Performance


First drive: Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC.

16 December 2021

Accustomed to flying first class? Hit the road in the all-new Maybach GLS, where Maybach opulence is redefining luxury in the SUV segment.

Performance


First drive: Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC.

16 December 2021

Accustomed to flying first class? Hit the road in the all-new Maybach GLS, where Maybach opulence is redefining luxury in the SUV segment.

Mercedes-Maybach GLS in Melbourne, Australia

The Mercedes-Maybach GLS takes the luxury SUV to another level.

If you’re the sort of person who routinely turns left when boarding a flight, there’s a pretty good chance that the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC is the vehicle you’ve been waiting for. Where else, other than in a first-class airline cabin, would you find a matching pair of plush nappa leather seats with a full suite of electronic adjustment and comfort features, complete with fingertip control of a powerful multimedia system?

Swap out the pilot for a driver and the airport for your garage, and you, too, can enjoy first-class luxury – not only for international travel, but for everyday trips. Plus, there is the added appeal of total seclusion while you luxuriate in everything the Mercedes-Maybach GLS has to offer.

A potent symbol of automotive opulence

If the Maybach name and badge aren’t immediately familiar, think of it as Mercedes-Benz to the power of Mercedes. Luxury on an astonishing scale, effortless power, stunning grandeur and – perhaps most importantly of all – incredible isolation; from intrusive road and wind noise; from vibrations and potholes; from discomfort and hassle.

Mercedes-Maybach GLS in Melbourne, Australia

The interiors of the Mercedes-Maybach GLS create a “cocoon-like” atmosphere for both driver and passenger.

The Mercedes and Maybach names have been intertwined since Wilhelm Maybach oversaw development of the first Mercedes-branded vehicle, a racing car that dominated at Nice Race Week in 1901. Along with his son Karl, he set out to create “the best of the best” with their Maybach-badged cars becoming known in the 1920s and ‘30s as the epitome of craftsmanship and refinement.

The Maybach mission statement remains as relevant as ever, after the marque came under the control of Mercedes-Benz in the 1960s. Since reawakening the brand in 2002, Mercedes-Benz has crafted a small number of exclusive models wearing the Maybach badge. In 2014, Mercedes-Maybach became a full sub-brand of Mercedes-Benz ahead of the launch of the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, which has since sold more than 45,000 examples globally.

Would Wilhelm have approved of the shared values of ultimate luxury, comfort and technology embodied by the distinctive double M crest, which is utilised liberally as a design feature throughout the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC? It’s easy to believe he might.

The passenger experience

Most Mercedes-Benz or Mercedes-AMG vehicles are valued by their owners as a ‘driver’s car’. This Mercedes-Maybach GLS commands the same respect, yet on this rare occasion its on-road competence is not necessarily the primary consideration. The majority of Mercedes-Maybach customers place equal importance on the passenger experience.

It’s in this context that it’s appropriate to focus first on the rear seats, where the owner is likely to ensconce themselves on regular occasions. This is especially true if, like our test vehicle, the optional ‘luxury individual seats package’ is fitted. This exchanges the standard three-seat adjustable rear bench for two lavishly appointed armchairs (it would be a serious understatement to call them seats) that fully utilise the generous wheelbase and width to pack in every creature comfort and convenience feature you might wish for.

Rear seats of the Maybach GLS

The optional ‘luxury individual seats package’ exchanges the standard three-seat adjustable rear bench for two lavishly appointed armchairs.

The process of entering this cocoon-like atmosphere gives a hint of the lavish experience to come. As you (or your chauffeur) open the rear door, a beautifully crafted, anodised aluminium running board inset with rubber strips theatrically glides from beneath the door sill, and the vehicle gently lowers by 25mm to further assist entry. Seconds after the power-assisted door has softly pulled shut, the step gracefully retracts until completely hidden from view, while the vehicle rises to resume its stance.

Time to get comfortable

Thus eased into a world of soft, perforated nappa leather, including a separate lumbar cushion and pillow-soft headrest, it’s time to get (even more) comfortable. The electrically adjustable armchair enables up to 43.5° backrest recline, and a powered foot stool extends to horizontal. With the touch of another button, the seat occupant can move the seat in front further forward to liberate the maximum available space for full-stretch relaxation.

The seats package also introduces a wide centre console that brings a number of extra functions into play. A palm-sized tablet sits on a dock set snugly into the console, from which rear passengers can take almost complete control of their immediate environment. Via simple taps and swipes, back seat occupants can heat or cool the seat, door and console armrests; control the air temperature; adjust lumbar and side bolster supports; select an in-seat massage; lift or lower four individual sunblinds (protecting from UV as well as prying eyes) and open or close the blind that protects a full-length glass roof. There are also options to change the settings for ambient lighting around the cabin to a choice of 64 colours; or take control of the 12-inch seat-back video screen to stream content, browse the web, listen to music, or make and receive phone calls.

Cupholders in the Maybach GLS

The leather-trimmed rear centre console includes two cupholders that can be heated or cooled.

Additionally, the leather-trimmed centre console includes two cupholders that can be heated or cooled, a large storage bin, a phone cradle with wireless charging, two USB-C ports, and airline-style fold-out tray tables that are suitable for working on the go and stow invisibly back into the console.

A further option sure to be popular with customers seeking the full limousine experience is a refrigerated compartment set into the back of the console between the two rear seats that can accommodate up to three standard champagne bottles, along with two cupholders that have been customed-designed to secure champagne flutes while driving.

Many functions may also be delegated to the driver, who has access to most of the same controls. They can designate any of the four seat positions as the ‘VIP seat’, effectively aiming the full aural magnificence of the Burmester high-end 3D sound system at that seat’s occupant. Mercedes-Maybach also utilises this sound system as a design feature, with numerous ornate speaker grilles in stunning brushed chrome visible throughout the cabin and delivering stunning audio output to match. Rear-seat passengers may prefer to use the wireless noise-cancelling headphones found in the door pocket for movies, music or phone calls.

Finding serenity

Underpinning all of these surprise-and-delight inclusions is what will perhaps be the most compelling feature of all for some owners – the opportunity to find genuine serenity. The Mercedes-Maybach engineering team took seriously the mission to create the most isolated environment on four wheels. To this end, significant additional insulating measures almost totally suppress road and wind noise. The rear cargo area, a notorious source of road noise amplification in most SUVs, is fully disconnected from the passenger compartment by a wall of sound-deadening materials.

Mercedes-Maybach GLS wheels

The Mercedes-Maybach GLS rolls on 23-inch wheels that were conceived specifically for this model

Such noise suppression is an amazing feat, especially as the Mercedes-Maybach GLS rolls on 23-inch wheels. Each is a polished, multi-spoke work of art in its own right, conceived specifically for this model and shod with tyres an amazing 325mm wide at the rear and 285mm at the front.

So focused were its makers on abating even the gentlest of intrusions into the cabin, that the fans pushing climate-controlled air into the cabin are mounted on rubber bushings designed to reduce vibration entering the cabin; meanwhile, the vents are special coated to allow air to glide across their horizontal slats noiselessly.

Even the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet – a close relative of the snarling, crackling beast that powers Mercedes-AMG favourites such as the C 63 S and the GT sports car family – generates little more than a muted purr under anything but the most aggressive inputs via the carefully calibrated 9G-TRONIC nine-speed auto.

Yet with 410kW of power, 730Nm of torque and a nominal 0–100km/h time of under five seconds, it’s capable of performance in spades, not to mention an additional boost from the 48-volt onboard electrical system than can add an extra 16kW and 250Nm – if it’s needed.

A cloud-like ride

The sense of sanctuary is only enhanced by AIRMATIC suspension featuring inflated chambers that create a cloud-like ride, working together with E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL, which uses a forward-facing camera to identify road bumps and imperfections and implement optimal settings to minimise or nullify their impact. The driver can also select from a number of driving modes including, for the first time, a dedicated Maybach mode. In selecting this, standing starts are commenced in second gear and acceleration is gentler, with a bespoke ride calibration designed to minimise vibration specifically for passengers in the second row. Another specialised mode, called Curve, adjusts the air suspension chambers individually to lean into bends by up to 3 degrees, effectively reducing the feeling of g-forces acting on occupants.

 

Mercedes-Maybach GLS

AIRMATIC suspension features inflated chambers that create a cloud-like ride.

The overall sense for passengers and driver alike is something akin to an electric hovercraft – near-silent propulsion combined with an outstandingly supple ride.

Not to be overlooked, the driver also shares in the spoils with a luxurious cockpit featuring front seats that are cosseting and supportive, including heating, cooling and massage programs. Two 12.3-inch displays combine to create a widescreen from which to dive into intuitive menus controlling most vehicle functions by touch, voice or swipe pads embedded in the sports-style steering wheel. A head-up display projected onto the windscreen can be configured to provide information on systems from speed and fuel use to navigation, phone-battery charge and music or media being played.

And, of course, for all occupants there is the invisible but tangible assurance of a suite of integral safety and convenience systems, from nine airbags to the comprehensive Driving Assistance Package Plus.

Mercedes-Maybach GLS

The ubiquitous Mercedes-Maybach crest adorns the rear pillar.

There’s little danger your Mercedes-Maybach GLS will be mistaken for a GLS of the non-Maybach variety. Not when you have those gleaming, super-size multi-spoke wheels at each corner, nor lashings of chrome trim including the pinstripe-style grille and mesh-covered lower air inlets. Further side and rear chrome highlights, the ubiquitous Mercedes-Maybach crest adorning the rear pillar, and sparkling Emerald Green paintwork pinpoint this vehicle as unmistakably something quite special, an impression confirmed by the reactions of curious onlookers along our drive route.

A sceptic might point out that without the flight attendant to wait upon your every need, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC hasn’t quite trumped the experience of real first-class travel.

But with every comfort and convenience you could want already within easy reach, and the added one-upmanship of offering total seclusion from noise and hassle that even the pointy end of the plane can’t match, it might equally be argued that the Mercedes-Maybach GLS actually steals a march on its airborne counterpart.

Discover the all new Mercedes-Maybach GLS and book a test drive today. 

By Steve Colquhoun