like choosing a satellite radio station.
I should note that, as a vehicle that many owners will buy to be chauffeured in, the Mercedes-Benz Comand system can be set up to allow full infotainment control from the rear seats via a pair of included remote controls. Backseat drivers can input destinations, choose audio and video sources, and control many vehicle and climate functions while their driver focuses on the driving.
All passengers are treated to the Mercedes-Maybach S600's standard Burmester audiophile grade surround sound system. This rig looks as good as it sounds with laser cut metal grilles on its 23 speakers cabin speakers, which includes four motorized and illuminated tweeters that rotate into position when the system powers up and a unique and conspicuous ceiling mounted surround speaker pod that ensures that back seat passengers get the best possible listening experience. A 400-watt trunk-mounted subwoofer bumps the total driver count up to 24 and total system amplification to 1,540 watts.
Semi-autonomous driving for your driver
Being, at its core, a fully loaded Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Mercedes-Maybach S600 rolls out with practically all of the automaker's driver aid technologies in its "standard features" column.
The S600 features active blind spot monitoring that can steer the car back into its lane if your driver attempts to merge into an occupied lane. There's also Mercedes' Distronic Plus with steering-assist system, an semi-autonomous driving package that combines full-range adaptive cruise control with an active lane departure prevention system to practically auto-pilot the Maybach in heavy, boring traffic. Of course, the driver still needs to keep a hand on the wheel and pay attention. Standard driver alertness monitoring will also let you know when Jeeves, Geoffrey or whatever your driver's name is is feeling drowsy and could use a break.
Mercedes' poorly documented active Park Assist feature is also standard on the S600 and can automatically search for and steer the large sedan into a parallel parking spot while the driver controls the accelerator and brakes. That's right, not even your chauffeur has to bother with negotiating a tight curbside drop-off. However, this isn't my favorite implementation of this technology. Ford, Chrysler and Volkswagen's active-parking systems feature dedicated buttons to initiate parking and better onscreen instructions. Mercedes' system doesn't offer much of a visual indicator that the system is working (I had to watch a YouTube video on my phone to even figure out how the system worked), and I found that it took too much trial and error to get the Park Assist prompt to decide to automatically appear in the digital instrument cluster. Once it did appear, I found that the system did a good enough job of guiding the long Maybach into a spot without marring the paint, but on more than one occasion the system guided the rear tire into the curb -- which is unacceptable and nerve-racking when you're rolling on $3,900 20-inch Maybach Exclusive forged wheels.
A standard surround-view camera gives a pretty good view of the area around and behind the sedan should you decide to do you own parking. Standard Full-LED headlamps with active steering and automatic high beams illuminate the night while a standard forward night vision camera extends the driver's vision. Personally, I find that night vision is a bit too gimmicky to be useful -- I'd rather be looking out of the windshield when driving at night than staring at the infrared video feed in the digital instrument cluster -- but it somehow seems like a good fit for the Maybach's kitchen sink approach to gee-whiz features.
The Mercedes-Maybach S600 starts at $189,350 in the US. That is either an obscene price when you consider that a fully-loaded, all options checked Mercedes-Benz S550 4.7L V8 is nearly $40,000 less or a bargain when you consider that a Bentley Mulsanne starts at over $300,000. In the UK and Australian markets, the S600 starts at an entirely reasonable £165,700 and AU$449,000, respectively. The list of available options and features isn't much different to the standard S-class, only that the Maybach includes so much more in its base price. With the aforementioned options, gas guzzler tax and a $925 destination charge, our 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 Sedan cruises at an as-tested price of $204,700.