Vellum Venom: 2012 Maybach 57

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom 2012 maybach 57

Let’s be clear about one thing: racism sucks. Be it the recent, tragic temple shooting or some BS you experienced when doing/not doing what your culture demands, this is a fact of life. That said, geo-cultural influences are everywhere, including the car design biz. Take my time at CCS: one of my classmates was a South Korean lawyer who wanted to style cars for Hyundai. His work was unique amongst all studio creations, reflecting a culture that’s borderline impossible to understand by the uninitiated. Which is damn near every college kid.

This person’s work reminded me how culture influences design, and how people can negatively react to it. Which leads us to a flagship Mercedes heavily(?) influenced by a Mercedes design studio in Japan. Yes, Japan. So let’s get to it.

Massive. Imposing. Ugly? Unlike the utterly fantastic Rolls-Royce Phantom, the Maybach just never had the presence of a proper flagship machine. The headlights are just awful in both shape and size/proportion relative to the rest of the vehicle. Even worse is the massively generic chrome grille, whose front face looks undoubtedly…Asian.

This grille had little (no?) connection to the original Maybach, plus it was horribly bland and uninspiring. That said, the massive hood contours complement the grille and headlights nicely. Add the somewhat posh logo on the hood ornament, and you know this is a large-and-in-charge type of machine.

Here’s another Maybach I shot, giving you a better look at the absolutely silly shape of the headlights. Googly-eyed lenses on a car that costs…how much? Combine the headlight’s shape with their grille-fighting size says one thing: Greed may be Good, but excess has its limits.

The fussy details on the bumper don’t help. I’m certain they are meant to complement the LED marker lights at the bottom, but none of this screams “cream of the crop” luxury. These bumper bulges are better suited to…well…something Korean on the scale of a Hyundai Azera.

Look at all the wasted real estate! Make all the non-functional chrome go away so this beast can actually look luxurious!

The upside is that first impressions can go away, when you see the rest of the Maybach. The extra cost over an S-class Benzo becomes clear in the length of that hood, the space between the dash and front axle, and the very subtle yet expansive use of chrome. The big problem–aside from the headlights–is the hard edges making up the hood’s power bulge. It works with the grille, but the rest of the car is so voluptuous that the front end’s design is just flat-out incorrect.

I do like how wheels get more restrained as you move up the automotive food chain. But let’s hope you (or your driver) don’t scrape up those upwardly bending spokes at your nearest (so to speak) parallel parking curb in Beverly Hills.

No DLO fail, as hoped. But WTF is up with the two different cut lines for the A-pillar and the door? Massive(?) engineering undertaking aside, the Maybach would look so much more luxurious if the door’s cut line extended to the same point where the A-pillar meets the hood.

On a more ironic note: economy of lines regularly equates to a more expensive product. Look at any late-model Aston Martin. Or any Mac vs. PC debate. The Maybach screwed the pooch.

I do like the shape of these mirrors and their proportion relative to the rest of this beast. This proves why we need smaller mirrors in more normal sedans.

Organic and fluid, even in this “short” wheelbase configuration. The classic pre-war lines that always influence modern executive sedans are here, but softened up. Perhaps a little too much, as the Mercedes S-class references are not without foundation. The biggest problem to the Maybach’s lack of top dollar snooty factor? An S-class fast roofline. A similar mistake was made by the original Lincoln Versailles, before a hasty re-do formaled up the rig. Hmm, perhaps there are more apt Versailles references for the Maybach. Ouch.

There is excellent use of chrome throughout. While luxury cars (that mere mortals can buy) have plenty of spizzarkle around the glass and maybe the door handle area, who has the balls to chrome things below the belt line? The filthy rich, that’s who!

S-class or Maybach? It’s such a lovely door curve, with such an elegant roof. Too bad it was never the right move for Maybach. Plus, can’t I get those door handles on an E-class? Pish-posh!

This is a classic Mercedes door. Adding the curtains is another excellent touch. With the extra chrome above the door handles making a break in the sheetmetal’s wake, the Maybach’s W116 S-class roots are showing very, very well here.

Oh dear, that roofline is just all wrong for this car. Where’s the formal? But kudos for the tumblehome!

The monster rear moonroof is more than a little cool. It promises a rear seating cabin that trumps everything. From what I’ve experienced, that’s no lie.

The full width taillight promises more luxury than an S-class and the decklid verges on being pre-war “bustle back” cool. But without a more formal roof, the promise is watered down to the point of lying.

Here’s a factory photo, showing how the rear end has that classic Bustle Back look, but it can’t be accentuated to the point of ostentatiousness with a sporty roof line messing it up from the beginning. Too bad about that.

Also note how a two-tone paint scheme really adds some “pop” to the package. Thank goodness for chrome trimmings on the bodyside!

These taillights are great, until the W220 S-class got the same fine-tooth backup lense treatment in 2003. Damn that S-class!!!

That said, the taillights have the same problem as the headlights. They stick too far into the quarter panel, making the rear look artificially fat. Paper thin lights leading to a wide full length treatment at the bottom would be nice. And the rounded shape of the trunk’s side might look better if it was as flat as the top. It would also help justify that looney grille up front.

Yup, the decklid needs to be a little flatter to help accentuate the Maybach’s overall size in other places. Like a modest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, sometimes you have to be small to really be big.

If that didn’t make sense with the last photo, perhaps this shot helps. The Maybach’s rear is too round and ponderous. The people have spoken: and they all speak to the Phantom. Well, except for Rick Ross…but it’s all good.

I know a break in the taillight saves a huge wad of cash both in R&D and real world ownership costs, but on this car? The Maybach needs a one-piece lamp assembly.

This bizarre kink in the glass is brought to you by…well, who knows!

And on that note, soak this in. The Maybach looks suitably posh in a high-contrast, two-tone paintjob. It’s a huge step forward. Now imagine it with a formal roof and smaller headlights. And now, finally, you have a vision of how the Maybach could have beaten extinction. Better luck next time.

Thank you for reading, have a wonderful weekend.

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2 of 40 comments
  • Acuraandy Acuraandy on Aug 13, 2012

    Disgusting. P.S. I thought Maybach went the way of Pontiac in 2010 MY?

  • Jayzwhiterabbit Jayzwhiterabbit on Jan 23, 2013

    Great point about the C-pillar being too fast to convey "luxury." That's my problem with the new Lexus LS also - it no longer looks luxurious or distinctive because it has the same roofline as a Hyundai. Now, whenever I see an LS I think it's an ES. What happened to formal rooflines, as per RR and Bentley? Before I knew this car was based on the S-class, I recognized that they had to be the same car. Even after all the changes, it still manages to look like a badge-engineered Mercedes (which I guess it is :).

  • Inside Looking Out "And safety was enhanced generally via new reversing lamps and turn signals fitted as standard equipment."Did not get it, turn signals were optional in 1954?
  • Lorenzo As long as Grenadier is just a name, and it doesn't actually grenade like Chrysler UltraDrive transmissions. Still, how big is the market for grossly overpriced vehicles? A name like INEOS doesn't have the snobbobile cachet yet. The bulk of the auto market is people who need a reliable, economical car to get to work, and they're not going to pay these prices.
  • Lorenzo They may as well put a conventional key ignition in a steel box with a padlock. Anything electronic is more likely to lock out the owner than someone trying to steal the car.
  • Lorenzo Another misleading article. If they're giving away Chargers, people can drive that when they need longer range, and leave the EV for grocery runs and zipping around town. But they're not giving away Chargers, thy're giving away chargers. What a letdown. What good are chargers in California or Nashville when the power goes out?
  • Luke42 I'm only buying EVs from here on out (when I have the option), so whoever backs off on their EV plans loses a shot at my business.