Klet instead of quantity – this is how Daimler boss Ola Källenius wants to pull the Mercedes cart out of the mud and bring more sales and above all profit back into the coffers. To do this, he is not only reducing the portfolio and primarily wants to thin out the compact class, but is also celebrating growth at the other end and relying on a name that has always had a particularly good sound at Mercedes-Benz: Maybach. The revival as a separate brand with the luxury liners Maybach 57 and 62 at the turn of the millennium is considered to be the biggest flop in recent company history alongside the small Smart.
But for five years the double M has been shining proudly again and with it the eyes of the accountants. Because since the thickest (and longest) of all S-Classes has been sold exclusively as a Maybach, market figures and corners of the mouth have been pointing steeply upwards: around 600,000 vehicles have been delivered since the market launch in February 2015. In the past few years, around 600 vehicles were sold to customers in China every month, and in 2019 the average was even more than 700 units per month.
No wonder that this time it only took two months before a Maybach version was sent after the ordinary S-Class. The 5.47 meter stretched Maybach model was presented at a car show in Guangzhou, China. But this time it won’t stop with the S-Class. Together with the luxury liner, a Maybach GLS will also roll into stores in spring. Where the limousine competes against cars like the Rolls-Royce Ghost and the Bentley Flying Spur, it is supposed to break the British supremacy among the landed gentry and compete with Cullinan and Bentayga. And that paired with an almost Swabian thrift that is rather unusual in this class. Because even if it is almost 50,000 euros more expensive than the GLS 500 at the top of the Mercedes range with a base price of 156,078 euros, the Bentayga is just under 30,000 euros, and the Cullinan costs almost twice as much.
As a colossus for Croesus & Co., the GLS has been spruced up: From the outside, the 5.21-meter-long thick ship sparkles with the new radiator grille in a pin-striped design, with plenty of chrome in front of the fan grilles and around the windows like a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and inside is luring a luxury lounge with plenty of lacquer and leather. Anyone who climbs into the Olympus of the off-road vehicle via the electrically extendable steps under the glow of their own LED lighting will think they are in seventh SUV heaven. Because where up to seven seats have to be accommodated in the GLS, there are only four in the Maybach.
With a 3.14 meter wheelbase, this is sufficient in the best case for more than 1.30 meters of legroom in the rear and creates space for extendable leg rests, with which the naturally air-conditioned lounge chairs can even be turned into loungers. Especially when the passenger seat almost folds forward into the footwell at the push of a button. There is of course a bar compartment and folding tables in the central console, a dedicated Mbux world for the backbenchers as well as a feel-good program with ambient light and a specially composed room fragrance from the scent of the osmanthus blossom with a touch of leather and spicy tea.
Maybach for the mud
While the rule in the rear behind electrically drawn curtains and thick insulating glass cultivates idleness and is bedded on clouds by the Maybach mode of the predictive air suspension and its 48-volt points, the driver also finds it easy with this heavyweight. Because even if tradition is broken and, unlike in the S-Class, only eight instead of twelve cylinders are installed at the rear despite the 600, the four-liter turbo engine has no problems with the Maybach for the mud: after all, it makes 558 hp and goes to work with up to 730 Newton meters of torque. That’s enough for a sprint in 4.9 seconds from 0 to 100 km / h and at full throttle for 250 km / h.
In the fight against turbo lag and a guilty conscience, there is even an electric booster as a mild hybrid component that pushes a little while starting and otherwise reduces consumption through more recuperation and longer sailing phases. With a standard value of 11.7 liters, this has at best cosmetic value. Especially since the Maybach does not even want to run the risk of irritating customers with even a hint of fluctuations in the backdrop of euphoria. As a precaution, the automatic start-stop system is therefore deactivated in Maybach mode.
Mercedes celebrates Maybach as a success story and Källenius’ new strategy plays into the hands of the brand. But if the head of design Gorden Wagener is concerned, the GLS is only the second step on a long way. In the long term, he wants to make Maybach a strong sub-brand that should also be able to afford independent models again. His colleagues from AMG serve as a role model, and with the SLS, GT and their four-door model, they have already moved a long way away from mass production. However, the comparison also has a catch. It took AMG decades before AMG was ready. That is why Maybach customers will have to be patient and sit back a little longer. There is enough space for that in the GLS.