Wither Maybach?

Gunnar Heinrich
by Gunnar Heinrich

When Maybach unveiled its tiny, cordoned-off piece of turf at the COBO Center on Sunday, its offerings were pinned against the back wall, stuck behind all the glitz that its corporate parent had to offer. Up front: the new Mercedes S-Class with 4-Matic replete with ice rink and the perkalicious Ocean Drive concept. And only one stand (and a world) away: Honda, whose inexorable rise stands in direct contrast to Maybach’s inevitable decline. The Maybach reps had to feel outpaced, out-planned and outdone. In truth, their golden goose is well and truly cooked.

The upmarket German luxury marque has had its day– again. Armchair analysts have watched with little shock and much awe as Mercedes-Benz took the venerable old Weimar marque off the dusty shelf in Stuttgart, refinished it, and sent the four wheeled Phoenix soaring into the luxury marketplace; only to be unceremonious shotgunned by older nameplates from drizzly Albion. And now Maybach’s a hit-and-run victim of Mercedes’ corporate ADD, hoping against hope its masters didn’t sign a DNR.

Contrast these sad affairs of state with Maybach’s drop-dead gorgeous, German owned, British branded rivals. Detroit sees Rolls Royce unveil their stunning drop head coupe. Bentley is performing a lovely reprise of its seven– count ‘em seven– sterling models, including the GTC that scooped The Robb Report’s COTY. While there’s something to be said for evolutionary consistency rather than radical overhaul (911 anyone?), Maybach has no postwar history to live up to. They’re set to hawk the sporting version of the for-chauffeurs-only 62S to a yawning media circus.

A “normal” Maybach 62 will haul its overstuffed, elongated, business-class carriage from standstill to 60 in an impressive if almost completely irrelevant 5.9 seconds. The new and improved 62S will perform the same task in– drum roll– 5.2 seconds. Oh and the springs stiffen just that bit more in sport mode, the brakes are a little sharper, and so on.

The owner of the first 62 variant is best advised to keep that AMEX centurion card holstered in his alligator wallet; thereby saving himself the $100k swap-out expense. He should then instruct his deprived driver to simulate the difference by mashing the go-pedal when traveling downhill while there’s a stiff, direction-matching breeze.

It seems like only yesterday that the Queen Elizabeth II and the Maybach 62 sailed into New York together before the eyes of an admiring world. For that one, brief, shining moment– the interval between the Maybach’s helicopter ride off the Cunard ship and BMW’s introduction of the all new Rolls-Royce Phantom– Maybach owned the $300k+ market.

Its reign was short lived, and rightly so. Let’s face it: the mighty Maybach was born old hat. When it made its début, the Maybach models were already a relic of 1990’s design. Fast, comfortable; sure. Stylish and sexy? Nein. Maybach never really delivered the competitor crushing excellence that the born-again division had set out to achieve. That special, bespoke quality that the Spirit of Ecstasy embodies, the M&Ms never owned. The Maybach looked too much like the (W220) S-Class, and its passenger flew business, not first. In its intended price bracket, soullessness is a felony offense.

The killer blow: Maybach’s Mercedes masters decided to give the new S-Class a glamorous reskin and left the Maybach just so. The current summit of the Tri-Star’s achievement is a bolder and bigger design that exchanged creased sides for elegant curves and bulging arches. In fact, the new S (not to mention the semi-Maybachian CLS or the equally customer-challenged SLR-McLaren) makes the Maybach 57 and 62 look dowdy and demure. And while the Maybach’s motors are Herculean, there’s nothing slow about the uber-schnell S-Class models; the S65 AMG is 1.2 seconds quicker from zero to 60 than the new Maybach Sport, and far more agile in the bends. So how much is that extra legroom (and optional plasma TV) worth?

On that point, the market has spoken. You can buy a 12k mile ’05 Maybach 62 from a New York dealer for $229k (or less); down $156,600 from the as-new ’07 price of $386,500 (without options). The Maybach’s forty percent depreciation suffers in comparison to “lightly used” examples of the popular Rolls Royce Phantom (27%), or a very bad night at the craps table. Sure, buyers at this price point can afford to take the hit, but that doesn’t mean they want to.

The best indication that Maybach is a floundering division: dealers are leasing them to hotels. When your most exclusive model becomes a glorified Lincoln Town Car, you’re done. Well, perhaps not. If Maybach builds the Exelero, there’s a shot. If ever there was a high-priced motor car that speaks of bespoke, the extreme Exelero is it. Why Maybach is NOT building the Exelero is a mystery almost as profound as why they started this whole business in the first place.

Gunnar Heinrich
Gunnar Heinrich

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  • Voice of Sweden Voice of Sweden on Jan 12, 2007
    Driven em All: January 12th, 2007 at 2:16 pm I don’t know why everybody’s comparing Maybach to Bentley, etc. That’s not what the owners do- they likely own 5+ more cars, so it’s not an either-or issue for those in that league. If you’d driven Maybach against its competition (didn’t see anyone here talking about seat time extending beyond that of an auto show), you might be able to offer a better informed opinion. I respect your opinion, but I belive the term "what other people think of it" is even more important for luxury cars than ordinary cars. So if the public sees the Maybach
  • Jthorner Jthorner on Jan 14, 2007

    The Maybach was a bad idea from day 1. Then again, anyone who thinks that the current Rolls Royce offerings are good looking cars needs a taste transplant :). Bentley is probably the one to own in this vehicle category if one absolutely must spend silly amounts of money for a sedan.

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  • Varezhka And why exactly was it that Tesla decided not to coat their stainless steel bodies, again? My old steel capped Volant skis still looks clean without a rust in sight thanks to that metal vapor coating. It's not exactly a new technology.
  • GIJOOOE “Sounds” about as exciting as driving a golf cart, fake gear shifts or not. I truly hope that Dodge and the other big American car makers pull their heads out of the electric clouds and continue to offer performance cars with big horsepower internal combustion engines that require some form of multi gear transmissions and high octane fuel, even if they have to make them in relatively small quantities and market them specifically to gearheads like me. I will resist the ev future for as long as I have breath in my lungs and an excellent credit score/big bank account. People like me, who have loved fast cars for as long as I can remember, need a car that has an engine that sounds properly pissed off when I hit the gas pedal and accelerate through the gears.
  • Kcflyer libs have been subsidizing college for decades. The predictable result is soaring cost of college and dramatic increases in useless degrees. Their solution? More subsidies of course. EV policy will follow the same failed logic. Because it's not like it's their money. Not saying the republicans are any better, they talk a good game but spend like drunken sailors to buy votes just like the libs. The sole function of the U.S. government is to take money from people who earn it and give it away to people who didn't.
  • CecilSaxon Sounds about as smart as VW's "SoundAktor"