A century since its foundation and a quarter since its reboot, Maybach remains an afterthought among super-luxury cars. While its owner Mercedes may be a byword for luxury, its marquee brand is more of a bystander. Between that and the fact that Maybachs are based on cheaper Benzes, the 2024 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 seems on paper like a middle manager invited to a board meeting. He wears the slacks, but he’s still an impostor.
But being an outsider doesn’t always make you the underdog, and the Maybach GLS is no pretender among Bentleys and Rolls-Royces. It’s a sumptuous, swaggering SUV whose posturing is backed by a passenger experience that’s hard to call second-rate. All this at a lower price than some of its competitors, too. It’s as big an upgrade over a Benz as you would hope—almost.
Because Maybachs are still Mercedes, what’s wrong with the Merc will also be wrong with the Maybach. The infotainment is annoying to use, and some of its chassis calibration isn’t 100%. Also, if it matters to you, some people don’t know what a Maybach is, never mind how to pronounce it.
Still, the Maybach GLS has the same self-assuredness its rivals do, and at a lower price. It may not top the red carpet guestlist, but it’s still on the list, and it deserves to strut like it does. This Maybach can peacock and should set the template for all Maybachs going forward.
|2024 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 Specs
|Base Price (as tested)
|4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 | 9-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
|550 @ 6,000-6,500 rpm
|538 lb-ft @ 2,500 to 5,000 rpm
|4 or 5
|18.4 cubic feet
|EPA Fuel Economy
|14 mpg city | 19 highway | 16 combined
|The Maybach GLS is about living it up and making sure everyone else knows you are. A handful of tech and refinement problems knock some points off, though.
Maybach to the Beginning
Maybach, pronounced my-ba’h, is a brand that may need introducing. Dating back to 1909, this German make was a spinoff of the original Zeppelin company, making luxury cars before switching to wartime and industrial production for World War II and beyond. Daimler bought it in 1960 and rebooted it in the late 1990s as Mercedes’ super-luxury brand.
But Maybach has struggled to capture market share, as it isn’t well-known outside Germany—or, at least, not as well known as its two British (but mechanically German) rivals. It’s hard to be prestigious if nobody has heard of you. Or can pronounce your name. There’s also the fact that Maybachs today are just fancier Mercedes—esteemed though it may be, you’ll see more fast food franchise owners driving Mercs than Bentleys; these strata of wealth almost don’t overlap.
That could be a problem for Mercedes if it doesn’t distinguish Maybachs enough from Benzes. Or, for that matter, if the Benz itself isn’t worthy of becoming a Maybach in the first place. So let’s start there.
The Mercedes GLS is a full-size, three-row crossover SUV. The current generation launched in 2019, but has been refreshed for 2024, with new MBUX infotainment and updated steering wheel controls. There’s a new grille, taillights, and paint options for both the Benz and Maybach, the latter of which also gets new upholstery and Maybach puddle lights.
Unlike the Benz, the Maybach is a two-row with seating for four or five. It also uses the Benz’s top engine, the brilliant 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8, with an added 48-volt mild-hybrid boost. Together, they generate 550 horsepower and 538 lb-ft of torque, sent through a nine-speed automatic transmission and split between all four wheels. It has predictive air suspension that scans the road ahead, pre-adjusting for bumps, and tilting inward in turns. It also dips down when the doors open to make getting in and out easier—but we’ll talk about its best party trick later.
It may have the GLS’s silhouette, but even a glance is enough to tell Maybach from Benz. The restyled, more opulent grille and Maybach monogram-patterned fender vents (like a designer bag) are so nouveau riche that I’m surprised they don’t dribble Louis XIII. The monolithic 23-inch monoblock, extra chrome, and Maybach script toe the line of gaudy—I love it. If anything, Maybach should turn the knob up further. It is the roaring ‘20s again, after all.
Everyone else loves it too. The public received this Maybach like a Bentley or Rolls, and wouldn’t bat an eye to see it parked alongside them outside Casino de Monte Carlo. If I have one complaint, it’s that it should be more flashy. Burgundy and black are too subtle a color combo for the two-tone paint, and the Maybach logo’s art nouveau roots aren’t explored enough. Subtlety is not the appeal here, no matter what some stodgy suits may think. If it were, Maybach’s monogram pattern wouldn’t also appear in the puddle lights as you open the doors.
The interior is expansive, with enormous head- and legroom, and a panoramic sunroof. It and the rear privacy windows set the cabin’s mood along with multicolor interior lighting. The effect is “pimpmobile” according to my 66-year-old mother. The macchiato leather and walnut wood are an exquisite color combo, and while there’s some accursed piano black, it purposefully denotes touch control surfaces here. I’ll let it slide.
Those diamond-quilted leather seats are tremendously comfortable: supportive, with the perfect amount of bolstering. Their massage settings were pleasant, though I would’ve liked to adjust the driver’s seat lower to get a better view of the head-up display. It’s aimed too low, and the crucial speed limit and navigation weren’t visible to me.
The onboard fragrance could be turned up high enough to mask the smell of anything, and the heated and cooled cupholders made the difference between cold coffee and flat seltzer. The champagne cooler also doubled to keep deli sandwiches cold while we hunted for a picnic spot.
Taking things to tech, the Burmester High-End 3D sound system is by far its high point, with flawless clarity and strong but not obnoxious bass. Unfortunately, the rest is standard Mercedes, which is to say subpar. The infotainment’s MBUX software just MSUX, with poorly organized menus that make accessing functions tricky, especially on the go. Also, the wheel’s touch controls are numerous, indistinct, and overly sensitive.
The rear infotainment tablet meanwhile was troublesome and at one point needed minutes to reboot. Because it’s wireless, it can run out of battery if a tech-unsavvy passenger doesn’t dock it correctly—that dock is also loose, the only build quality issue I observed in the entire vehicle. Its wireless rear charger was also too small to fit my aunt’s Android phone.
For all my sometimes crabby extended family had to say about the tech though, their opinion of the Maybach was still glowing. Even though they referred to it as "such a nice Mercedes-Benz." I can hear Stuttgart grinding its teeth from here.
Driving the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600
Despite a high driving position, the GLS provides an unexceptional view of the road around you. While its rear window is large enough, the sloping hoodline makes gauging where the corners are tricky. I leaned on the surround-view cameras and blind-spot monitors a lot, because mother of god does it have blind spots.
Outside city confines though, the Maybach gracefully stretches its turbo V8 legs. This impeccable motor makes tons of low-end torque and emits no more than a faint whirr most of the time. It’s only there if you look for it in the tranquilly quiet cabin. Throttle response returned the occasional hiccup, but it was mostly well-calibrated and responsive, with smooth acceleration and imperceptible shifting. It pleases the inner chauffeur.
The brake pedal too returns a gentle pressure on the foot, with progressive, intuitive weight that makes smooth stops easy. The steering is conveniently light, not so much talkative, but ease comes above all here.
Such is the theme with the ride quality, which feels like levitation over all but the worst roads. The 23-inch wheels’ reduced sidewall made them harder to hide, though the Maybach never came close to being harsh. Two drive modes determine where the cushiness is focused: regular Comfort mode aims to make life comfortable for all passengers while a Maybach-branded mode prioritizes rear-seat passengers. For what it’s worth, my passengers and I agreed that Comfort mode was the comfier of the two.
The driving assists are as good as (almost) any modern Mercedes, which is to say strong, though with caveats. As mentioned above, blind-spot monitors are indispensable, and the adaptive cruise control and attention assists proved reliable. But lane-keeping should be more assertive, and automated hands-on lane changes aren’t any more convenient than doing them yourself.
In the opposite scenario, in Sport mode with manual shifting active, the Maybach is surprisingly competent. The engine becomes more outspoken though not rudely so, and the manual shifts are prompt enough. (Left in automatic, they and throttle response are laggy.) It corners reasonably well, with the steering weighting up and the front end squealing with slight understeer to warn you not to overdo it.
Doing that makes it lean over onto its sidewalls (a no-no), and the brakes aren’t AMG-sized so it can’t be driven like one. Still, it’s an engaging enough experience that can still scare your passengers, though I wouldn’t go as far as calling it fast. The most hardcore canyon carvers will respect you for showing up in it, though.
I didn’t get to test off-road mode, but it’s a little useless in a Maybach on 23s. A G-Wagen is cheaper and has the same status appeal; you buy that if you care about rock crawling. But this mode hides one of the GLS’s most famous gimmicks: Extraction Mode.
In short, it bounces the GLS up and down to (in theory) get itself unstuck off-road. In practice, it’s a way to break up the monotony of traffic jams or flex on Hollywood Boulevard. You might get tourists or your fellow drivers pulling out their phones to film you. You might get a bicyclist riding up alongside you and bucking along. I’m sure it’s not great for the suspension, but it’s a more lighthearted look-at-me than a loud exhaust. It’s a novelty of the sort that Maybach should lean into because people loved it.
The Highs and Lows
It may be an upmarket Mercedes GLS, but the Maybach punches above its weight when it comes to styling. It’s impeccably comfortable even on 23s, and all of Maybach’s ancillary touches truly transform the GLS. It’s flashy fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Still, Benz’s bad infotainment is a weak point, and there are rare moments where a lack of refinement shows up in build quality or driving dynamics. Also, if brand recognition matters to you, a Maybach won’t be more than a Mercedes to most people.
Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 Features, Options, and Competition
All seats feature heating, ventilation, and individual climate control. Minus the middle back seat on five-seaters, all also have massage, power adjustment, and memory settings. The upholstery is straight Nappa leather, and most of the trim is real wood. Wheels are 22 inches standard, but those can be blown up to 23s on the options list, which also features two-tone paint schemes. Interior upgrades can add a wood-and-leather steering wheel, folding rear tables, champagne fridge, Robbe & Berking silver champagne flutes, and docks for them while not in use.
The Maybach GLS keeps odd company, as its price range overlaps with the Bentley Bentayga and upper-end Range Rovers. They’re all powered by twin-turbo V8s of similar size and power, have seating configurations for four or five, and air suspension with advanced damping, roll control, and variable ride height.
Where they diverge is emphasis, and where they sit in their respective lineups. Maybach is the apex of Mercedes’ luxury options and is most focused on the passenger experience. It might be the most attention-grabbing of the three, will be easiest to find service for, and is the only one made in the U.S. (Tuscaloosa, Alabama).
While the Bentayga is similar, it’s a more rounded vehicle, sharing its bones with the Porsche Cayenne and Lamborghini Urus. Its driving dynamics should be a rung above the Maybach’s, and people will have actually heard of it. But its entry point is more than $30,000 higher, with its best being saved for upper trims. You’re not getting Bentley’s very best at this price.
The Range Rover meanwhile is more truck-like, with superior ground clearance, payload rating, cargo space, and towing capacity. It also has an available third row. But Rangies have poor reputations for reliability and share the Maybach GLS’s problem of resembling a much cheaper vehicle (if that matters to you).
Were I to spec my own Maybach GLS, I’d spring for the 23-inch monoblocks and two-tone paint, though I’d choose more contrasting colors than tested here. (I favor the green-and-tan scheme.) The interior color combo is hard to improve on, and speccing the champagne cooler, flutes, and holders would be my bait to take friends to picnics. On that basis, I’d pick the five-seater, and give the rear tables or extra tech a pass.
It’s immaterial to anyone who can afford a Maybach, but the GLS has the worst fuel economy in its class. Despite being a mild hybrid, its city mileage is second-rate, and highway mileage is poor. But if the difference of 2 mpg affects your decision, can you really afford one of these anyway?
Value and Verdict
The 2024 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 knows what it’s about: Living the good life and making sure everyone else knows you are. Tech aside, it’s splendid to drive, be driven in, or even just be seen in. Its brash, bounce-to-the-valet-on-23s character is elemental to its appeal, yet it never crosses the line into pompous. The Maybach GLS is a show of wealth that’s not just put on for the people inside it.
I bleat about brand recognition a lot, but it’s a problem the GLS is doing something about. People walked up and asked to watch the GLS bounce; its lighthearted opulence resonates in a way no Maybach ever has. This moment is one an automaker rarely gets: the chance to remake itself. And I think Maybach’s origins hold the other piece of the puzzle.
Maybach was borne of Zeppelins in the age of art nouveau when 100-mph trains and this “aerodynamics” thing were still new. Emphasizing that era’s aesthetic, or that of art deco that succeeded it, and adding more whimsies like the GLS’s bouncing could make Maybachs stand out in a way they never have. And in the process, solve the brand recognition problem once and for all.
Pronunciation though? That might take more time.
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