It’s almost as big as the grand Maybach Zeppelin saloons of the 1930s, if not quite as unique – behind that pinstripe-motif grille and under all that two-tone paint, shiny chrome and high gloss black trim is a Mercedes GLS.
That makes the new Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600, to give it its full name, a very different proposition from the Maybach SUV concept shown last year. That was unique in the SUV world for eschewing a hatchback in place of a saloon’s conventional boot.
The production Maybach SUV revealed today sticks with the GLS’s lift-up tailgate but it does get a fixed partition between people and luggage – Rolls-Royce Cullinan style – indicating what sort of market this luxury behemoth is going for.
Everything the Maybach division of Mercedes knows about luxury, technology and craftsmanship has been poured into this new 4x4 flagship in order to take it a level above the common-or-garden GLS and give it credibility as a rival for cars like the Bentley Bentayga and even Rolls-Royce Cullinan. No prices have thus far been confirmed but if it follows Maybach S-Class practice it may even be double the £74,0000 price of a standard GLS.
The Maybach S-Class sedan – said to account for one in seven of all S-Class sales – gets a mighty petrol V12 under its bonnet but there’s no such excess for the SUV. The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 is powered by a drivetrain more in keeping with the times: a 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 with a 48-volt starter-generator system to up the power and enhance its green credentials.
It is what Mercedes calls an EQ Boost engine but one the firm says has been developed especially for the more exclusive Maybach (and AMG) versions of the GLS. The electrified V8 delivers 550bhp with 729Nm (538lb ft) of torque, 100 horses short of what the Maybach S-Class saloon offers, suggesting that it will be the sedan – which costs £174,000 – that still reigns supreme in the Maybach hierarchy. The SUV knocks off 0-62mph in a claimed 4.9 seconds, not as fast as the new AMG GLS 63 (that does it in 4.2 seconds) but substantially up on the now diesel-only Merc GLS.
Other aspects of the newcomer, due on sale in the second half of next year, follow Mercedes form so you get Airmatic air suspension, adaptive damping and the complete raft of the company’s safety and convenience technologies – although the 48-volt anti-roll system will cost extra.
You also get running boards. They are 2m long illuminated steps made of anodised aluminium which deploy automatically to aid access and exit into this 1,838mm high vehicle, retracting into the sills when not needed. They’re possibly the biggest re-engineering job of the whole car, and the firm is proud of them, saying that as the car’s USP they make “an incomparable spectacle”.
The Maybach GLS is more than anything about its interior and once inside you will find a vast cabin originally designed for seven seats with just four chairs in it. There’s definitely no third-row seating here, though you can have a three-seat arrangement in the back; more in keeping we feel are the two individual rear seats with a cabinet between them offering work tables or the inevitable champagne fridge.
The back seats have all the gadgets: they are heated, cooled, electrically adjustable for recline as well as fore and aft, and will give you a massage. Compared to the Maybach S-Class, you sit 280mm (11 inches) higher in the back and with the front seats in chauffeur mode, have more than 1.3 metres of legroom.
Electric roller blinds are fitted on the side windows and there’s a blind too for the electrically opening panoramic sliding/tilting sunroof. The fixed load compartment partition is said to seal the passenger compartment from noise and cold air from the boot, as well as enhancing the car’s rigidity.
The success of the Maybach S-Class sedan has shown that top versions of relatively humble cars can succeed in even the super-luxury market, and the Maybach GLS will be out to confirm that. It should certainly stand out; there are eight different two-tone colour combinations available for the car, including green/silver and black/gold, which perhaps gives an indication of the market it is going for.