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2018 MERCEDES-MAYBACH S560 ESSENTIALS: HAVE THE DRIVER TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME

 The Mercedes-Maybach S560 doesn’t just get a new badge for 2018 (it was formerly the S550); it’s now powered by a 463-hp version of the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 we’ve come to know (and love) in the AMG lineup.

Did I spend a good portion of a Friday night parked in a buddy’s driveway blasting music in the back of this Maybach? Indeed I did.(See name of writer at end of story) Chiefly because the 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound audio system is better than anything I will be able to afford for my home for the foreseeable future, but the seat massage function is nice, too. Plus, you can crank the volume as loud as you want and you can’t hear a darn thing outside the car. I checked: Once those soft-close doors close, softly, you’re sealed in there pretty good.

And come on — how else are you going to review one of these personal limousines? I could go on and on about how this car is quick for a land-yacht, and unexpectedly easy to handle and park despite its extended wheelbase, but that’s all stuff for your driver to worry about. You, the prospective Maybach owner, care about the back seats. And they’re great! The leather Maybach-trimmed throw pillows and deep-pile carpet were a nice touch, too. Necessary? Not really, but this car is in its own quiet way all about excess.

It helps that it’s built on great bones. Strip away all the quilted leather pillows and carpets and you’re left with a longer-wheelbase S-Class (132.5 to 124.6 inches). You could pick a worse place to start. Another welcome feature: The twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that made its way over to the S-Class from the AMG world for the 2018 model year feels right at home here. And 0-60 mph in a stated 4.8 seconds is great for

Assuming this is a car you’ll be chauffeured in, it’s something of a mystery as to why you’d consider instead the S650…unless you’re planning on installing a trailer hitch and putting those 738 lb-ft of torque to some no-doubt un-warrantied use.  There’s the V12-as-status-symbol angle to consider, but you also get Magic Body Control, which scans the road ahead and does some sort of suspension-adjusting wizardry to erase imperfections. I’ve tried it in lesser Benzes and it works, but it’s hard to imagine it improving the Maybach’s smooth long-wheelbase ride enough to warrant the added price and additional thirst.

That’s the thing, though. People who buy this car presumably don’t care about price, and there’s no way a big V12-powered Mercedes can be any thirstier than their private jet. Which raises an interesting question: Is this thing Maybach enough for its high-rolling, higher-flying, chauffeur-employing audience?

The last time Mercedes rolled out the Maybach, it wore a unique body. A somewhat ungainly one, sure, but one that stood out — it was obviously not just a luxed-up S-Class, even if it did ride on somewhat aged S-Class-derived underpinnings. This is obviously an S-Class, albeit a stretched and super-fancy one; despite the badging, there’s no real attempt to disguise that fact.

 

That puts this car in an unusual position. It’s as good or better at being a chauffeur-oriented long-wheelbase luxury sedan than anything it competes against. I haven’t been in the new Rolls-Royce Phantom, but from what I recall, this is smoother and cushier than a Bentley Mulsanne, from at least a ride quality if not an interior materials choice perspective (the Mulsanne does the plush clubroom thing a little better). Its engineering and build quality are unimpeachable. But it ultimately feels more Mercedes than Maybach. If you need your car to convey your personal wealth from the moment the hood ornament (a Mercedes-spec tristar, here) appears at the gates of the country club/jetport, you may feel compelled to look elsewhere.

If you’re a high-net-worth individual with a penchant for stealth, the Maybach S560 fits the bill perfectly, and I know there are well-heeled potential customers who will respond to that particular under-the-radar pitch. In spite of its luxury and top-shelf build quality, it’s a value player in a part of the market that I suspect has a perception of value wholly different than mine (I do not employ a chauffeur, so maybe I’m totally off-base on all of this). It feels weird to marvel at how this car costs only $175,595, but it seems like a steal when the ostensible competition — the Rolls-Royce Ghosts and Bentley Muslannes of the world — cost much, much more to start.

–Graham Kozak, features editor