Was the 1997–2013 Maybach the first coachbuilt luxury sedan of the modern era? These streamlined lines likely forced Rolls Royce/BMW’s hand in reintroducing the Mack-truck shaped 2003 Phantom, but a Maybach sighting for people of a certain age instigates an uncontrollable urge to utter that music “drop” spoken by model Jessica Gomes. For those who m-m-m-may not know the reference, a famous record label also sports the Maybach name and likely became the brand’s most valuable ambassador.
Sales volume never justified the bespoke coachwork, which was loosely based on the Mercedes-Benz W220 S-Class. Plus, this example’s modest $43,000 current asking price suggests that Maybachs are now fully depreciated, future classics. No better time for a run on the vellum!
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Funnily enough, while the bodywork was related to that of the W220 S-Class, Mercedes-Benz used the platform of the prior (1992-1999) W140 S-Class for the Maybach 57 and 62. Why? Probably because the W220 had been significantly cost cut, and the W140 provided a more solid platform that was more fitting for an exotic limousine.
What did these in was styling, mainly. It was pretty dorky looking even when it was new, especially compared to the 2003 Phantom you mention. Bentley and Rolls-Royce tend to have more enduring, evergreen styling that can withstand a ten-model-year run (and indeed Bentley was still building the 90s-originated Vickers-era Arnage and its coupe and cabriolet offshoots as late as 2009/2010) ; this could not compete.
That it was outclassed as early as CY 2006 from within Daimler-Benz's own house was another blow. The MY 2007 W221 S-Class looked far more effortless and was far more high-tech than the 57 or 62. Yet, the corporate overlords did nothing to give the Maybach models any of its tech or updated styling. I suspect they didn't want to spend the money.
Of course we know that the Maybach brand dissolved in 2012, to be resurrected as "Mercedes-Maybach". Mercedes-Maybach currently builds a single long(er)-wheelbase version of the W222, in V8 and V12 guises. I suspect its development will be more closely coupled to the S-Class, since it has a lot more in common with it these days. Still, the cars are an acquired taste, design-wise.
Hi Kyree, you really nailed it! I bet the fact that the Maybach was designed by their Japanese design studio meant they threw out all notions of traditionalism from the beginning and went full steam ahead with cutting edge. It hasn't aged terribly well, but it's still a stunner from a few angles.
Thank you as always for taking the time for my favorite column.
And that's not a leaf, that's mf-ing helicopter. My neighbor has a tree that showers the cars in my driveway in them every spring. They get absolutely everywhere, which I must quietly admire since that's exactly what they should do, but one day I will have a tree grow out of my fender as they collect and trap water in the drain area.
As a certified unwashed plebe, I was never impressed by the Maybach and some of the details you show are a little unnerving thinking about what this car cost new. Were I to be in the position to afford such an automobile (or train, as it were) I wouldn't consider it simply because it doesn't have show stopping presence. It looks like a Benz.
Also, for a 2020 faux-baller in the market for a luxury ride on a Best Buy car stereo installation manager budget, what advantage does this offer over other similarly priced high end used cars? Which brings me to the ultimate horror of super-expensive luxury car ownership - not the eye watering normal service costs, not the Ivy annual tuition levels of depreciation, or the average new car MSRP failed component replacement costs - it's that my car has become laughably out of date with less fancy technology in it than a 2 year old Kia Forte. The most comfort and quietness will only go so far if I have to have a Case Logic 136 CD binder in the back seat.
One last thing, on the photo facing the hood ornament from the driver's door mirror - does the hood line really transition to almost touch the fender? Or is that just an illusion from the angle you're standing?
Thank you again for reading, Land Ark. It's great to have your feedback, and here are my thoughts on that.
1. Those oak tree leaves have wound up in the blower motor of my truck that sits outside, but front half of it is covered by my home's roof overhang. And my truck has tiny round holes for the HVAC intake, I completely do not understand what sorcery was involved to get them into my cabin that way.
2. I felt the exact same way until I was chauffeured for 5 miles in the back of it. It was still impressive even with the dated technology, and very, verrry appealing and delightful. The 62s are worth a whole lot more and I can imagine why, it must be like heaven back there. It drove pretty good, but that's not the joy of this vehicle, maybe the "S" would be fun like the S65 AMGs sold on the Mercedes-Benz side of the dealerships.
3. It provides exclusivity and it still has a ton of bespoke luxury. I reckon almost nobody's gonna buy this as a daily and expect it to perform like a new car, consider this one was indeed a trade-in at a Rolls Royce Dealership for proof. I will admit that from behind the wheel the gizmos have aged poorly, but not so from the rear. And it's only like another decade or so until this level of tech becomes Radwood cool like the junk we used to mock from the 80s-90s.
4. The fender never touches the hood, the hood always "sits atop" the fender. The body has a strong demarcation between its northern and southern hemispheres.
I love this kind of detailed styling analysis...missing since the demise of AUTOMOBILE magazine and Robert Cumberford’s design analysis column.
It’s sad to realize that this Maybach was a product of the same company that produced the 600 of the sixties-a car with amazing presence and hideously complex and over-engineered mechanicals.