Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 road test review
The timing seems right to say, "The sky is the limit!" when we discuss opulence in SUVs. The upper tiers of the SUV spectrum have broken past ceilings of price and performance as we knew them, as the top marques have now found ways of affixing their esteemed emblems on high-riding automobiles. The latest to join this fancy fair is the Mercedes-Maybach GLS and at least for the Indian audience, it isn't just a pricier variant of the popular SUV.
And that is because most of the new-age technology that left us baffled on the new GLS but never came to India is standard on the Maybach GLS. So what you will sign the cheque for is not only exclusive paint and upholstery but also the very cutting edge of technology available on production-spec, fossil-fuelled cars.
I have often heard customers walk into a luxury car showroom and buying the model of their choice in a heartbeat, but in the colour and specification that is available with the dealer. With the GLS 600 though, don't make an impulsive buy that could make you feel shortchanged later. This is the kind of car that you don't pick from the inventory, instead, you want to configure and personalise it and there is an elevated joy in choosing the paints, the materials and the finish. Think of it as something more therapeutic than customising your abode. Because remember, only your guests can see your choices and how well you set up your home, but with a car of this order, the whole world gets an insight into your taste. After all, the Maybach GLS is a rolling advertisement of your wealth and celebrity status.
The Maybach GLS seen here is done up in a two-tone combination of obsidian-black lowers and rubellite red uppers. During the time of this test, this was the only two-tone Maybach to have landed in the country, so you can get a hint of the level of exclusivity it offers. If I had to choose from the five default options though, I would the Emerald green and Mojave silver combination.
The Maybach GLS wears a three-pointed star on the hood like the old times, and despite its position, this car ensures a high degree of pedestrian safety. In all likelihood, you won't hit a pedestrian at speed, not only because there is pedestrian detection and automated braking, but also because I foresee most Maybach GLS' to roll down the streets unhurriedly and gracefully. Also, it is hard for a pedestrian to not notice a car this large and gleamy arriving towards them. It has the same wheelbase as the standard GLS but the two-tone paint and the vertically slatted grille makes the Maybach appear a size larger. In fact, it is 31mm wider on paper. Some might classify all the chrome and shine to be bling, and I won't blame you for making that judgement looking at the retouched imagery, but on the road it fits well with the aura of the Maybach GLS.
The broad D-pillar wears the Maybach emblem and this is the highest position at which it has ever ridden. Save for the paintwork, the upright grille and the massive chrome louvres in the bumpers, the Maybach shares its lines and peripherals with the GLS. The headlights feature the adaptive multi-beam LED lamps which not only auto level and illuminate the corners and the road shoulders as per the steering angle, but will also adapt the illumination to highlight potential hurdles or to reduce glare to oncoming traffic. The system works exceptionally well on our highways and B-roads too.
Adding further function and form to the Maybach's poise are the beautiful wheel choices. If you prefer chunky old-school wheels to the new-age machined finish, Mercedes-Benz will sell you a set of 23-inch forged wheels. But the Maybach hubcap will rotate with the wheel. These wheels contribute to making the Maybach 15mm taller than the standard GLS.
But the moment you unlock the car, the electronic suspension lowers itself and upon touching the door handle a chunky running board magically appears for you to elegantly step into the cabin. The insides hold very limited resemblance to the standard GLS, like the two screens and the squarish vents. Like the exterior, even the cabin is draped in different colours and material choices. Our test car's cabin complemented the outer look with a tan and beige upholstery and lining, with inlays made in open-pore walnut wood and high-gloss lime wood. All of this is customisable to an extent, but I think I would pick this combination over the Blacks or Whites that are offered otherwise.
The feeling of stepping into this cabin is quite overwhelming. This isn't a three-row SUV like the standard GLS. Therefore, the second row gets more space (+93mm) and features all the opulence you would expect of a Maybach. The seats can give first-class airline seating a run for its money. Sure, it can't lay flat for you to nap but offers extremely comfortable seating and support for all your hind muscles. I doubt you would ever complain about not finding the right seating angle at the rear - from the reach and recline (up to 43 degrees) to the intensity of the bolstering - everything is customisable. The seats are complemented further by individual trays for work or snacks and the latter is complemented further with a refrigerator for the Dom Pérignons, Chevals and Chateaus, and holders for shiny Champagne flutes.
An elevated cradle wirelessly charges your phone (though my 12 Pro Max didn't fit), and another embedded cradle holds the Samsung tablet that works as a remote control for the windows, sunroof, blinds, media and the 64-colour ambient lighting. Two screens at the rear of the front seats take care of the rear-seat entertainment, which is completed by a fabulous 13-speaker Burmester audio setup. The audio unit also contributes towards negating road and powertrain noises for a quieter experience inside the cabin.
The seats at the rear, as well as the front, come with heating, cooling and massaging functions. While the rear seats are all about luxury, the driver's seat is all about the tech for the road without much compromise. The familiar two-screen setup from the GLS runs similar MBUX NTG6 OS and telematics too, but there are some additional features embedded deep within the menus.
Like the car wash mode for example, which when enabled with automatically roll and shut all windows and sunroof, turn off the automatic headlamps and wipers and prepare the car for the jet sprays. Or the Energizer function, which can not only detect fatigue with inputs from the Attention Assist but also communicate with a proprietary fitness band to predict when would be a good idea for giving you a massage, a fresh whiff of the onboard cologne and maybe even a change in the tempo of the music. Speaking of the fragrance function, if you want the aroma of leather, so that your car keeps smelling new, you can have it. Or if you want the scent of the woods that you will never drive this car into, you can have that too.
If you want to beat the convention and don't mind scratching the expensive paint, the Maybach GLS can very well venture off the beaten path even with its fancy shoes. Between them and the chassis is the state of the art suspension which is controlled by the quick 48V electrical system. Called Electronic-Active Body Control on the brochure, the E-ABC can not only alter the compression and damping at each wheel, but it can also raise or lower a particular wheel to get over an obstacle with dignity. It can also bounce around like a low-rider, but the function finds its use in slush or sand where you might want to rock the car out of the situation.
In the real world, the prowess of this suspension translates to an exceptionally cushy ride. Using the front-facing cameras and radars, the big Maybach can detect most of the speed humps. If you slow down for them in advance, the car will practically mimic the feeling of the wheels lifting off the hump without letting the undulation upset the cabin. It's a surreal feeling and one that sets the Maybach apart from its rivals. I have experienced some of its more expensive rivals and none come close to the ride quality offered by the Maybach GLS, even on our roads.
Mercedes-Benz doesn't make motorcycles, but they have mastered the art of making some of their cars lean into corners to counter roll. The Maybach GLS with the E-ABC is the latest example of that fact and this function ensures that this near-three-tonne SUV tackle bends with an air of stateliness. If you remember, I had broken the news that a GLS Maybach is coming back when we drove the new GLS for the first time in 2019. Since the Maybach variant was planned right at the inception of the new GLS, the chassis was developed keeping in mind the uber-luxurious requirement of this class. So while many believe that it is the GLS that lends its active chassis to the Maybach, it is the other way round - the regular GLS benefits from many technologies that are developed to make the Maybach variant a convincing rival to the likes of the Rolls Royce Cullinan and the Bentley Bentayga.
Motivation for this luxury SUV comes from a befitting 4.0l AMG V8, which feathers out around 560PS and 730Nm of torque to ensure that it never feels overwhelming for the occupants. To that effect, the car features a Maybach driving mode, which flattens the acceleration curve, tones down the vibrations and noise levels further, and shifts earlier to avoid the slightest transmission shock. An EQ Boost function from the 48V mild-hybrid system offers an additional 21PS and 250 Nm of torque to ensure that there are no unwanted jerks or power surges. The car is a conversation starter itself, but to garnish that talk further, the Maybach GLS can sprint from nought to 100kmph in 5.0s (tested) in Sport mode.
The aforementioned EQ Boost also contributes towards reducing emissions and improving the fuel economy. The nine-speed gearbox works efficiently as always and even in the Sport mode, its aggression is restricted to the engine bay. It puts power down discreetly via the 4MATIC AWD and even around the bends, the system works efficiently without much understeer. The powertrain is aided further by radar-guided assistants like adaptive cruise control, automated braking assist, collision detection etc., while the cabin is secured by eight airbags.
Both, in terms of the safety features, as well as how the cabin cocoons you from the elements, the Maybach GLS feels like a glamorous vault on wheels that advertises your celebrity status, while safeguarding it too. Priced at Rs 2.43 crore, not only undercuts its competition but also creates a more practical alternative to the Maybach S-Class. It is no surprise then that the 50 cars allocated for India for 2021 are already spoken for, with the next batch of configured cars only arriving in 2022. While I'm glad that I was the first outsider to drive the Maybach GLS in India, I don't know what to make of an important statistic that Martin, the top boss at Mercedes-Benz India, shared with us - most buyers of the Maybach GLS sold in India are in the age group of 40-45. Am I stuck in the wrong profession, then?
Photography: Anis Shaikh and Sumit Gaikwad
Videography: Priyash Pahuja and Vaibhav Mane
Starts Rs 4.1 Crore
Starts Rs 2.43 Crore
Starts Rs 6.95 Crore