Merc-Maybach S600

Mercedes takes another crack at Rolls, Bentley

DAMION SMY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

AUTHENTICITY is a word used a lot by the Benz bods in California for the global launch drive of the Mercedes-Maybach S600. This re-reborn uber limo aimed at stealing sales from Rolls-Royce and Bentley is a very different beast to the milliondollar monster that was the previous Maybach. Tellingly, this one wears a three-pointed star on the bonnet.

Visually, itís distinguished by different grille inserts, split twin pipes at the rear, a silver B-pillar, 20-inch wheels, an extended and flatter roofline, and a unique C-pillar and quarter window.

The wheelbase is long, at a whopping 3365mm itís 200mm more than the long-wheelbase S600L. Despite this, the rear door is actually 66mm shorter, so the tiny triangular window is separate, giving celebrities and gangstas more privacy from lurking paparazzi.

That extended length allows two executive chairs in the rear that recline 43 degrees; in other S-Class models, itís only offered on the passenger side. In terms of trim thereís little else to distinguish this car from its lower-spec stablemates. Even the steering wheel still has Mercedes- Benz script, not Maybach.

Your chauffeur will feel like theyíre in any other S-Class; it doesnít feel extra special or have the mystique of a Rolls or Bentley.

The strengths of the S-Class havenít been diluted with the additional length and weight; the Maybach doesnít feel hefty or obese, and the standard adaptive airbag suspension gives it a smooth ride. The steering is well weighted, if a little slow, making the big limo easy to drive smoothly through a set of curves, even at pace. There is a Sport setting for both the engine and suspension, but even in softest Comfort mode, itís competent.

Undetectable gearchanges, effortless torque, progressive brakes and an excellent driving position will make this a chauffeurís choice. However, itís the CEO or rock star in the back seat paying the bills, and despite the claim of the quietest rear compartment available, a few decibels doesnít mean its rivalsí rear seats are exactly noisy, and it simply canít match them for brand cache and grandeur, that sense of occasion.

The Mercedes-Maybach S600 is a brilliant car, but chasing Rolls- Royce is a mighty task, and wonít be achieved easily or quickly.

Saying you own a Bentley or Rolls has more clout than saying Mercedes-Maybach. Thatís where authenticity rears its head. Itís not the product so much as the perception that matters. y. r aying .

PLUS & MINUS

Not distinguished enough from the rest of the S-Class range Fit and finish; refinement; technology; cabin space

A cut above

THE rich are getting richer, and now there are the Ďultrarichí.

Benz says there are now 211,275 individuals classified as ultra-rich, and theyíre worth an estimated $23 trillion. This is set to balloon to 250,500 people worth $31 trillion by as early as 2019, and most will be (you guessed it) in China, where Mercedes will sell about 60 percent of the Maybachs it builds. The Australian armís goals are more modest: if it breaks double figures, champagne will flow.