We go back to the year 1997. In that year Mercedes-Benz showed a striking concept car during the Tokyo Motor Show. It was the Mercedes-Benz Maybach. It was for the first time since the 40’s that the name of Maybach was spelled again in the automotive world. This concept car is the beginning of the renaissance of the brand Maybach. Sixteen years later it is unfortunately already over for the most luxurious and high-tech limousine of the last decade. What made the brand Maybach so special and beloved among its small group of customers? To find this out we contacted Maybach-dealer ASV. In this extensive report you can read more about the history of Maybach, the destruction of the brand and the experience to drive with a car like a Maybach or being driven around in it. Especially this last thing will stick to your mind for a long period of time.
Since the start of Autogespot we have hardly spent much words on the brand Maybach, despite the fact that Maybach is in the market since 2002. Throughout the years the models have been developed, renewed and made better. In 2008 Maybach reached number one in the Luxury Brand Status Index, ahead of Rolls Royce and Bentley. This institute is responsible for everything in the market of luxury. From scratch the Maybach has been a remarkable car. In contrast to other brands however, it is difficult to say what it is exactly that makes the Maybach to be such an extremely unique car.
During this period, connections were made with Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin. He was an aircraft transport pioneer with his own build airship, the zeppelin. The Maybach family convinced the pioneer that the engines that were build by father and son were perfect for use in the airship. But these engines were still at the developing stage at that time. The convincing of the Maybach family led to the establishment of "Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH" in Bissingen, in the area of Stuttgart in the year 1909. Karl Maybach became the technical manager of the company. One year later, May 1910, the first Maybach-powered zeppelin was introduced. It didn’t take long before Maybach focused on another market, the one we know, cars. This was the consequence of a rule set by the German government that the production of engines for aircraft was forbidden. The products of Maybach now were an alternative cooperation as economic meaning and as a challenge of design and technique.
The DS 8 Zeppelin
It already was 1930 before Maybach became one of the most distinctive and luxurious car producers in the world. In the car industry Maybach was a synonym for perfection and precision. The car that gave the company its allure was the Maybach DS 8 Zeppelin. It was an enormous 5.5 meters limousine with an enormous V12 engine. Maybach build the car with the same principles as they do nowadays: The conspicuous styling and the precision, which were combined with a lot of stunning novelties. In January 1930, the DS 8 was described as a impressing, powerful and sovereign limousine which doesn’t show off with the luxury he’s got. This car was available as a saloon, sports convertible and an open-top tourer. Each model was a little bit different in terms of looks, but each model came with a spacious interior and beautiful finishing.
The customers at Maybach nowadays are mostly rich businessmen and successful musicians. Especially in the hip-hop scene the Maybach is a status symbol. But that isn’t only now, in the earlier days kings, politicians and emperors chose the Maybach as their way of transport. Celebrities like boxing champion Max Schmeling and tenor Enrico Caruso. Another illustrious group of people is formed by the emperor of Ethiopia, King Paul of Greece, and even our Dutch Prince Bernard and Princess Juliana. Names that are still alive today are Werner van Siemens and Robert Bosch, prominent capitalists that still keep the brand running.
A Maybach will never be cheap, just like previously. The statistics say 56.039 copies were registered in Germany in 1930. From those cars only 66 of them were Maybachs. The legendary DS 8 Zeppelin is sold 183 times, worldwide. Maybachs production went on until 1940. In the WO II, Maybach only produced engines for bigger tanks for the German army. Estimated is, that around 1800 Maybachs have been build from 1930 until 1940. Only 152 of them have stood the test of time. When the war ended, Maybach disappeared from the market completely. They didn’t want to build luxury cars again. The only work they did were repairs, and in 1960 Daimler-Benz took over Maybach.
Rebirth for Maybach
It is the year 1997, and a very special concept car is shown at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Mercedes-Benz Maybach. For the first time in ages car journalists and millionaires use the name Maybach again. The concept car is a tribute to Wilhelm Maybach. At least as important as the fact that Mercedes-Benz want to pamper their customers as much as they can. The length of the car was 19 feet, which is between the length of the Maybach 57 and 62. The wheelbase of the Mercedes-Benz Maybach is 16 inches longer than the a normal Mercedes-Benz S-class. The Maybach is the ultimate luxury car, designed in the Japanese design centre of Daimler-Benz. The designers told they were aim for a perfect balance of tradition and innovation.
Inside the car, a beautiful luxurious atmosphere is created by use of exclusive materials combined with high-tech equipment. Lots of the novelties came back in the production models. We know for instance the V12 with cylinders that could be eliminated from usage in the S-Class, the LED-technology in the SLR McLaren and the electronic transparent roof in other, later models. These are just examples of the lots of new gadgets featured on the production model which was introduced 5 years later.
Maybachs model range
A little less than 10 years ago, the moment arrived people had been waiting for. Finally, after years of absence, two Maybachs had come to the IAA in Frankfurt. The top of the range model and the spiritual successor of the legendary Zeppelin was the Maybach 62, a limousine with the length of 20 feet and a wheelbase of 12 feet. Every little thing in the car was focused on the luxury of the passengers in the back. In the back, there is so much room for you legs; you can easily stand there with 3 men, if it didn’t had a roof. Also there are flat screens as a standard feature. Other standard features are a small fridge, a TV receiver, a DVD player and of course the most comfortable seats you can think of in a car. A lot ‘smaller’ is the Maybach 57, with its 18 feet of length. It of course has got all of the standard features of the 62, you will only have less room for your legs. Because of the fact that Maybach is owned by Mercedes-Benz, the car is based on the S-Class. The chassis is top-of-the-bill; you surely won’t find a more comfortable limousine. The beating heart of the 57 and 62 is a evolution of the 5,5-litre V12. This car may be a luxury limousine, but still has got good performance. The engine delivers 550 bhp and 664 ft lbs of torque, which is available from 2300 rpm.
Three years later, in 2005, Maybach introduced their more sporty models, the S-line. Both the 57 as the 62 were available in this sporty trim. A little misleading: S doesn’t stand for ‘Sport’ but for ‘Special’. You will read more about this later, we tested a 57S ourselves. Some years later, in 2010, all the models had a facelift. Until the introduction of the new Mercedes S-Class this model would be available. Then, it’s over with Maybach.
Since the establishment of the new Maybach company, models never were as successful as expected. In the past few months, we’ve seen that per media. Yet still, their 2 models amazed us. We think Maybach should have more of these models. We’re talking about the Maybach 62S Landaulet. The Landaulet sure is the most exciting limousine from the past couple of years. The classic cabriolet construction reference to the former Landaulet models. It is a cabriolet for the back passengers only. This classic design makes the 62S Landaulet to a very unusual but decadent appearance. A 62S Landaulet is a very romantic car, you let bring yourself to the opera in the summer while you enjoy a glass of champagne together with your partner. This car really is the ultimate luxury. The model is based on Maybachs biggest and most powerful car, the 62S. With only 20 Landaulets build and with a price tag of 720.000 British Pounds this is the most out of the box and expensive car Maybach ever produced.
Maybach got famous with its Zeppelin models in the 1930’s. In 2009, Maybach tried to boost the sales. More luxurious, powerful and expensive were the Maybach Zeppelin models. With only 100 copies build, you knew you would be more striking than the ‘normal’ Maybachs. The V12 was tuned to a massive 640 bhp and 738 ft lbs of torque, which is 38 bhp more than the standard Maybach. The exterior is given a more classic look with Rock Mountains-brown and Taiga black. Further, it has got new rearview mirrors, specially designed 20 inch alloy wheels and Maybach Zeppelin logo’s. Inside, the seats are assembled with a diamond pattern in the colour California brown. New in the Zeppelin models is the very sophisticated perfume atomizer from Givaudan, with 2 nice selected flavors.
But what’s the reason Maybach never has been a success? Aren’t they pretty enough? The Maybach is in real life not that ugly, a tasteful model can even be quite pretty. It were the big competitors who stole the success from Maybach. You can see it yourself, the Rolls Royce Phantom is much more successful. The kind of people which (can) buy this kind of cars just want more than a good interior. When you pay an amount of money that big, you just expect a better exterior. The Maybach is a bit too businesslike and just needs some more emotion, in terms of exterior design. Keeping in mind that Maybach is part of Mercedes-Benz, it is much more logical that they’ve chosen for a not to bold styling.
Many customers are happy with the standard combination of dark colours. Yet still there are thousands of possibilities in terms of colours and interior. Each Maybach is assembled in a Maybach-studio, also called the ‘Centre of Excellence’. As a customer, you even can follow the complete process of building your new car. As a standard, there are seventeen different colours to choose from, but you can have any colour you like if you pay for it. With the interior, it’s the same story. The interior is completely handmade. You can choose for a lay-in of carbon fiber, but we think it doesn’t fit with the cars total image. Wood, the most common lay-in, is the ultimate lay-in. In Maybach cars, the wooden lay-in is made from three layers of wood, with a total length of a massive 18.5 feet, which is almost the length of the 57. This of course isn’t the only wood in the car, its whole interior is made from wood and leather. The wood of the car has to set 20 processes, which gives the wood 63 layers, before it will be fitted into the car. If you don’t like wood or carbon fiber, you can have anything you want at the Centre of Excellence. Even gold or wood from a tree from your own garden is possible. ‘’The sky is the limit’’, that’s the perfect description for putting together a Maybach.
A driving office
The exclusive experience to drive a Maybach actually begins when you open its big doors. It has a very businesslike look, so you won’t get as excited as you will get with a Ferrari or Aston Martin. Yet still, the car will give you something that catches your attention. Especially the size of this car really is enormous. The Maybach we drove is a 57S, made available by Maybach dealer ASV. This Maybach has got a very powerful V12 tuned by AMG, with not 550 but 612 bhp. That, means you can smoke tires with this car, but it isn’t made for that kind of work. The performance is without a doubt impressive, only 5 seconds are needed for a sprint from 0 to 62 mph. The 2,6 ton weighting monster will accelerate its way up to 170 mph. The S-model doesn’t only come with a tuned engine, also the chassis is modified. Both the front as the rear axle are modified, which gives it up to 15% less body roll. In combination a 15 mm lowered suspension, this 57S has got a sportier ride than the normal 57. You will lose comfort, but we don’t think this immediately is a complete disaster.
When you’re on the road, the size of this car will catch your attention. You have to use the whole width of the driving lane and you have to drive different in small corners than with normal cars. It is surprising how high you’ll sit behind the wheel in the lovely seats, which are more fauteuils in the front. The dashboard is nice, but a little bit obsolete. Lots of cars have one central control system with a screen instead of buttons, but in the 57S there are buttons for almost everything, but this actually isn’t chaotic.
From ASV in Veghel we set our course to the castle Maurick in Vught. On the highway you will recognize how relaxed this car is. At 75 mph you do have the idea that you’re doing 30. The perception of speed completely disappeared. In the Netherlands you’re limited to highways, but in for instance Germany, this car is a phenomenal car for journeys thanks to its relaxing atmosphere. A very nice detail is the Maybach Manufaktur-logo on the grill, which gives you the idea that you’re driving something special. The sensation of driving this car comes at highways or at empty B-roads with long bends. The way this car moves can almost be called magic. You’ll not recognize every little bump in the road, and after hours of driving you won’t be tired.
Once we’re at the castle, we have a conversation with some businessmen who are here for a congress. Many of them show interest in the car, but don’t really see the point of the car. Then there is the moment we open the back doors for the businessmen. The doors can open 90 degrees, which eases the entry of this car. The interior trim 57 Spezial is very modern, with its carbon fiber lay-in. We think it is maybe nicer than the light wooden lay-in. When the people see the interior, even words like ‘fabulous’ and ‘fantastic’ are used. Although the Maybach is nice in the front, in the back it only gets better. The lovely seats are adjustable in every thinkable direction and even have a massage-, cooling- and heating function. On the two flat screens you can watch a DVD but if you want, you can see the latest news by using the TV receiver. For privacy, there are curtains that can cover the interior for the outsiders. We think that the Maybach is more focused on comfort for the back passengers than the Rolls Royce Phantom or Bentley Mulsanne, without a doubt. Simple details like mood lighting, a speed-o-meter in the roof and beautiful carbon fiber tables make this car complete.
But what’s exactly the power of the Maybach? We say modestly. An intimate and businesslike interior gives the calmness where the customers are looking for. Maybach customers are mostly busy people, who are looking for rest. In our eyes there is only one best Maybach, the 62. With the extra space for passengers, this is the number one limousine to buy. What you need is the optional bulkhead and a panorama roof. A Maybach is the best in black, with a white exterior. Think about the interior first shown on the 62S Landaulet. People who buy Maybachs already do have everything. More houses, more cars, and of course a big pile of money. So why would you buy a 57 and not a 62? The 62 was introduced as a flagship for luxurious limousines, but actually became a small boy, ashamed for its talent. It is extremely difficult to make a company popular and wanted. Special editions like the Zeppelin, 125 Editions and wild colours were some attempts to give the sales a boost. Still, the problems already started in 2009 at Maybach. The sale numbers dropped, while Rolls Royce and Bentley sold their cars much easier. Economical problems like the crisis also played a big role. Christoph Stuermer from IHS Global Insight Inc said in 2009 that Maybach should be active in other markets to become successful. Eventually, it turned out to nothing and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche decided in autumn 2011 to stop with the production of Maybach in the end of 2012. As a replacement, more luxurious versions of the S-Class will be available. An extra long Pullman version will be available, but still, this never will replace the magic the Maybach had.
Will the Maybach be missed in the automotive world? Yes and no, because potential customers or car journalists never had the idea what it is to own a Maybach. You never experienced it, and you’ll never miss it. But when you have or had, or once drove a Maybach, it will stay in your heart. Because that moment when your doors are closed, the bottle of champagne is opened, the curtains are closing and the car starts to move, is timeless.
Special thanks to ASV
Photography by: Adam van Noort
Video by: Christian Kalse
Translation by Kevin Westhoeve.