Not so long ago, the choicest ultra-luxurious sedans hailed from England. While that may still be true in spirit, the truth is the Germans have this exclusive market cornered. With Rolls-Royce and Bentley under the control of BMW and Volkswagen, respectively, it seems fitting that Mercedes-Benz would be in the fray as well.
Unlike the Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, which retain most of their stylistic DNA from their storied past, the 2009 Maybach 57 owes much of its appearance to the previous-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The original Mercedes lines are unmistakable under a veil of subtle styling changes that include a revised grille, a Maybach insignia in place of the three-pointed star, different headlights and taillights and more graceful, flowing sheetmetal. From outward appearances, the Maybach seems more like a stretched and customized Mercedes than a purpose-built luxury icon like the Rolls-Royce Phantom, and for this reason, the Maybach seems just a bit less special.
That's not to say the Maybach 57 is anything less than extraordinary. With twin-turbo V12s derived from Mercedes' AMG performance wing, power output is a staggering 543 horsepower, and a ludicrous 604 hp for the 57 S. Despite curb weights of approximately 6,000 pounds, both Maybachs are capable of achieving 0-60-mph times of around 5 seconds. Equally impressive is the autobahn-bombing top speed of 155 mph (172 mph for the 57 S).
While most car shopping experiences rank right up there with a tax audit, purchasing a Maybach is more akin to a Rodeo Drive shopping spree -- providing, of course, that a $400,000 expenditure wouldn't elicit more than a shrug. Acquiring one of these exclusive rides starts with a visit to the Maybach "Commissioning Studio" to meet with a "Relationship Manager." Aside from the seemingly endless array of paint, upholstery and trim choices, clients can also opt for a truly unique vehicle by specifying every aspect down to the seat stitching. Want to match the exterior paint to your mansion, or use the same exotic wood from your Steinway piano for the interior trim? Requests like these are most likely accommodated -- as long as your wallet remains open. Orders that include any sort of individualization require approximately five months to fulfill.
Though the Phantom and the 2009 Maybach 57 are similarly equipped, their executions seem worlds apart. Rather than the "old money" feel of a Rolls-Royce that harkens back to the days of empire and steamships, the Maybach has a decidedly "new money" European Union and spaceship flavor. For the well-heeled, we suspect deciding between them will largely depend on which approach appeals most.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2009 Maybach 57 is an ultraluxury sedan that is offered in two trim levels: the base model 57 and the more powerful 57 S. Either model can be customized with nearly any feature the purchaser can dream up -- enabling true one-of-a-kind ownership. Standard features include 19-inch wheels, an active self-leveling suspension, adaptive cruise control, a front-cabin sunroof, power rear sunshades, 10-way power front seats with heat and massage, front-seat memory settings, a full leather interior, two-person reclining rear bucket seats with heat, four-zone climate control with an active air filter and a rear beverage cooler. Also standard are Bluetooth, a navigation system with a rearview camera, a DVD entertainment system and a 21-speaker Bose surround-sound system with an in-dash CD player, a console-mounted six-CD changer, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The Maybach 57 S adds 20-inch wheels with higher-performance tires, a slightly lower ride height, sportier suspension and minor exterior differences.
Regular optional extras revolve mostly around the rear passengers and include additional rear-seat entertainment options, a three-person backseat, ventilated front or rear seats, folding rear picnic tables, rear curtains, a cigar humidor and a video game console.
Powertrains and Performance:
Both the Maybach 57 and 57 S are powered by versions of the twin-turbocharged V12 that is utilized in some of the higher-end AMG Mercedes-Benzes. The 5.5-liter V12 in the 57 produces 543 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque, while the 6.0-liter version in the 57 S is rated at 604 hp and 738 lb-ft. All of this power amounts to 0-60-mph times of 5.2 seconds for the 57 and 5.0 seconds for the 57 S. Remarkable performance, considering that these sedans weigh in at over 6,000 pounds. According to the EPA, the Maybach 57 and 57 S should return 10 mpg city/16 mpg highway and 12 mpg in combined driving.
As expected from any Mercedes-related vehicle, the 2009 Maybach 57 has a comprehensive list of safety features that includes side airbags for the front and rear passengers, full-length side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.
Interior Design and Special Features:
It is unlikely that Maybach owners will spend much time behind the wheel, since it's a safe bet that they'll be chauffeured from place to place. For their drivers, and the few owners who actually drive, the front quarters are nearly identical to the previous-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class, albeit with more upscale materials.
In back, you'll find a pair of reclining and heated bucket seats separated by a center console (a three-place bench is an option) that houses controls for the rear dual-zone climate control and the standard DVD entertainment system. Other amenities include a refrigerator to chill a bottle of champagne, sterling silver champagne flutes and ceiling-mounted gauges that display time, speed and outside temperature.
The 2009 Maybach 57 seems completely unaware of its three-ton weight when traveling in a straight line. Both the 57 and 57 S excel at acceleration and cruising at speeds generally reserved for supercars or aircraft. But that weight becomes all too apparent when the road veers left or right -- not even the Maybach is immune from the laws of physics. Then again, aggressive cornering in a Maybach makes about as much sense as trying to deliver dignitaries to a function on a scooter. What the Maybach 57 does deliver is a quiet and serene ride to its passengers while they bask in one of the most luxurious cabins a lot of money can buy -- and it delivers these traits with ease.