Review: 2006 Maybach 57S

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
review 2006 maybach 57s

Why did Maybach put a speedometer in the rear of the cabin? The salesman’s line: “so you can tell the driver to slow down.” I don’t think so. Plutocrats don’t get to be plutocrats by ambling about, caring about the hired help’s driving record or hiring chauffeurs who can’t drive safely. [NB: Mohammed Al Fayed wasn’t a plutocrat.] My explanation: velocity equals distance over time. Maybach figured its patrons would want to note their speed, check the flanking clock and calculate when they’d get to where they’re going. In other other words, Maybach owners would want to know when they’re going to leave their Maybach. The roof-mounted speedo embodies the luxury limo’s underlying philosophy. Maybach. The ideal conveyance for people who’d rather be somewhere else.

The Maybach 57S’s exterior does nothing to contradict this theory and much to confirm it. Think of it this way: If an upscale automaker wants to cater to super rich consumers who don’t like cars, or already own all the cars they like, there are only two ways to go. First, they can try to change the customer’s mind with seductive curves (e.g., Maserati Quattroporte) or unabashed excess (e.g., Rolls Royce Phanton).

Failing that, fuck it. Just build something. Make it vaguely brand-compliant and call it good. Although Porsche’s new Panamera is a timely example of The “Whatever” School of Car Design, the rapidly aging Maybach’s exterior is the gold standard to which lazy and/or deeply misguided luxury carmakers must eternally aspire.

That said, the Maybach 57S’s shortened wheelbase eliminates some of the 62’s bland, ungainly hideousness. Unfortunately, as there was so much bland, ungainly hideousness to start with, that’s not saying much. The 57S still looks like the genetically-challenged offspring of a three-way between a Kia Amanti, a 2003 E-Class and a contemporaneous S-Class. The Maybach 57S lacks überholprestige; it isn’t attractive enough to deliver deference, nor ugly enough to scare small children. It’s quietly absurd.

By its very existence, the Maybach 57S compounds this cognitive dissonance. A “sport” version of a three-ton limo? If nothing else, the concept implies that the Maybach 57S owner wants to drive his own car. Any such well-heeled wheelman will feel significantly shortchanged, in the Bernie Madoff sense of the word. Inlaid carbon fiber can’t disguise the fact that the 57S pilot’s ensconced in a cockpit that’s virtually identical to a Mercedes S-Class. The last generation S-Class. The Maybach 57S’s only “sense of occasion”: a button releases a dash panel which slides down to vomit forth a phone holder. Hey look! It’s 1997 calling!

OK, you can spend $9K and upgrade the 57S to full Bluetoothery. But when it comes to driver comfort and aesthetic appeal, the current generation Mercedes S-Class AMG has it all over the Maybach. As do a dozen cars stickering for $300K less—all of which are more attractive and prestigious (i.e. recognizable).

Yes, well, there is that. But if we set aside such prosaic concerns as badge snobbery and value-for-money, another question suggests itself: has Maybach succeeded in its questionable quest to transform Ginormica’s whip into the world’s most expensive sports sedan?

Maybach’s mechanics fit the 57 with a larger V12 (6.0-liter vs. 5.5-liter), increasing both horsepower and torque (603hp and 738 lb·ft vs. 543hp and 664 lb·ft). They also re-calibrated the 57’s air suspension, lowered the ride height by 0.6″, beefed-up the anti-roll bars and shod the beast with 20″ wheels. According to those in the business of selling it, the resulting 57S is “surprisingly agile.” Yes and no. If you try and turn the 57S hard into a corner, you will certainly be surprised—by the enormous vehicle’s desire to pivot on its axis. It’s oversteer Jim, on a planetary scale.

The logical response: forget cornering per se and go for maximum glide. In this the 57S’s engine and gearbox are remarkably uncooperative. In sport mode, the 12’s power delivery is twitchy and harsh, like the nervous lump lingering in the SL65’s snout, with an equal paucity of gears to smooth out the transitions (five’s your lot). In normal mode, the Maybach 57S takes a good half second or so to “wake up.” But don’t worry, the tire thump generated by the massive meats will keep you from drifting off (so to speak).

The 57S has one party trick: straight line acceleration. The zero to sixty sprint takes five seconds. In-gear teleportation is equally impressive. Provided you slap the autobox upside the head by slamming the go-pedal to the carpet, the Maybach 57S will take you from any speed to 171 mph on a single seamless wave of thrust. And . . . that’s it. That’s all you get.

There’s only one place to be in a Maybach, any Maybach: in the back. Anyone who buys a 57S to drive it simply doesn’t understand their place in life. A shortcoming they share with the vehicle itself.

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  • Flashpoint Flashpoint on May 10, 2009

    If the Maybach was a "fleet car" that would be one goddamned expensive fleet. The S550 is better as a fleet vehicle. The Maybach is for plutocrats that demand the best. Truth is, most rich people don't flash their money all the time - which is why many of them DON'T drive super luxury vehicles. I was reading in a newspaper that a survey of people making over $250K a year showed many of them drive "regular" cars like Malibu, Accord, Infiniti, etc. I'm almost 30 and most of the time when I see people driving an S550 like mine, they are old people. I also see alot of middle aged women driving them or being driven in them as they sit in the back. Alot of rish people drive Lexuses, BMw's Benzes or Audi's. I rarely see them in Maserati's, Bentleys,etc. If I had Billions, I'd either have Veyron as a personal car.

  • CPTG CPTG on May 15, 2009

    I am acutely aware of the prohibition to 'flame' the site, the authors or fellow commentators---so, can I at least flame 'the car'?!!! I am sorry, It looks hideous. If I am going to drop a MEG or more on a car, I want people to go "Oooooh!!!", not "Dude's got more money than brains because that car's butt ugly!!!" 1. If I am dropping a MEG or more on a car, I am not interested in miles per gallon, horsepower or driveability. I want the puppy to scream opulence!!! 2. That means, I don't want rounded edges or drag co-efficients or any of that nonesence. I want a classy car like...a Dussenberg or CORD with a spaceage saloon in the back (satelite phone, high speed internet like they have in planes, a full bar and enough leg room where I can design a Powerpoint presentation while a Hooker is on her knees taken care of business as I am taking care of business. 3. And I want it nice enough where I can cruse around Washington DC, pull up to Nancy Polosi and sneer "Yo' Bitch!!! You know that $500K salary cap you put on us Cryco Boys?!!! Well, I am now 'seconded' out to FIAT, which means I WORK for FIAT---so you can take your little $500K salary cap and shove it!!!" Then I would have the hooker titty-flip her off as I laughed "Hey Nancy---ya got any GREY POUPON?!!!

  • Jeff S The Cybertruck is one of the most hyped vehicles in decades.
  • Nrd515 This is all I could think of seeing this. I saw it in the theater with my dad about 59 years or so ago:
  • Art Vandelay I have no illusions tha my Challenger was going to be a car I wanted to own 10 seconds out of warranty. Fun, sure. Fun in 8 years? Hard pass based on the 2 years I had it
  • ToolGuy Weren't some of the most powerful engines in the M4 Sherman air-cooled? (And supercharged.)
  • ToolGuy "I installed oil temp and cylinder head temp gauges on various vehicles I was driving, so I could monitor how the engine was doing. I switched from my normal 20W50 and dropped to 15W40 oil and put down thousands of miles. Within that time, I saw a noticeable decrease in oil temps and even cylinder head temps while driving in different situations."ToolGuy has great admiration for your use of the scientific method in conducting original research.