The Mighty Maybach

Jeremy Taylor takes a different view while luxuriating in the comfort of the new Mercedes-Maybach S 680.

The Mercedes-Maybach wasn’t designed for the person sat on the driver’s seat. Overtly luxurious in every way, most owners will likely never even lay a hand on the leather-clad, heated steering wheel.

Which is why I’m mostly wallowing in the back, in more comfort than a first-class airline seat. For here is a level of personalised pampering rarely experienced in the swankiest of executive saloons.

Fully loaded with every conceivable gadget, gizmo and driving aid, the £204,000 Maybach S 680 is at the very pinnacle of automotive luxury. A serious rival for the best of Rolls-Royce and Bentley, all it lacks is a touch of badge snob kudos.

Mercedes is still the poor relation in this ultra-decadent market sector of money no object buyers. However, for a lot of money, the latest all-singing, all-dancing Maybach is actually more comfortable in the rear than equivalent models from both British marques.

Whilst I enjoyed driving a left-hand drive, 6.0-litre V12 behemoth across the Home Counties, the backseat is where the real story lies – from the seatbelt airbags to the Mercedes MBUX rear entertainment system, a feature like nothing I have experienced.

To achieve such levels of comfort, the S 680 is stretched a remarkable 18cm longer than the ‘Long’ version of the ocean-going Mercedes S-Class, a car built on the same platform. Even with four-wheel steering, the Maybach remains as nimble as an oil tanker. Most of that extra length is devoted to a cocooned rear cabin area, which is now more opulent than ever. A system called Active Road Noise Suppression filters out any low frequency rumbles and has been likened to noise-cancelling headphones.

Less subtle is the ambient lighting display which seems to pop up incongruously on every trim panel. Of course, it can be turned off completely or toned down but at least Mercedes has made good use of the light fantastic.

For example, if a motorway driver indicates right while a passing car overtakes in the outside lane, the ambient lighting in the right door turns red. In the rear, turn down the heating on the mini-tablet provided in the centre console and lights on the back of the front seat change colour to ice blue.

If you want sound, the Maybach has plenty of that too. Not from the barely distinguishable V12 engine but a new 30-speaker, 1750w Burmester 4D sound system. The whopping subwoofers are hidden in the rear of the front seats.

Included in this first UK car that I’m passenger in are optional, silver-plated champagne flutes, cleverly designed to clip neatly on bespoke glass holders. Naturally, there is a bottle cooler in the middle of the rear bulkhead too.

Most Maybach buyers swap the standard rear bench seat for two individual airline-style seats cut from Nappa leather. For rear passengers sat diagonally across from the driver, this seat will recline almost into a bed, as the front seat automatically slides forward to allow extra rear leg room.

Each back seat faces an 11.3-inch touchscreen that complements the mini-tablet found in the centre armrest. The latter can be used inside or outside the vehicle and fits neatly in a jacket pocket.

The rear doors operate from a button on the edge of the roof lining – not to be mistaken for a jacket hook – or can be opened remotely from the driver’s seat. A wireless mobile phone charger is hidden away in the centre armrest, as well as every type of AUX slot ever created.

The Maybach wafts along on air suspension, with extraordinary ride comfort and body control. The Chauffeur setting is a little on the soft side but opt for Comfort and the balance is just about right.

An augmented reality, head-up display flashes vital information onto the road ahead, while a roof-mounted camera sends real-time imagery to the centre display screen, adding blue arrow ways for sat nav directions.

The MBUX system even recognises eye direction, body language and hand gestures. Sensors monitor trip data so that an Energising Coach can create a wellness programme for passengers, boosting sleep quality and lowering stress levels.

And if you really do hope to drive, the Maybach doesn’t want to encourage it. Like its Mercedes S-Class sibling, the S 680 is one of the few cars ready for Level 3, semi-autonomous driving, which may be government-approved in the UK by the end of this year.

Such incredible levels of technical refinement don’t come cheap of course but I’ll wager this latest Maybach will send a chill down the spine of other luxury car makers. The technology-packed S 680 really is a limousine for a new generation of more youthful entrepreneurs.