2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS600 review: Opulent, but not over the top
There are some folks who need more luxury than a standard Mercedes-Benz can offer. And for them, there's Mercedes-Maybach. Previously only the S-Class got this extra-extra treatment but now, Maybach is broadening its reach with the new hifalutin GLS600, as well.
This fancy SUV looks like a bright, shiny silver dollar, complete with copious amounts of chrome and an available two-tone paint job. The grille, while shiny as hell, is actually quite subdued with its simple vertical slats. Yes, they reflect the sun and glint into the eyes of the peons that dare look at you, but I honestly expected something even more ostentatious.
The silhouette is dominated by my tester's available 23-inch multi-spoke wheels. Curiously, the center caps are not self-centering as those on the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, which is a bummer, as that's a pretty easy feature to incorporate. Regardless, when I open the door the GLS lowers itself slightly and a running board made of anodized aluminum deploys for easy ingress.
Inside, the dashboard and front seats are essentially ripped from the standard GLS, but tweaked ever so slightly. My tester has gorgeous, open-pore wood; leather at every touch; ambient lighting; ridiculously comfortable seats that are heated, cooled and massaging; and heated and cooled cup holders. There's plenty of Maybach badging as well and this thing even has its own dedicated Maybach scent piped in through the air vents. I'm no bloodhound, but Mercedes describes this aroma as, "The white osmanthus blossom, floral and light, rounded off by a gentle leather note and spicy tea." So yeah, let's go with that.
But really, the highlight of the Maybach GLS' cabin is in the back. The standard GLS' third row is gone and the back seats are moved rearward for improved legroom. You can get a bench seat, but I don't know why you would, especially since the awesome four-seat configuration is a no-cost option. Also, there's a built-in champagne cooler, along with holders for your champagne flutes and cooled cup holders for your more boring beverages. Go big, y'all.
The executive chairs in back are supremely comfortable -- heated, cooled and massaging, natch, with a recline function and footrest that brings riders almost half-way to horizontal. At 5 feet, 9 inches tall, I'm able to stretch all the way out, but taller passengers might find their feet resting against the front seat. With a soft pillow for your head and lower back, this is a place to relax, for sure.
Should you want to get some work done, there are optional folding trays for each seat and a tablet computer in case you forget your laptop. You can keep everything charged with two USB-C ports as well as a 115-watt outlet and wireless charging.
Mercedes' MBUX infotainment system is here, running on a 12.3-inch screen. I usually plug in my phone to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto when navigating, but I love the virtual overlay on the in-dash navigation that shows precise arrows for turns and street addresses. The virtual assistant is also pretty good, recognizing natural language and will even tell you a joke or two. The standard 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is nifty, showing me all the information I could possibly want. There is also a standard head-up display to keep everything at eye level.
I really enjoy Mercedes' suite of advanced driver's aids and they are all standard on the Maybach. That means you've got blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist, while the adaptive cruise control works great in stop-and-go traffic. It can even slow the car down based information gathered from the in-dash navigation. The steering assist helps drivers get down the road and can even change lanes automatically provided the coast is clear. However, this is still a hands-on system and if the GLS thinks the driver is incapacitated in any way it will stop the car in its lane and unlock the doors so first responders have access.
Where the Maybach suffers, however, is in cargo space. Behind those executive seats is only 18.5 cubic feet of space and that's without the rear of the champers cooler invading the cargo area. That's a bit less than a Rolls-Royce Cullinan but way less than the 24.5 cubes in the Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography. Only the Bentley Bentayga, with 17 cubic feet behind the second row, has less.
If you needed further proof that the Maybach GLS is all about being driven, the SUV has a unique Maybach drive mode that prioritizes the comfort of rear seat passengers. This drive mode starts the GLS in second gear, mutes the throttle and turns off the stop/start for less passenger jostling.
Of course, the Maybach GLS has plenty of power under the hood, with its 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 good for 550 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque. The engine is supplemented with EQ-Boost, a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that can fill in low-rev turbo lag with an extra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The EQ-Boost system also makes the stop/start system incredibly smooth, almost imperceptible. Still, even with that hybrid tech, the Maybach GLS is a thirsty gal, earning a fuel economy rating of 15 miles per gallon in the city, 19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined.
If you want ridiculous speed and great handling, look at the 603-hp Mercedes-AMG GLS63. The Maybach is still quick, scooting to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, but it's tuned to be softer overall. The Sport mode isn't as aggressive, forcing me to slow down just a bit and not tackle a backroad with abandon. The Curve mode uses the air suspension system to kind of lean into turns, which sounds bizarre, but makes for a less roly-poly ride. There is also an Off-Road mode that can bounce the big SUV up and down to help get it unstuck from soft sand, in case your chauffeur didn't air down enough while driving on your private beach. You can also just bounce because it looks cool, too.
I can't say enough good things about the nine-speed automatic transmission. I've always been a fan of the Benz' modern gearboxes, and this one is a delight, offering up smooth, quiet shifts exactly when I want them. Similarly, the brakes are effortless, with a firm, linear feel despite the Maybach GLS' 6,000-pound footprint.
The 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS starts at $161,550 including $1,050 for destination. My tester wears the $18,500 two-tone paint job and the $5,500 23-inch wheels. The fridge is an extra $1,100 and the champagne flute holders are $800. Finally, the folding tables add $1,800 for an as-tested price of $190,000.
If you really want to feel like you're riding on a cloud, the GLS can't really touch cars like the Bentley Bentayga or Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Yeah, those SUVs cost a whole bunch more money, but if you're in the market for a super-luxurious SUV, is price really that much of a concern?
In fact, that's my one big issue with the Maybach: It doesn't go far enough. Aside from the ride quality, the Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography will get you farther off the beaten path and the Bentley Bentayga is more enjoyable to drive. I'd rather see the Maybach go even bigger in the luxury department to really offer something unique.