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First Drive

Mercedes-Maybach S680 4MATIC review: £201k, 604bhp V12 limo tested

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Published: 02 Jul 2021
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Woohoo, a big, fat, meaty Mercedes V12! Perhaps there’s some goodness left in th-

A question: if a 6.0-litre V12 produces 604bhp and 663lb ft of torque in a Mercedes-Maybach S680 and no-one is around to hear it, does it… make a sound?

Perhaps it’s a Mercedes thought experiment, designed to probe our own psyches as to why you need an enormous, hugely powerful twelve-cylinder engine in a car that’s been designed to quell that enormous, hugely powerful twelve-cylinder engine.

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Perhaps it’s a foreshadowing; a set up in Act One that we’ll reap in Act Five. If the inclusion of this V12 is largely a theoretical construct, Maybach will have no difficulty say, slotting in a massive battery and electric motor in its place in the years to come. Fully-electric luxury cars make sense, certainly.

Or perhaps it’s as simple as: Massive Big Mercedes Need Massive Big Mercedes V12. On balance, it’s probably this.

Wait, so Mercedes has slotted a V12 in the nose of a Maybach, and you can’t even hear it?

Well, you can. Just. Should the need arise – let’s say you’re late for your GenericMegaCorpShareholderConference, or perhaps you have corporate assassins on your tail and need to make much haste – the Maybach S680 accelerates with eye-opening vigour.

Merc claims 0-62mph in 4.5s, and during TopGear.com’s time in a shiny red V12 test car, we had absolutely no doubt that this was achievable. Repeatedly. And amusingly.

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Must be amusing, sure.

Anything that weighs well over two tonnes (2,350kg to be exact) capable of accelerating faster than a V8-engined BMW M3 is not only incredibly amusing, but shocking. In the hilarious ‘Sport’ mode – yes, a Maybach with a ‘Sport’ mode – the front of the car very gently rears up, and the whole unit charges down the road like an enraged elephant. Flat out, it’ll do 155mph.

But a Maybach isn’t about harum-scarum speed, is it?

Not even in the slightest. The V12 is there because it allows for supreme, effortless power; consider 663lb ft of torque at your disposal from as little as 2,000rpm, delivered via a nine-speed auto and four-wheel-drive. There’s but the merest of moments between depressing the accelerator pedal and a satisfying surge of forward momentum that feels unburstable.

Hang on, a second a go you mentioned MODES. In a Maybach!

Indeed. There are three presets (Sport, Comfort, Maybach) and one individual setup allowing the driver (your chauffeur) control over the various parameters (steering, air suspension etc). All three are of course, geared for maximum comfort and quiet. But the special Maybach mode softens up the suspension further still, dulls the accelerator and steering sharpness that little bit more, starts off in second gear, and gets a different map for the gearbox for fewer changes.

It’s a fractional change, but noticeable: responses up front are dulled so as to allow your driver to coast along even more smoothly. And from the prime rear seating, the suspension has just that little bit of extra give to provide even more comfort while you plot your next GenericMegaCorpTakeover. Or whatever people who buy these cars are into.

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There’s even rear-axle steering that shortens the turning circle for greater manoeuvrability. Truly, it’s something quite special.

That’s surely the point over a regular S-Class.

Surely. And indeed, it makes an S-Class look ‘regular’. “A wheelbase that is 18cm longer than that of the long variant of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is entirely to the benefit of the rear compartment,” says Merc. For which, read: ‘this very long car is longer than the longest version of the S-Class, which is the longest ‘regular’ car we build.’ 

And it is a fabulous rear compartment, with exquisite materials – diamond-patterned leather, top-quality wood – matched to high-end tech. Indeed, the Maybach doesn’t shy away from its processing power, but wears it proudly.

OLED tech is used for the displays (including our test car’s rear screens), there are heated/cooled cupholders in the back, active ambient lighting, a Burmester 4D surround setup, even doors that open and close at the touch of a button.

The rear seats are something to behold. Both ‘executive’ units can recline up to 43.5 degrees, and on one side if you recline fully, the front passenger seat moves forward automatically (assuming nobody’s sitting in it), and a heel rest pops out from underneath. It’s the flattest you’ll be able to rest in the Maybach; “a continuous, comfortable reclining surface for a pleasant sleeping position”.

Naturally, it’ll ease away your aches and pains through a variety of massage programmes, including one for your calves. And even more naturally, you can toast your GenericMegaCorpAcquisition by raising one of two silver-plated champagne flutes, using champagne plucked straight from the onboard fridge.

Owners can drink in peace, thanks to additional absorbent foam in the rear wheel arches for better NVH (over a regular S-Class’s internal foam fillings), thicker laminated rear glass, and even (optional) quieter tyres. The party piece is a trick noise suppression system, one that works with the audio setup to detect road inconsistencies and pump out counter sound waves “phase-shifted by 180 degrees” through the bass speakers.

Top line: it’s really very, very quiet, allowing you to command your chauffeur from the back at barely a whisper.

On the UK's poorly surfaced, uneven road conditions, everything worked hard to eradicate the majority of disturbances, only letting slip the truly horrendous tarmac. And even then, it wasn't so much a bounce, or even a jolt, or even an inconvenience, more of a 'oh, what was that?'. The difference over a normal S-Class is palpable, and lo, the Maybach earns its existence, no matter your opinion on the looks.  

Not entirely sold on those, if I’m honest.

It’s a personal thing, sure, but there’s no mistaking this car’s presence over and above a ‘regular’ S-Class, which is the point. That enormous grille, those wheels, the option of a two-tone colour scheme that takes a week to apply. It’s… opulent. 

And anyway, it doesn’t matter what we think, because they’re not starved of customers: Mercedes sold 12,000 Maybach S-Classes in China alone in 2019 (and more recently, are hitting somewhere close to 600 cars a month). Since the brand’s revival in 2015, Merc has shifted a whopping 60,000 Maybachs around the globe (the big hitting territories are China, Russia, South Korea, USA and Germany).

At £201k, the S680 sits above the W12-engined Bentley Flying Spur, but below the Rolls-Royce Ghost in pure price terms. Sure, the V8 Maybach – dubbed S580 – starts at just £159,695, which… feels like good value, especially if the only cue you get from spending on the bigger V12 is a badge and a bit of additional speed and oomph.

But then, could you, boss of GenericMegaCorp, really live with yourself if you chose a V8 Maybach when a V12 existed? Exactly.

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