Mercedes-Maybach GLS: Review
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Can there really be too much presence or opulence? The Maybach GLS is flirting with that line. But, which slide is it really on?
Five of us were waiting anxiously in a parking lot as Mercedes had called and informed us that the driver had almost reached the colony gate. But like all good things, there was some delay. All of a sudden, our conversation was interrupted by a V8 exhaust note and like all enthusiasts, our heads suddenly pointed in one direction. The grille arrived first, wheels after that, then the body kept on arriving for a while. Finally came the tail lamps. It was here and how! The Mercedes-Maybach GLS.
We have all seen the GLS on the road and have a fair idea about the size. Take that idea and throw it out the window because the Maybach is massive! And it is not down to the dimensions, as apart from the height, which is a centimetre and a half longer, the other parameters match the regular GLS. But it is that large 29-slat grille that amplifies the presence.
The test SUV had the Mercedes star hood ornament but customers can of course opt for a Maybach hood ornament which further adds to the presence. Speaking of which, there is tonnes of chrome. On the grille, the full airdam of the bumper and even the skid plate, an area which is supposed to protect the underbelly from damage, is chrome!
However, the most brilliant element of the design is in the side profile -- the massive 22-inch 16-spoke (that looks like 32-spoke) wheels. And not just the diameter, these things are a massive 285/45 in profile. They stick out of the bodywork a little and look properly baller. The SUV is over 6 feet tall and looks like a wall if you are standing a little close. The two-tone paint on this media SUV is an optional extra and does suit the overall stature. However, it did divide opinions within the team. Final interesting touch in the bodywork is the Maybach moniker on the D-pillar.
The most exciting part however has to be the fold-out side steps. They pop out from under the side sills on either side as soon as you open either of the doors and then retract and sit flush when you shut them. Even when they are out, they look the part of a Maybach and even feature a double-M moniker. And despite having a folding mechanism, they are extremely sturdy.
The rear is the most ordinary angle of the Maybach GLS. Apart from the chrome treatment of the skid plate, tailpipes and the boot garnish, there is nothing to talk about. Otherwise the only highlight is just the Maybach lettering. Overall, the Maybach GLS isn't pretty in the traditional sense. But it's the chrome jewellery and the massive proportions that make sure you take notice of it. If presence is your gamble, the GLS is the winning bet.
Of course, the first door you’d open in the Maybach GLS is to the second row. Open it and you are greeted with two lounge-like seats draped in two-tone leather. The color in this spec, though, feels a bit gaudy. Nevertheless, it perfectly complements the exteriors with a maroon-tan shade for the seats and the rest a light shade of creamy white. There are cushions on the seats and neck pillows that you’d just want to fall asleep on. The luxury quotient is so intensive that even the grab handles are leather wrapped with beautiful stitching.
The two recliners are separated by a centre compartment which houses the fridge. Our SUV even had the optional champagne glass holder - sans the glasses - with Maybach logo on the cover and on top when you open it. Then there is a well padded armrest which opens up to give access to two folding tables. At the end is a touchscreen tablet that can be taken out of its casing. However, a little ahead of this tablet is a floating wireless charger which oddly looks out of place. And then you have a hidden cup holder and the rear AC control units.
The doors themselves are wrapped in the same dual-tone shade of Nappa leather with contrast stitching and even the panel which houses the seat controls gets a nice brown finish. And finally the metallic speaker grille, which is as sharp as a cheese grater. The Maybach illuminated sill welcomes you in the cabin and while some may find the soft door close an overrated feature, it ensures that the door shuts properly every time you close it. The only issue here are the white carpets, which had become quite dirty by the time the SUV came to us. Everything else looks and feels impeccable.
Climb into the rear seats and you feel your body being supported throughout. The cushioning is not too soft but just right, and the armrests fall nicely in place. Now is decision time: you can either straighten the seatback and wave to your fans outside, or recline the seats and switch on the heated massage function to leave stress outside the cabin. Of course we decided to try the massage first.
To do so, you can either use the seat-back monitors which take touch inputs or simply use the tablet. There are multiple options you can choose from, including a full back and a heated one as well. The massage, though enjoyable, isn't as powerful as the Swedes have to offer in their flagships. But the heated back one on a cold and rainy shoot day was just what the doctor ordered as it even heats up the armrest!
Adding comfort is the soft neck cushion and the ottoman. The latter can be extended all the way up and with the front seat all the way ahead, people of average height will be able to just squeeze in. Any taller, 6 foot or above, will find the space a bit too limited to stretch out. Still, with most of your body supported, the recline angle all the way back to 43 degrees, sunroof shade open, massage on -- the backseat experience doesn't get any better. That is, if you don't have an S-Class. Because there, it's even better. Read our S-Class review for more details on that (Will be live shortly).
You can also control all the sunshades - namely both the windows and the sunroof - from this palace. The sats are both heated and ventilated and with the touchscreen you can even control the infotainment and the ambient lights. Speaking of the ambient lights, like on all Mercedes cars, the front three sides of the cabin are wrapped in them. In the Maybach, you even have them behind you! Finally comes the cabin insulation. Mercedes has worked on this aspect to make sure you remain insulated from the hustle of the outside world, and it has worked. Until someone right next to you honks, you won't be bothered.
Then comes the 13-speaker 590-watt Burmester sound system which is impressive, but not the best. It even features a 2-way in-car communication system which offers voice amplification to allow you to have a conversation across all seat rows without raising your voice.
However, there is an issue here. The entire experience, though comfortable and tech loaded, just isn't as luxurious as one would expect. The seats feel plain to look at and would have been better off with, in my opinion, quilted stitching. And the overall colour theme feels a little too loud for something as classy as a Maybach. You can of course choose to use a monotone scheme and I suggest you should.
While you are sipping chilled champagne at the back seat, the driver too will be as comfortable as one could be. He too gets massage seats draped in leather, heated and cooled, and the steering wheel feels properly premium to hold. And then there is the view. No, not in the rear view mirror but outside. As you sit tall, you can see the bonnet all the way to the hood ornament and the overall visibility is excellent. You can easily see the roof of most peasant cars on the road. The dashboard is wrapped in soft touch materials and the Mercedes dual-screen layout has never looked so classy, with its underlining AC vents and the large centre console. The attention to detail even here is impressive, with the accelerator and brake pedals being special and featuring Maybach inscription. And they should be, because they control...
What’s under the hood? (E & P)
A 4.0-litre V8 biturbo, 557PS, 730Nm, fuel guzzling, Mammoth propelling engine. Which at first, you can’t even hear as the startup is incredibly smooth and silent. And until you really rev it up, it's barely audible. But like how it's the quieter clouds which pour the most rain, this AMG tuned engine can get this 3.2 tonne luxury barge to 100kmph in a claimed 4.9 seconds. And while doing so, it's a sight to behold. The SUV sits down and silently launches off, until the engine revs up and gives the theory exhaust note.
But while it can, a Maybach isn't about its speed. It's about effortless and smooth performance. And in this respect too, the motor is competent. Put it in the Maybach drive mode and the throttle response gets sedated. While you will still have acceleration on tap, the acceleration is smooth and jerk free. Brakes too are tuned on the softer side so you don't accidentally make the owner spill champagne and get fired. Gear changes in the 9-speed shifter are precise and lag free as well. All in all, while you can be a hooligan in the Maybach, the rewarding experience of the smooth drive in the Maybach mode is more satisfying.
It is also satisfying because the fuel prices as of today are Rs 108 per litre in Pune. Ok, this might be our use case and the owner of this multi crore SUV won't bother, but the efficiency of this barge is between 5-10kmpl, depending on how you drive. And even with a 90-litre fuel tank, expect a range of about 600km.
The one thing I did not like about the drive are the Active Assistants. The emergency braking, lane keep and the seatbelt pretensioner all sound good on paper and may work well on autobahns. But on our road conditions, which admittedly on our drive were the worst possible (rain, fog, traffic), they go into panic mode. The warnings keep ringing, the lane assist pulls you in a little too harshly and the active brake can cause mini heart attacks on highways. These were all situations where I was perfectly in control of the vehicle and of the surroundings, but it nevertheless decided to intervene. And once, while cruising on a lonely patch of road, the seatbelt just pulled up like I was about to have a crash. I was so startled that the tan color of the seats suddenly made so much sense. Good that they can be switched off.
Glide like a Maybach
The GLS Maybach gets air suspension (dah!). It can lower or raise itself depending on what drive mode you have selected. And even in the Dynamic mode where it is at the lowest setting, there is enough ground clearance to tackle potholes or stupid-breakers. And even in the sportiest setting, the ride is cushioney. It separates you well from the tarmac but larger bumps do cause a judder in the cabin. And until that happens, everything is super silent.
Switch to Maybach mode and the suspension makes the cabin float. Yes, there is a bit of floating sensation in the cabin but in a good way. The tarmac is disconnected and the judder now happens only when you hit a pothole. Even while turning, the suspension firms up the loaded side to keep the ride flat in the cabin. Inside the city or out on the highway, the GLS Maybach’s ride, cabin insulation and smooth power delivery gives a relaxing and bother-free experience.
If you have reached a point in your life where you are being ferried around in a Maybach, chances are you have a lot of baggage. But your GLS Maybach might not be equipped to take it along. The boot is large and should easily carry a couple of leather-draped suitcases and bags. It comes pre-installed with a large spare wheel which, despite being a space saver, is massive. And the rest of the space is occupied by the refrigerator, the jack and other accessories. And post that, you can only store a couple of laptop bags. Which is why in most cases the GLS is preceded by a couple of SUVs for both your security contingent as well as your designer luggage.
It starts at Rs 2.4 crore. Ex-showroom. And you can build it up with optional upholstery, paint, accessories and get the on-road price close to Rs 3 crore, like this media SUV.
Maybach has always been a flavour for those who are understated and classy. And while they have made it big in life, there is still time to get the Rolls. With the GLS Maybach, one of these two factors have changed. And it isn't hard to get which one.
The GLS Maybach marks its presence and impresses its occupants by its flair, not its subtlety. There is no way you will mistake it for anything else on the road or miss noticing it at all. It's large, loud and proud. Even the interiors are draped in a dual-tone scheme which, in my opinion, should have been classier. And by changing the character of this particular Maybach, Mercedes is targeting a very different audience.
You see, they still have the classy S Maybach for the expensive suites who will, without a doubt, continue to pick the limousine. The GLS Maybach is for the baller who marks his/her arrival with gold chains and an entourage. It's for the movie star, singer or drug lord who thrives on being noticed and now packs more than enough cash to live comfortably. And that is the GLS Maybach’s forte. It may have a bit too much presence and a little over the top opulence. But that is what this buyer is all about, till they can afford the Cullinan.