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Maybach 62 review (2002 onwards)
This is the car DaimlerChrysler felt compelled to build.
For years the top Mercedes, the S Class, had been hailed as a better car than a Rolls-Royce, but few took any notice. So like Toyota doing a Lexus, Mercedes has built the Maybach. Unlike Lexus, however, the Maybach name has a long heritage, for the man himself was an engineering genius of his time as well as building a small number of highly expensive, highly regarded saloons of his own back in the 1930s. To put Rolls-Royce in it’s place, the Maybach is even more expensive. £253,000 buys the Maybach 57 – 5.7 metres long, £292,000 the longer 62 driven here. Both get a 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V12, with 550bhp and enough straight-line grunt to keep all but the later Porsche 911s honest.
But performance isn’t really the point. This is a huge, huge, car, far bigger than it even looks in the pictures, whose sole purpose is to pamper the occupants. So the two individual rear seats are modelled on the first class chairs from Air France, complete with fold out tables for your sandwiches or, more likely, your caviar and laptop. Comfort is extraordinary, and there’s a full recline function with extending leg and foot rest – I defy anyone travelling more than 30 minutes not to dose off. There are TV screens in the back of the front seat headrests. Nothing new here, for you can get that on a Kia today, though not with screens this big and the possibility for one passenger to watch live TV while the other views a DVD. Customers who need to know which direction to face for prayers can even specify a compass in the rear.
So long are those rear doors that, if your driver isn’t quick enough, you can, damn it, do the job yourself by pressing a button in the roof to close the door electrically. But it’s impossible for those in the back to carry out a comfortable conversation with those in the front, the distances are so great. The Maybach isn’t perfect. The side window courtesy blinds slide forward to close, which means that unfurled they still cover a large portion of the windows of those massive doors and passengers can’t easily see out. Later cars are changed so that the blinds slide backwards from the front. You’d expect the Maybach to have all the latest technology, too, but the car business moves on at such a pace that the new S-Class that is launched this September will offer more. The Maybach makes do with a five instead of a seven-speed transmission, parking sensors protruding from the rear bumper rather than hidden within, and hill-hold, for easy take off on gradients, is absent.
On the road
Such is the size of this longer Maybach that it isn’t actually much fun to drive either. The inescapable thought that, heinously, kept running through my mind as I took unusual lines through tighter corners, was that the only cars with the same issues – avoiding running the nearside rear wheel up on the kerb – are those tasteless stretched limos that seemed to have proliferated over the past few years in the UK. But it’s impossible to get away from the remarkable levels of comfort and refinement. There are even two separate air-conditioning systems, because the interior volume is too large for a single unit to adequately deal with. Three suspension settings, from pillow-like wafting through firmer, though still never sporty, settings give some flexibility. The 5.5-litre V12, with its ample power, can be made more responsive by playing with the gearchange settings.
So, lounging in the back, champagne retrieved from the fridge between the seats and silver goblets from compartment above, this is a great way to travel and to marvel at the attention to detail. In order to prevent condensation drips from the champagne bottle marking the carpet, for example, there’s a sliver tray that magically (magnetically, actually) positions itself in the correct position to collect the residue. The leather and nubuck is of the highest quality. Of course. You’d expect your Maybach to be highly equipped and it is, although the full glass room on our car, with blind, ingenious background lighting and full Georgian window effect, is another £10k. You can keep on eye on how fast your driver is getting you to your destination via the three roof mounted dials in the rear compartment that replicate the speedometer, clock and thermometer in the front.
A car too far?
Is the Maybach 62 a step too far? German buyers favour the “shorter”, 57 model and half of these end up being tucked away in a multi-car garage to be used on high days and holidays – or just to boast to friends. Germany’s current economic climate is such that displays of opulence are not always wise. In the States and the Far East they go for the longer 62 with the two-tone bodywork the other way around to those in the northern hemisphere. Apparently having the lighter colour on top makes the 62 look bigger still – size is everything for some. At the moment there’s only one Maybach “Centre of Excellence” in the UK, in London’s Wigmore Street, but rest assured that your own personal liaison manager will come to your home or office as required complete with a full pallet of paint and interior finishes to make that final decision that much easier.
So is this Maybach 62 a simple indulgence or something more sinister? For the sort of person who considers a £3,000 first class plane ticket an essential ingredient of life, rather than spending £1,500 on business class or £500 in economy, then yes, the Maybach makes sense. But for the rest of us, it’s an eccentric irrelevance.
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