Usually, getting to drive a six-figure luxury sedan like this 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 is a treat in itself, but I’m starting to think I’ve made a huge mistake. Sure, I love the light, delicate way the S600 slips through traffic and insulates me from the other commuters driving from their offices to the nearest Panera. But it seems like my colleague Conner Golden is having a much better time riding in the expansive back seats than I am steering from the front.
That’s the thing about the Maybach: If you’re going to drive it, you should save your money and buy a standard Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The S-Class is already an exceptionally good luxury car, with a handsome interior, plush ride, quiet cabin, and a laidback driving demeanor. The Maybach doesn’t build on any of that for the driver, so driving this car is really playing the role of chauffeur. If you’re going to transport other people around, you need the Maybach. How’s the temperature back there, Mr. Golden? I’ll pull the car around front, sir. No, please, recline the seat farther.
I absolutely adored my time driving this 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 because it’s one of the greatest luxury sedans you can buy. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that this is one of the few cars in which I’d rather be a passenger rather than the driver.
Joey Capparella, Daily News Editor
Monday morning: I’m sitting in my house eating a bagel, waiting for my driver to show up to take me to work. On a normal day, I’d be checking traffic on my phone before getting in the car to figure out the quickest route to work. But today’s not normal. Senior editor David Zenlea and I have agreed to trade chauffeur duties in the Maybach to get the full experience of its best asset: the back seat. Zenlea soon arrives and, taking his chauffeur responsibilities seriously, opens the rear door for me. I settle into the sumptuous, leather-trimmed right-rear seat -- no, throne -- and raise the power sunshades. I adjust my own personal climate zone to 70 degrees, and the supremely quiet air conditioning gets to work, directing cold air through the rear seat’s numerous air vents. Finding a remote control in the door pocket, I adjust the radio to the station of my choice, recline the seat, and close my eyes. It seems like no time passes before I notice that we’re pulling into the parking lot at the office, an hour’s drive away. If only every commute could be this relaxing.
Monday afternoon: It’s my turn to drive the Maybach, and I take my time adjusting the seat and mirrors -- this is a nearly 18-foot-long sedan, after all. Despite the size, it’s remarkably easy to pilot, thanks to light steering and a clear view out front. Everything about the primary controls feels optimized for smoothness, with lazy throttle tip-in, a slow steering rack, and a transmission that starts off in second gear unless you select Sport mode. The air suspension so adeptly filters out bumps and imperfections that I sometimes look into the rear-view mirror to see if the Maybach actually flattened out rough sections of road.
Tuesday morning: As I wait outside to pick up Zenlea, I get a few looks from people walking on the street. They must think someone important and/or wealthy is about to hop in the back seat. Little do they know it’s just Zenlea. The Maybach doesn’t look wildly different than a standard S-Class, but its sheer size combines with the extra chrome trim and massive wheels to impart the car with a real presence. Once we’re on the highway, Zenlea folds down the tray tables and sets up his laptop to do some work. I’m barely doing any work myself to get the Maybach to our destination, as I let the Distronic Plus semi-autonomous cruise control take over acceleration, braking, and steering duties. At a 75-mph cruise, the Maybach is so quiet that I can hear the whir of Zenlea’s laptop hard drive. Every time I look into the rearview mirror, I’m struck by how far away the rear seats are from where I’m sitting.
No matter where you’re sitting, the Maybach is truly a special vehicle. While it’s not difficult to admit that I much prefer riding in the back seat, driving this limousine-like sedan makes me appreciate the impressive engineering that goes into this Mercedes flagship.
David Zenlea, Senior Editor
I FaceTimed friends and colleagues on a weekday night as the Maybach steered itself down the highway. (Do not try this at home. -- Ed.) Self-driving cars and picture phones -- this is the future. Even when you drive the Maybach, it feels like you’re being carried along. The steering is light, the ride soft and comfortable, the engine almost impossible to hear except during full-throttle bursts. There is a sport setting for the chassis and engine, but it’s not very enjoyable. This is not a car you drive aggressively.
Joey drove me to work in the Maybach on Monday morning, which was a lovely way to start the week. Ah, comfy. Everything looks, feels, and smells as you’d expect in a six-figure car. The pillows are a bit much, though.
Eric Weiner, Daily News Editor
What’s crazy is that the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 feels worth its $200,000 price tag. For starters, there’s all the technology: Massaging seats, adjustable and adaptive bolsters that are heated or cooled, massive color screens, even night vision. And of course, while all of that is indeed lovely, what’s perhaps even more important is that the full suite of Distronic Plus adaptive cruise systems is also included. When your car can brake, accelerate, and steer all while it massages you and plays music from your phone, you’ve reached another level of luxury. The amount of room in the back seat really does make you feel like you’re on some kind of luxury train as you recline in the back and rest on the Maybach’s pillow. Even the puff-white carpeting is softer than anything I own.
Best of all is that the Maybach still drives like a Mercedes, and that’s a compliment. It’s smooth, quiet, and beautifully engineered. It ignores road imperfections and completely filters out rough feedback. The V-12 is a tidal wave of power and torque when you need to get on it, but totally unobtrusive and friendly for cruising. I don’t think the Maybach drives any better than a regular S550, which just goes to show you how good the S-Class is to begin with.
Where the Maybach falls short is exterior flash, although I acknowledge that isn’t its mission. With a car like, say, a Bentley Mulsanne, everything feels like an event, and there’s a certain satisfaction to being noticed and recognized. The Maybach blends in extremely effectively, as the longer wheelbase isn’t terribly noticeable and most people wouldn’t look twice at the massive old-school rims. It’s definitely a matter of taste, whether you want the world to take pause when you arrive with the Bentley or quietly slip by in the Maybach. But there’s no doubt in my mind the Maybach is an outstanding car.
Jason Lanham, Vehicle Coordinator
I only drove the Maybach for about 15 minutes, so I made sure to explore every function in the car, both front and back. Sitting in the front seat you feel special because it’s so beautiful, modern, and comfortable. The impressive screens draw my attention immediately, as do the rotating Burmester speakers in the doors. But the rear seating is what really matters. The plush carpets add a really nice touch if you, say, wanted to kick off your shoes while riding back here. The reclining seat feature is like riding business class in a jet and, of course, massaging seats make the experience that much nicer. And that’s before you open up the champagne cooler with the custom Mercedes glasses. Now this is luxury.
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