The Maybach brand has long been part of the Mercedes-Benz family. Although the days of the ultra-luxurious standalone Maybachs are over, buyers can still gain access to the marque through its variations on the Mercedes S-Class sedans, electric EQS and GLS SUVs. But the question remains: why retain the Maybach name if your automaker is already synonymous with luxury? In short, attitude.
If base-model Benzes split the difference between sport and luxury, Maybach models tip the scales towards the latter, just as AMG iterations do to the former. In that regard, the 2024 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600, a six-figure rolling palace I recently tested, is unapologetically in-your-face about eschewing utility for enhanced opulence.
|2024 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600
|Four-door luxury SUV (four or five passengers)
|4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 48-volt mild hybrid system
|14 mpg city, 19 highway, 16 combined
Attitude? This SUV is practically dripping with it.
The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 is the full-sized SUV from Mercedes-Benz’s ultra-luxury division. Under the hood is a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 550 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque. It’s also equipped with a 48-volt mild hybrid system, the same found in other iterations of the GLS, with this one’s output sitting in-between that of the GLS 580 and the AMG GLS 63. Power is sent to all four wheels by way of a nine-speed automatic transmission and, though optimized for comfort, the luxury SUV can still jump from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds.
Whether you’re taking things fast or slow, the GLS 600’s ride is managed by Mercedes’s air suspension and active body control, which is constantly adjusting based on the mode set by the driver. Comfort modes soften things out, while the sporty ones give the SUV a more taught stance. Maybach includes its own set of unique parameters which take the comfort thresholds even higher for a sublime, cloud-like ride.
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There are a number of Maybach-specific offerings in and around the GLS, with the biggest being the two optional business-class-style rear seats that maximize comfort to such an extent that there’s no room left for a third row. These have all the tricks built in, like heat, ventilation and massage functionality, and they flank an optional champagne fridge to hammer home the full Maybach experience.
On the outside, the GLS 600 is available with a two-tone paint job, with my test model sporting Mojave Silver paired with a deep, dark Emerald Green. This was complemented by 23-inch forged monoblock Maybach wheels and branded intake grilles. In fact, there’s rarely a spot in or around the SUV that doesn’t shout, “This is a Maybach!” Logos in the interior can be found amongst the nappa leather seats and natural woodgrain trims.
Usually starting at a substantial MSRP of $174,350, when options are taken into account, the GLS 600’s bottom line can easily swell like beltlines on Thanksgiving. Two-tone paint? That’ll be $18,000, please. Have a drink from the $1,800 champagne fridge if you need to calm your nerves.
Smooth, Not Sporty, Performance
Hopping into the Maybach’s driver’s seat arguably means getting the third best chair in the house. Drivers still get to bask in the well-appointed interior and ambient lighting, and partake in a seat massage, but any Maybach-specific enjoyment gleaned from here is mostly secondhand. There’s lots to like about it, but unlike the members of the AMG side of the family, most adjustments for this model aren’t implemented particularly for the driver’s benefit.
That said, the inputs on the Maybach are balanced to be buttery-smooth from start to stop. Pressing down on the pedal gently but firmly wafts the GLS 600 forward, while the braking system endeavors to balance precision with soft stops. The mild hybrid system is used to great effect to enhance the Maybach’s genteel performance, smoothing out the power band and preventing any unwanted dips or spikes. It’s also instrumental in the aforementioned steady launches off the line.
Sharing the load helps stretch out the premium gas the Maybach has in its substantial tank, too. With a surprisingly unobtrusive stop-start system, the GLS 600 nets you an EPA-estimated combined 16 miles per gallon. Those are pretty poor numbers, even for an SUV, but after a number of hours-long journeys throughout the week with the vehicle, I still only used half of the Maybach’s topped-off tank.
While it leaves the brusk behavior to its AMG cousins, the Maybach GLS 600 doesn’t have much trouble getting up to speed when it needs to. When spurred with a heavy foot, it handily closes gaps in traffic or makes up lost time on the highway, but this amount of performance is there to be in service of the car’s true strengths rather than a standalone showcase. Where the Maybach excels is in its use of the air suspension, tuned to be as bump-neutralizing as possible. Both driver and passengers can enjoy gliding along rough city roads without any notice of the active adjustments being made, even chewing up certain speed bumps with little notice.
VIPs: Very Important Passengers
Backseat riders can luxuriate in one of the two fully adjustable seats with enough room to stretch out for a snooze or to stargaze through the panoramic glass roof while receiving a full back massage. (The vehicle can be configured in a four- or five-seat setup.)
Maybachs also throw in programs that use a number of interior tricks to alter the sensations of the environment. The ambient lighting, sound system, seat massagers and even the fragrances in the HVAC are triggered to set the mood. You’ll get things like a seaside mode with serene waves crashing and chirping gulls while the air is misted with something akin to salty ocean air. It’s a nifty trick, even if it does sort of make the SUV feel like a rolling Rainforest Cafe for the one percent.
Two 11.6-inch seatback-mounted displays add to the host of rear-passenger entertainment options, either for kicking back and watching a movie or for controlling the 27-speaker Burmester audio system. Whatever the use case, the sound produced is deep and substantial, and will surely keep the party going.
The additional abundance of glitz atop the Mercedes-Benz suite of technology does indeed make the Maybach GLS 600 a spectacle, but what happens when it’s time to turn it back into the proverbial pumpkin once the party stops? In the harsh light of day, the Maybach GLS 600 has a hard time matching contemporaries like the Bentley Bentayga and the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, luxury vehicles that retain much of their inherent utility while still able to be similarly ostentatious when the time comes. You might not want to use your Rolls-Royce SUV for supermarket runs or hauling a gaggle of kids to hockey practice, but you could.
Let’s be clear, it’s not like the standard Mercedes-Benz GLS is some kind of rugged workhorse, but the cargo and passenger space, along with the inherent multi-terrain tackling capabilities, give it some purpose outside of club-hopping. The Maybach GLS 600, however, isn’t meant to split the difference between daily driver and nighttime party wagon — it parties 24/7.
Much of what differentiates the Maybach from a fully-loaded GLS 580 are optional extras that are layered upon an SUV that’s already ditched the third row to maximize rear-passenger comfort far above what any other SUV, sedan or some airplanes can offer. It never turns back into a pumpkin, it was never one to begin with.
Mechanically speaking, all of the GLS’s qualities are well suited for the Maybach mission, particularly when it’s focused around giving two rear passengers the best ride possible. Aesthetically, Maybach’s designers understood the assignment when it came to outfitting the car with eye-catching details like the logo-patterned intakes and the glimmering Emerald Green paint job contrasting the silver top half.
The minor shame of it is that driver satisfaction, ironically, takes a metaphorical backseat in comparison. While still smooth, there aren’t many benefits to the Maybach makeover for anyone sitting in the front, apart from the Maybach environment-bending wellness programs and the extra bystander attention.
To that end, the luxury hauler, which can easily pass the $200,000 mark, is reserved for those with other cars in their presumably vast collection to handle the day-to-day business so the Maybach doesn’t have to. That’s how the GLS 600 flexes on the other luxury SUVs: dropping practicality for sheer attitude.
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