When I was a kid, I remember witnessing a restaurant opening that had all the trappings of the glitterati, especially the long queue of chauffeured vehicles waiting to deposit VIPs onto the red carpet. But what I recall the most was how obnoxious those limousines looked, most of them stretched Hummer H2s and Cadillac Escalades.
The era’s most desirable SUVs made one car stand out, paradoxically enough. As the only sedan in the group – based on a Lincoln Town Car that was long in the tooth even back in 2002 – the limo looked established, rather than trendy.
The experience is cemented in my mind two decades later as my boyfriend and I drive up PCH in a 2022 Mercedes-Maybach S580, the distant descendant of the ultra-luxury cars designed in the ‘20s by engineer Wilhelm Maybach. Around us are the rides that are all too common in Malibu these days. The latest Escalade dots the road, as do the BMW X5, Bentley Bentayga, and Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Yet once we get to our destination and head onto the restaurant patio for our own miniature red carpet moment, we notice it’s the Maybach that has folks gathering in the parking lot. Good.
– Exterior Color: Nautical Blue / Cirrus Silver
– Interior Color: Silver Grey / Black
– Wheel Size: 20 Inches
Praise Wilhelm, does the Maybach look great. It gets a 7.1-inch stretch between the wheels compared to the regular S-Class, with a long rear door and peekaboo opera windows in the pillars. With a chrome rib running down the center of the hood, a standard set of 20-inch monoblock forged wheels, and one of the most gorgeous paint finishes I’ve ever seen, the elongated S580 exudes attention to detail. And it better, considering the two-tone scheme is a $14,500 option all by itself.
Inside, the $8,000 Manufaktur leather package covers the headliner, sun visors, door panels, dashboard, and even assist handles in real hide. The posh, fanned aluminum and wood trim is another $3,200, but it’s worth it for how artfully it follows the contours of the front seatbacks. Yet no amount of money will convince Mercedes to do away with the plasticky-feeling gloss black material on the center console. A slick “Manufaktur” emblem dresses it up a bit, but it still looks cheap, a word you rarely use to describe the Rolls-Royce Ghost or Bentley Flying Spur.
– Seating Capacity: 4
– Seating Configuration: 2 / 2
– Cargo Capacity: 12.3 Cubic Feet
No one could possibly complain about how comfortably and quietly this Mercedes-Maybach S580 goes about its business, but yet again, you’ve got to pay for the privilege. The automaker’s E-Active Body Control suspension is a $6,500 option, but you don’t want to start scrimping when you’re already spending 190 large. That’s because E-ABC actively scans the road ahead and adjusts each individual damper for obstacles in real time, maintaining a perfectly level ride at neighborhood speeds and peerless stability on the freeway.
Another box that every customer should tick is the $6,000 executive rear seat package, which swaps out a bench for two captain’s chairs and an executive console, complete with tray tables and heated and cooled cupholders. All four seating positions get massage, heat, and cooling, and the right-rear passenger can fold away the front seat and deploy a leg rest for first-class comfort. And as you’d expect given the wheelbase stretch, the Maybach is more spacious than either of its chief rivals – only the trunk comes up short.
The tech suite is mostly S-Class fare, with a 12.8-inch square touchscreen and 12.3-inch instrument cluster running MBUX software. The augmented-reality head-up display is standard on the Maybach, projecting navigation instructions and driver-assist info directly onto the driver’s view of the road and surrounding traffic. A brilliant Burmester audio system and ambient lighting with a variety of multicolor themes are standard – the Miami Rose and Malibu Sunset light designs throw major retrowave energy, so pick your music to match.
The large touchscreen display integrates most secondary functions, which makes using climate control on the fly a bit distracting. And the capacitive-touch volume slider and steering wheel thumbpads are hard to make fine adjustments with. But the infotainment graphics are beautiful, and the screen itself is very responsive.
– Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-Liter V8
– Output: 496 Horsepower / 516 Pound-Feet
– Transmission: Nine-Speed Automatic
The mild-hybrid, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 under the hood of the Maybach S580 does a fine job of moving the 5,247-pound sedan. The integrated starter-generator and 48-volt electrical system provide smooth departures from stoplights and backfill any turbo lag with a touch of electric torque. Total output is 496 horsepower and 516 pound-feet, and Mercedes says the Maybach will hit 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds, which is the perfect pace for this car’s demeanor. Still, those who insist on the most can now buy a Maybach S680, which gets a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 with 621 hp and 664 lb-ft.
Very few people are concerned about the cornering abilities of a nearly 18-foot-long car, but the Maybach nevertheless acquits itself well thanks to that E-ABC suspension. Body motions are tightly controlled, and standard four-wheel steering massively improves maneuverability thanks to a rear axle that can turn up to 10 degrees. Overall, the Maybach offers a smooth, genteel driving experience that maintains its composure in most situations, even if it isn’t overtly sporty.
– Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
– NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
– IIHS Rating: Top Safety Pick Plus
Thankfully, Mercedes doesn’t require buyers to pay extra for driver assistance and active safety. The company literally invented adaptive cruise control, so it should surprise no one that the Maybach S580 is wonderful at maintaining a safe distance from leading traffic. The lane-assistance tech is also among the best in the industry, with lane-departure prevention, lane centering, and active lane-change assistance. However, all of these features require your hands on the wheel, keeping the Merc from a perfect score.
– City: 15 MPG
– Highway: 24 MPG
– Combined: 18 MPG
– Base Price: $184,900 + $1,050 Destination
– Trim Base Price: $185,950
– As-Tested Price: $228,450
It is unfathomable that a $228,450 car could score a perfect 10 for pricing – especially considering its staggering $42,500 in options – but that’s because the Mercedes-Maybach S580 is a bargain in the ultra-luxury sedan segment. The Flying Spur costs $208,225 to start, but add advanced driver assistance, rear bucket seats, and four-wheel steering and you’ll be knocking on a $230,000 door. The Ghost starts at nearly $350,000 before any options, meaning you could buy a loaded Maybach and a nicely equipped E53 cabriolet for the price of the Rolls.
Although the allure of British luxury is tempting, I’d still probably choose the Mercedes-Maybach S580 even if it weren’t such a bargain. With stretch-limo gravitas, excellent Teutonic engineering, and phenomenal quality inside and out, the Maybach wears its historic name with pride.