Mountain Wheels: Mercedes’ over-the-top Maybach SUV delivers VIP comfort |

Mountain Wheels: Mercedes’ over-the-top Maybach SUV delivers VIP comfort

Mercedes-Benz’s GLS SUV, pictured in Frisco, gets gussied up to the highest degree as the ultimate all-weather limo, the 550-horsepower Maybach GLS600.
Andy Stonehouse/Courtesy photo

It was quite the summer for automobiles. And hidden in the array of vehicles, one appeared that offered the most polarizing experience possible. Is it a shining example of SUV culture gone wrong or the coolest thing I’ve ever driven? Yes, on both questions.

If you remember “The Apprentice” on NBC, before that guy got his higher profile job, you might remember the gigantic, German-made limousine of great and stately status dropping fired folks off at the curb at the end of every episode.

That was probably the highest-profile product placement for the Maybach, a storied German coach-building house that, for decades, took Mercedes-Benz’s already sterling S-Class sedan and turned it into something more luxurious than a Rolls-Royce.

I’m currently driving the new S-Class, outfitted with a new array of internal screens and comfort galore, but it’s not quite the Maybach edition. This summer, however, the Maybach SUV really did appear, a marvelously decadent reworking of the already-gigantic Mercedes GLS full-size SUV, and I kinda felt like I was on TV myself for a few days.

Yes, Beyonce and Jay-Z have one, and it sure looks like Vladimir Putin’s kind of four-wheel drive ride, albeit outfitted with a ton of bulletproofing (which mine did not actually have). But if you’re in the market for the most opulent and still capable SUV around, the Maybach GLS600 is indeed a show-stopper. I dubbed it the oligarch’s four-wheel drive discotheque.

Outfitted with a unique, automatically adjustable suspension system and 550 horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, the GLS600 is designed to comfortably and quickly move in any kind of weather. It also retains all of the regular GLS’s off-road chops, though its retractable, glowing, “Back to the Future” hoverboard-styled running boards may not be ideal for rocky trails.

With a base price of $160,500, the model I drove creeped above $190,000 with niceties including an $18,500 custom two-tone silver paint job that would put a Rolls to shame, plus $5,500 forged 23-inch wheels that looked like banquet service plates.

The Benz GLS SUV is already a pretty swanky, accomplished and full-sized ride, but to take it to Maybach level, everything has been bumped up several notches, and absolutely focused on your precious rear-seat passengers.

That includes two of the most luxurious and infinitely adjustable, almost fully-reclining executive rear seats this side of a day spa, or an Emirates airlines executive class cabin. A Samsung tablet dials up 17 different massage modes. A couple of leather throw pillows add to the experience.

Between those giant seats (which are still capable of anchoring child seats, perhaps a benefit to the Beyonce clan), a door opens to an optional three-bottle Champagne fridge, which somewhat inconveniently eats up most of the behind-the-seat cargo space. There’s also a specialized Champagne flute holder in the rear console and a bottle chiller. Passengers get the most elaborate, private jet-styled foldout tables imaginable, suitable for laptops or full dining service.

The ride, even when resigned to the comfortable driver’s seat, is impressively cloud-like and serves to effectively distance you from the outside world. Dialing up the Maybach mode even further softens the suspension and mollifies the ride, as if by magic.

A caveat to that, plus those ungodly gigantic 23-inch tires, is that it absolutely dug itself into the 18-wheeler tracks on Interstate 70 during those really rutted-out days in the summer. Like, unbelievably so. I joked that the Maybach felt like it weighed 9,600 pounds, and while the real number is about 4,000 less than that, this is one substantial, bank-vault-styled behemoth.

The 550 horsepower figure is somewhat nebulous, as a result. Flat out, yes, it will certainly go, but it seemed like it was using every single digit of horsepower while headed uphill, as I think those fancy rear seats weigh a whole lot.

Industrial-grade passenger comfort is the name of the game here, however, and it has maybe the smoothest and quietest power windows in the world, with passenger and cargo-area power window shades that are absolutely VIP-worthy.

It’s also equipped with a full-cabin, multicolored illumination system that, combined with the Burmester 3D surround sound audio system, makes the vehicle feel a bit like Studio 54, if so desired.

Andy Stonehouse

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