2021 Mercedes-Maybach S580 Review: The Modern Automobile Peaks Here
Though the gaudiness that landed old Maybachs in rap music videos is long gone, today’s cars have still got plenty of pizzaz in their soul.
When discussing the world's most luxurious vehicles these days, it's easy to forget about Maybach. After languishing for decades with humongous sedans that weren't fully Mercedes, Maybachs, nor really anything at all—just outrageously expensive oddities for rich people who refused to buy a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley, for whatever reason—the Maybach name became the pinnacle of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class range in 2015. Today, embodying the new W223 S-Class, the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S580 aims to make Stuttgart's latest and greatest sedan even more luxurious, more comfortable, and perhaps unexpectedly so, more romantic.
The M badge (no, not that M badge, a different one) elevates the S in a variety of ways, some subtle, some not—but all grandiose. From the classy two-tone paint to the flashy monoblock wheels and the elegant interior, you get the sense that even though the gaudiness that landed old Maybachs in rap music videos is long gone, it's still got plenty of pizzaz in its soul.
Despite lacking the rich wooden veneers and intricately stitched leathers that Bentleys and Rolls-Royces are known for, the S580 truly feels like a car for the world's one-percenters and not "just" accomplished doctors. In fact, after spending a week in the newest Mercedes-Maybach, I realized this legendary coachbuilder-turned-subbrand is all about bringing warmth and class to an otherwise cold—albeit borderline perfect—German sedan.
2021 Mercedes-Maybach S580 4Matic Specs
- Base price (as tested): $185,950 ($212,050)
- Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with EQ-Boost | 9-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 496 @ 5,500 rpm
- Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 2,000 to 4,500 rpm
- Cargo volume: 12.31 cubic feet
- Seating capacity: 4
- Curb weight: 5,247 pounds
- Fuel economy: 16 mpg city | 24 highway | 19 combined
- Quick take: The latest Mercedes-Maybach is excellent for what it is; a more modern, stylish take on luxury. And also what it isn't: an ultra-luxury sedan that mimics what the English brands are doing.
- Score: 9.5/10
With the S-Class being all-new for 2021, the Maybach variant, too, sports a new design, new tech, and new features inside and out. For starters, it's longer, wider, and taller than the outgoing model by one, two, and 0.5 inches, respectively. This translates into a stately sedan that despite being 215.3 inches long, 75.6 inches wide, and 59.4 inches tall, can only carry four people and two bottles of champagne. You can't forget the champagne.
The quality-over-quantity ethos carries over to the exterior design, where simple lines flow across a long and smooth body. Upfront, an oversized grille sports verticle slats surrounded by a chromed bezel, flanked by two lower air intakes also encased by chromed trim. From up close, these shiny adornments can look tacky, almost aftermarket-like. Take a few steps back, however, and the front end comes alive courtesy of these chromed grilles, which perfectly add a touch of glamour to an otherwise extremely conservative face.
The rear is mostly still all S-Class, with Maybach contributing little more than a badge on the trunk lid. On the sedan's extra-long sides, however, the two-tone paint job and 20-inch monoblocks create a silhouette that's pretty eye-catching. The combination of the two paint hues, the mirror-like finish on the wheels, and the real estate occupied by the nearly 5,300-pound sedan create a presence worthy of royalty. Let's just say it stands out in today's endless sea of Toyota RAV4s and Honda CR-Vs.
The cabin, too, is an impressive feat of avant-garde design. At first glance, it looks like another top-notch Mercedes cabin with long-running lines and minimalistic touches. Upon closer look, though, you can see silver accents embedded into the piano-black trim, aluminum air vents symmetrically embedded into the dash in a way that they almost disappear, yet when you finally notice them they look stunning on their own. The same applies to the metal-bodied Burmester tweeters embedded into the A-pillars, which automatically deploy when you fire up the car and then retreat when you shut it off. And when the sun finally sets and the ambient lighting appears, the entire cabin comes alive with a light show worthy of an Ibiza (ee-bee-thuh) nightclub.
As to be expected from a car of the Maybach's caliber nowadays, the cabin is showered with touchscreens that allow the driver, front passenger, and rear occupants to fine-tune every aspect of the car with a few taps of a screen. The driver has nearly everything at their fingertips via the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster—which, by the way, displays images in 3D—while the primary infotainment touchscreen is positioned in vertical form and measures 12.8 inches.
Rear occupants can control the car's various systems via 11.6-inch touchscreens mounted behind each front seat, but should they choose not to lean forward while cruising down the road, they can also access the car's power shades, lighting, HVAC, and media systems from the removable Android tablet built into the rear center armrest. This center armrest is embedded into the oversized center console that runs from the front all the way to the back of the car, essentially serving a division between the left and right seats.
At the push of a button, this console reveals two heated and cooled cupholders, two bases with prongs for champagne flutes (so they won't fall over while the car's in motion), and most interestingly, two Mercedes-branded locking cups that serve as ashtrays. Yes, ashtrays. Leave the vaping to the Subaru boys, darling.
The entire ecosystem of screens and tablets runs on the latest version of MBUX, which, despite looking a bit intimidating due to the number of options and menus, is actually fairly intuitive. Most common-use functions are easily accessed via shortcuts on the steering wheel or the main touchscreen.
Through the duration of my test, all systems worked accordingly, though it's worth noting that a couple of months prior to driving this specific vehicle, Mercedes had provided me with a regular, non-Maybach S580 that suffered from major tech issues. A software glitch essentially rendered the car undrivable as none of the screens were functional, nor any safety systems that relied on sensors or cameras. A Mercedes spokesperson later confirmed that it was a pre-production unit operating on pre-release software that needed to be updated. This Maybach, however, ran fault-free for the duration of my test.
Driving a Maybach
I won't say that lounging in the back seat of the S580 Maybach while a uniformed chauffeur deals with traffic is better than driving it—although this car caters to folks who have professional chauffeurs on the payroll—because unfortunately, I didn't have anyone to drive me around. But I can certainly tell you that despite its size and weight, driving this luxurious behemoth is actually a lot of fun.
Like all other S580s, my test car was equipped with the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine, which produces a respectable 496 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. A quick jolt from the 48-volt mild-hybrid system can briefly pump those figures up to 537 hp and 700 lb-ft, which are bound to press chauffeur and passengers alike into the sumptuous leather seats.
Fire up the engine and feel... absolutely nothing. Not a twitch of the chassis, not a vibration at the wheel, not even a little shake of the seat. You do see a plethora of digital animations on the screens in front of you, and even hear a muffled roar of the V8 as it comes to life. It's not a sterile start-up experience, but don't expect AMG levels of ruckus when you hit the Start button.
Like other Rolls-Royces and Bentleys I've driven, this German land-yacht has pristine road manners, remaining nearly silent on the road regardless of whether you're driving on narrow city streets or wide-open highways. I said nearly silent only because the tester was equipped with Pirelli Sottozero winter tires, and their open tread caused more road noise than their all-season counterparts. Still, the cabin's ability to insulate its passengers from outside elements is so good I'd rank it equal—not second—to the aforementioned Brits.
At idle or when cruising at a steady pace the V8 is completely silent, but despite blocking out most road and wind noise, you're treated to the throaty tune of the eight cylinders when you step hard on the accelerator. Bury your foot down and the Maybach lurches forward with relative violence (for a vehicle of this might), while an audible crescendo of rpms lets you know a masterfully engineered engine is doing everything it can to let a 2.6-ton car can punch a hole through the air.
Steering feel is light years ahead of what you'd expect it to be in a car like this. It's lively, communicative, and you never wish it was anything other than what it is at any given moment. Perhaps the only exception to this applies when parallel-parking the Maybach, as four-wheel-steering makes it slightly confusing to understand how much or how little the car is actually moving based on steering inputs. When cornering at speed, however, rear-steering calibration is so on-point that you can never tell it's there. It simply feels naturally agile.
Cruising on Comfort mode plays into the uber-sedan's luxurious provenance, but flip to Sport mode to drive more spiritedly and you'll be pleasantly surprised with the Maybach's dynamics. It's as if a giant woke up in a bad mood, slamming its fists on the ground ready to crush whatever's in front of it. The twin-turbo V8 revs freely and willingly, producing incredible sounds that make you forget you're in a car that's a few inches short of being a limousine.
Throw the car hard into corners and let the air suspension and electronically controlled swaybars sort things out; you won't be disappointed. The car always keeps its composure and body roll is surprisingly minimal if existent at all. While I don't expect every Maybach owner will play Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel of their precious sedans, the fact that Mercedes actually tested this new Maybach at the Nürburgring leads me to believe that a few of them will.
Perhaps the only component that fell short of expectations is the brakes. Despite being equipped with 14-inch rotors front and rear that provide plenty of stopping power, the pedal itself lacks feedback and I found it very difficult to master—even after a week behind the wheel. Sometimes it applied more force than expected, other times less, other times it'd bite sooner, other times later. It was hard to predict and at times it made it difficult to provide a comfortable, serene experience.
Date Night In
S-Class-based Mercedes-Maybachs have, since 2015, been perfectly fine luxurious cars. However, their somewhat dark and sterile interiors filled with screens, buttons, and metals cold to the touch made them feel like high-tech operating rooms. Bentley and Rolls, by contrast, deck out their cabins with warm woods, light leathers, colorful stitching, and cleverly hide buttons under wooden panels to create clutter-free interiors.
While this new car still retains a bit of a sunken-in seating position rather than the higher/taller position of a British sedan, it's really come a long way in making the rear accommodations feel less dungeon-y, more elegant, and as a result, more romantic.
For this very reason, I took my wife on a Valentine's Day date—not to a fancy restaurant for brunch, but to the back seat of the Maybach. Rather than sitting on uncomfortable chairs at a trendy, overpriced place in a hip neighborhood, we picked up some goods from our favorite spot, posted up at a charming park near our home, and turned the Maybach into a $200,000 picnic basket.
With the incredible sound system playing some lovely blues, our seats slightly reclined, the leather footrests extended, and our tray tables deployed, I enjoyed a lovely acai bowl while she dug into a salad. The many sunshades, too, were retracted to allow as much natural light in as possible, and our teas remained warm thanks to the heated cupholders. Oh, and of course, we were both getting heated massages while we sat there eating and chatting.
We chose not to pour our drinks into the $3,200 silver-plated champagne flutes because, frankly, I don't know where all they've been and I didn't feel like washing them. But we did store some water bottles in the $1,100 champagne cooler—which, by the way, is actually removable so you can make more room in the trunk if needed.
It comes as no surprise that the Mercedes-Maybach's rivals are—drumroll, please—the Bentley Flying Spur and the Rolls-Royce Ghost. Specifically, the S580 Maybach competes against the Flying Spur V8, which I recently road-tripped in. However, it's the V12-powered Maybach, the S680, that rivals the V12-powered Ghost. Available in "early 2022," the S680 is equipped with a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 making 621 hp and 738 lb-ft, though everything else about the car remains the same.
Compared to these two, the fully loaded S580 seems like the bargain of the century at $212,050. The Flying Spur V8 (which is also offered with a V12) starts at $215,000, though the press car I drove came in at $261,340 and still didn't pack nearly as many features. The Rolls-Royce Ghost towers over them with a $332,500 starting price, though the specific unit we reviewed in 2020 came in at a staggering $428,125.
How do these three compare? Easy. The Flying Spur is the driver's sedan. It's essentially a British muscle car fit for the Queen. The Ghost, like all Rolls-Royces, still puts more emphasis on the back-seat experience than the driving experience. Yes, it's a pleasure to drive, but it's not one to put a smile on your face when the straightaways end.
The Maybach fits right smack in the middle. It's comfortable, composed, serene, and its back seat experience is more akin to the Rolls. Drive it enthusiastically, though, and it also resembles the Bentley, with robust acceleration and brawler attitude, but it's not as agile or light on its feet. It's as if Mercedes borrowed the best from its rivals, added a pinch of German precision, and gave it a cheaper price tag.
I don't believe I've ever claimed a $200,000+ car to be a good value for the money. But in this case, the Mercedes-Maybach S580 really is—at least when compared to its two closest rivals. You spend a lot here, but you do get a lot.
As actual potential buyers for this kind of car will tell you, it's not about the money, it's about how it makes you feel. And on that front, this Maybach also doesn't disappoint. It's what a luxury car should be. It's the definition of German luxury. It looks stunning, it drives even better, and you can even take your significant other for a nice meal without having to put up with a snobby waiter. Also, it's a fantastic alternative to the aristocratic English brands while being no less opulent.
Most of all, the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S580 is exceptional because it can put a smile on your face whether you're driving it or riding in it—not just because it makes you feel like you're better than everyone else—as is usually the case in this type of car.
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