If you are a decamillionaire, Mercedes-Benz would very much like you to get to know the name Maybach.
If you have to ask, a decamillionaire, according to a helpful Mercedes public-relations rep I chatted with recently, is someone with invested assets of at least $10 million. "That's liquid investments," the rep explained patiently. "It doesn't count real estate."
Of course not.
Obviously the number of decamillionaires in the United States is rather small, which suits Mercedes-Benz just fine: The company expects to sell just 400 to 500 Maybachs annually among its seventy or so U.S. dealers, and 800 to 1,000 worldwide.
Given the vehicle's price tag, which starts at $359,500—and don't expect any zero percent financing, hefty cash rebates or cushy owner-loyalty incentives—400 units seems to be a reasonable sales goal and decamillionaires obviously the correct demographic for this highest of high-end sedans. So what exactly is a Maybach, anyway, besides expensive?
The name is a stylistic homage to Wilhelm Maybach, who worked closely with Gottlieb Daimler in the latter part of the nineteenth century to build the first internal combustion engine. Wilhelm later designed the first Mercedes car in 1901; his son, Karl, custom built ultra-high-end luxury cars, selling them under the Maybach name, from 1921 to '41.
And now, sixty-some years later, the name lives again. The new Maybachs are front-engined, rear-wheel-drive behemoths: the 57 and the 62. Lest one find those monikers clumsy, know that they were named in the same manner as luxury yachts—by length. Hence the 57 is 5.7 meters long and the 62 is 6.2 meters long. For those of you not conversant in the metric system, this makes the Maybach 62 almost two feet longer than a Chevy Suburban.
Not content with just the yachting reference, company officials say their sedan is "designed to drive like a private luxury jet for the road."
Tall words, perhaps, but ones the car itself backs up—and then some. Our tester was a 62, which is expected to account for 15 percent of the company's annual U.S. sales (sixty to seventy-five cars).
Both the 57 and the 62 are powered by astonishing 543-horsepower (if you pay attention to such things, that's more than many Ferraris) V-12 twin-turbo engines that are turbine-smooth yet rocket the three-ton giants from zero to 60 m.p.h. in 5.2 seconds for the 57 and 5.4 seconds for the 62. Maybach expects most of the 57 models to be owner-driven, with the 62s primarily to be chauffeur-driven.
In truth, in most situations the 62 didn't feel all that different from a Mercedes S-Class sedan: plenty of power, first-rate brakes and a smooth balance of riding and handling. Its enormous girth was an issue only when parking or navigating tight spaces.
Clearly, the way to go in a 62 is to have your own driver. Only then can you fully appreciate and enjoy the stunningly sophisticated and utterly Teutonic bells and whistles available to you in the back of the car. Let's start with the rear seats, which recline like Barcaloungers and are covered in rich Napa leather. Press a button and you're provided with an air-driven back massage. There are built-in footrests and thigh supports, as well as seven electric motors within each seat to adjust the fit and feel.
The rear center console is like nothing ever seen in an automobile before, sporting a DVD player, television, six-disc CD changer, telephone and refrigerator, plus a sort of decamillionaire cup holder: a device that cradles a champagne bottle and two sterling silver goblets (included) firmly in place while driving.
Two folding tables made of machined aluminum and fine wood are standard in the 62 and optional in the 57. Next year, Maybach will also offer a combination fax machine/printer in the rear compartment and a trunk-mounted Internet router to allow wireless computing from the backseat.
Naturally, the list of amenities is staggering: It includes side curtains, a built-in jewelry drawer, front and rear climate-control systems and ceiling-mounted instruments that allow passengers to track speed and weather, among other things. There's even an optional electroluminescent roof that lets in varying amounts of light, depending on the passengers' wishes.
The back of each front seat has a 9.5-inch LCD screen for watching television or DVDs. Two rear-seat passengers can each watch something different if so inclined, taking in the sound through wireless audiophile-grade headphones. There's also a breathtaking, bombastic twenty-one-speaker Bose Surround Everywhere Dolby sound system.