At first glance, the Maybach GLS 600 looks like a pumped-up, pimped-out Mercedes SUV; one that’s spent a long time in a custom shop. Pumped up because it gets a heavy-lifting AMG twin-turbo V8, suspension that makes it float like a limo and enough drive tech to embarrass a Formula car. It’s also heavily pimped out; in bright sunshine, you can’t look at it without a welders’ glasses. And on the inside, it’s more custom yacht than luxury SUV.
2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS: what’s it like on the inside and outside?
The yacht theme, in fact, runs deep. You can see pinstripes and ‘paneling’ all over – on the grille, the 22-inch alloy wheels, the dash and other random pieces of furniture scattered around the cabin. And just so it fits seamlessly into the lifestyles of the rich and famous, Maybach has used only the finest materials. There are thick, deep-pile carpets instead of floor mats, the roof lining and parcel tray are covered in leather, and if you see chrome or wood, you can be assured it’s the real thing. But first up, just how comfortable are those Pullman rear seats, and can you really kick back and zone out?
The clean lines lend themselves well to the liberal application of chrome.
The first step involves getting into the cabin. It’s quite a climb, so it’s nice that the Maybach pops out a retractable footboard for you as you open the door. Finished in chrome (of course) with the double M logo prominently displayed, it makes clambering up painless. Once I settle down, I get a commanding view of the road ahead, and this is quite a change compared to a relatively low-riding limo.
Auto footboard makes climbing in easy; no lack of chrome.
While this Maybach isn’t built on a longer wheelbase as its S-Class counterpart is, Merc has thrown out the GLS’s rearmost seats, so this once-seven-seater now seats only four. And the lion’s share of the space goes to the two Nappa-lined reclinable rear seats that deliver nothing short of a first-class experience. As comfortable as a sofa to begin with, the seat base is sumptuous, your lower back is superbly supported, and since you can recline the seat to 43.5 degrees (the same as the S-Class) and extend a footrest, kicking off your shoes and stretching out is massively indulgent. And once you find the right angle for the backrest and footrest, all you have to do is save it in the seat memory. The GLS is a bit narrower than an S-Class, so a bit more wiggle room would have been nice, but the seats are heated and cooled, and can massage you in half a dozen different ways.
Backrest reclined at 43.5 degrees, feet propped up and surrounded by the finest materials; the Maybach pampers you.
And that’s not all! You can even turn the GLS 600 into a mini spa of sorts. Several elements pool in to make this happen – the cabin lights are dimmed, the coloured ambient lighting sets the mood, and you can choose your favourite spa music – played via the 27-speaker, 1,590-watt Burmester sound system; all while the seat delivers a relaxing hot massage. As if having a son et lumière experience isn’t enough, the Maybach will even perfume the air. The combined effect is so good, I let out an involuntary yawn. The piece de resistance, however, is the leather Maybach pillow that can be used either as a bolster or as an additional support for your head. Sometimes, it’s just the little things.
Though it is beautifully finished in the finest materials, this is still clearly a GLS dashboard.
And, should you want, you can even do an ‘energising’ workout, as the massaging seats provide resistance that you need to push your back and shoulders against. What next, a 180-degree flat bed?
There’s also other furniture and fixtures worth mentioning at the rear, all finished in the finest lacquered wood, chrome and leather. The central console that runs the length of the cabin has heated and cooled cup holders, there are fold-out tables in the elbow rest, you can specify regular plug points for your devices, there’s a fridge large enough to hold a Champagne bottle (placed between the seats), and you get a pair of clamp-type Champagne glass holders (in addition to the regular cup holders). Of course you get blinds for all the windows, even for the fixed glasses at the rear, there’s a massive panoramic sunroof, and the rear of the cabin gets a removable tablet in the elbow rest, in addition to a pair of large screens that also come with a web browser installed. To see how much how much all these extras cost, see the box.
2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS: what’s it like to drive?
I choose to sit in the rear as we exit Mumbai. Set in Maybach mode, which is even cushier than Comfort, the GLS 600 sets off like a luxury liner heading towards the open ocean. In this mode, the suspension turns even more supple, throttle responses are even smoother and even the gear shifts blend into the background seamlessly.
Inside, there is no sensation of speed, even though we are motoring along quite nicely. It’s very quiet to begin with, and dropping the fan speed on the seats makes the cabin even more silent. It’s so quiet here, it gets your attention. There’s clearly a massive amount of insulation at work, and everything feels well damped and hushed.
Few high-riding SUVs can match the supple yet flat ride of the Maybach GLS 600.
Mercedes has gone through extraordinary lengths to make this possible. This, please remember, is not the fundamentally well-insulated S-Class. The fan motor, for example, rests on rubber bearings, so only very few vibrations are transferred to the cabin. There is an extra coating on the air ducts that further dampens the sound of air rushing past, and even the rubber-lined, leather-clad parcel tray at the rear has several layers of insulation to damp boot resonance.
What’s also clear is that the roads have improved; or at least they feel like they have. Despite its long-travel suspension and supple setup, the GLS isn’t bouncy. Bumps and irregularities in the road barely register, the 600 rides as flat as a hovercraft and the suspension is so silent, it almost blends into the background. And all this on simply massive 22-inch wheels. It’s only when you have some substantial changes in road surface or some sharp edges that you get a bit of a ‘bob-bob’ or a muffled thud.
Sunburst design of stunning 22-inch wheels looks cool.
So what’s going on? How is this possible? The simple answer is evolution, says Mercedes. The next step up from the sensor-controlled Airmatic three-chamber air springs, seen on its earlier cars that had the ability to ‘read’ the road ahead, this new version also ropes in the dampers. So not only do the springs adjust themselves before they arrive at a bump or dip in the road, the dampers do too. And this happens independently for each individual wheel! Mercedes claims this is the only system around that can individually control spring and damping forces at each wheel, and importantly, also suppress roll, pitch and lift at the same time.
2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS: how does it perform?
The GLS 600 is also a highly indulgent drive. I start in Maybach mode, and even here it’s the AMG-based twin-turbo V8 that draws first blood. Creamy, smooth, impossibly torquey and with only a hint of a V8 woffle, this is an exceptional motor. The change in character from the AMG state of tune is massive. Rather than pumping iron, the ‘M177’ is clearly more into yoga and pranayama here. Power delivery is supple but strong, and when I flex my right foot, there’s always more torque than I expect. Wow.
And the further I push the jewel-box-like accelerator pedal into the deep-pile carpet, the more the engine seems to have in reserve. You can feel the weight shift to the rear when you accelerate hard, and of course you feel the longitudinal g-forces build, but the Maybach doesn’t raise its nose or dip down all that much.
The Maybach GLS manages to do the 0-100kph sprint in 5.04s, despite its 2.7 tonne weight.
Despite weighing in at 2.7 tonnes, the Maybach GLS is also quick. Tests we conducted showed that 0-100kph takes 5.04 seconds, with 200kph coming up in 18.12 seconds. The AMG-sourced powerplant in question is a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 with a 48V starter-generator integrated into the nine-speed automatic gearbox. The engine produces 557hp and 730Nm of torque, and an additional 250Nm and 22hp come via the 48-volt electric drive. That, system permitting, is almost 1,000Nm – and you can feel it.
The light and oily smooth steering also helps guide this supertanker with minimum fuss. It lacks feedback as you go faster, but what helps is that it is very precise and smooth, and since the fast-acting suspension ensures body roll remains in check, the GLS 600 is even happy to tuck neatly into corners. Dial up Curve mode (that comes with three presets), and it physically tilts the SUV into a corner like a bike, giving a semblance of agility. It’s no sportscar, but the cornering speeds generated by this massive SUV are very impressive, and the transformation from a regular GLS to Maybach is huge.
2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS: what optional extras are available?
The First Class rear compartment upgrade costs Rs 7.99 lakh, roughly the price of a Hyundai Nios. While It does transform the rear seat experience, not everything you see here is included in that price.
1. Fridge Rs 2.35 Lakh
The refrigerator behind the wooden cabinet is large enough to hold two champagne bottles.
2. Folding Tables Rs 3.84 Lakh
The solidly built folding tables have a very robust mechanism and are very stable, even on the move.
3. 3D Burmester Sound Rs 8.70 Lakh
Sound can rival a concert hall with subwoofers and a total of 27 speakers scattered around the cabin.
4. MBUX Rear Entertainment Rs 5.10 Lakh
Integration of Merc’s super MBUX with rear screens gives near-full access; you get a web browser too.
5. Champagne Flute Holder Rs 1.71 Lakh
Champagne glasses get a felt lined holder and clamps are used in the cupholder to hold them in place.
2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS: what safety features does it get?
Just some of the tech that makes Maybach’s SUV a technological tour de force.
E-Active Body Control
Based on the Airmatic air suspension, this system offers self-levelling as well as active damping support. An electrically driven hydraulic pump (no mistake) is used to help damp the movement of the vehicle and it does not roll, squat or pitch quite as much. Incredibly, on poor road surfaces such as ours, the system is even able to recuperate energy from the up and down forces generated, roughly halving the energy requirement.
The Mercedes-Maybach GLS actively leans into bends by up to three degrees. This is done with the help of the Airmatic air suspension and the 48 volt mild hybrid system. Done in three stages, it helps the Maybach effectively behave like a motorcycle and reduces the lateral forces acting on the passengers.
Road Surface Scan
Two cameras continually scan the road surface ahead of the vehicle and provide a sort of three-dimensional image of the road ahead. When surface imperfections are detected, a message is sent to the suspension so it can best adapt, even before the bad patch is reached.
Recovery Function (Bounce Mode)
Included as part of the Off-Road drive program, it is meant to help free a vehicle from deep sand or slush. To do this, the suspension level is automatically raised and lowered several times in quick succession. This increases and then reduces pressure on the tyres, improving traction and helps the GLS rock itself free. Seeing this 2.7-tonne SUV bounce like a lowrider, however, is so much fun, most owners will mainly use it as a party trick.
Evasive Steering Assist (ESA)
Between 20 to 70kph, Evasive Steering Assist can help the driver manoeuvre and avoid a pedestrian. To do this the car uses a pedestrian detection system fed by both camera and radar, to precisely calculate steering torque, before applying it to turn the steering wheel.
2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS: Should you buy one?
The Maybach GLS 600 has a starting price of Rs 2.43 crore, but this is before you spec it up. Do that and the price can easily add another crore. While this is undoubtedly a humongous pile of cash, the GLS 600 is still more easily accessible than rivals like the Bentley Bentayga or the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, prices for which start at Rs 4 and 7 crore, respectively. Yes, unlike rivals, it doesn’t quite have its own identity and is still based on a GLS, but what the Maybach offers otherwise is an experience not too far removed from these more expensive rivals. Looking for an alternative to a Maybach S-Class limo? This SUV could be one of the alternatives.