Auto blogWed, 19 Nov 2014 08:30:00 EST
We should preface the above headline with this: we fully expected Mercedes-Benz to introduce a more luxurious S-Class sedan, complete with a longer wheelbase. We've seen plenty of spy photos of the stretched sedan, and it was frankly a matter of "when" rather than "if" the flagship's flagship would arrive. We simply weren't expecting the new model to be adorned with the somewhat tarnished Maybach name, or to delete old Karl's family name all together in its naming of the Mercedes-Maybach S600.
Considering the questionable history of the Maybach brand since its 2002 revival, it's clear that Mercedes made a strategic decision for its newest sedan, retaining the overall look and, most importantly, the silver arrow of the S-Class, while the Maybach badging is kept to a minimum, with the double-M badge and "MAYBACH" name limited to the C-pillar and rear decklid, respectively. Instead, Mercedes has focused on the interior and stretched body for its high-end S600.
This hulking sedan is 8.1 inches longer than a standard S-Class at 214.6 inches, while its wheelbase has been stretched by 7.9 inches, and is now 132.5 inches long. That means the S600's wheelbase is nearly four inches longer than a Bentley Mulsanne, while the overall car is over six inches lengthier. On the Rolls-Royce side, it's situated between the 212.6/129.7-inch Ghost and the 230/140.6-inch Phantom.
Beginning in 2015, Mercedes-Benz is revising its nomenclature strategy for many of its models. This isn't shocking news, nor is it anything new in the industry - look at the recent Q-ification of Infiniti, or the forthcoming CT/XT strategy being deployed at Cadillac. But unlike those luxury brands, Mercedes isn't shaking up the whole system, and it's actually (kind of) making things a bit easier to understand. Here's how.
First, the German automaker's crossover and SUV lineup will go fully "G," and will correspond with the class lines on which the vehicles are based.
GLA - Unchanged; Merc's new small crossover based on the A-Class
It used to be that if you wanted a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, your choice pretty much came down to which engine you wanted, and that was that. But into the new S-Class, Mercedes is integrating several other model lines and extending its flagship family (both literally and figuratively) as far as it will stretch.
In addition to the sedan (already available in two wheelbase lengths in certain markets, in only the longer one in ours) Mercedes is already offering the new S-Class coupe and will soon launch a convertible version as well. But that's the end of the story. Not even close. Soon it will launch two ultra-luxurious, extended-wheelbase models: one called the Maybach and one called the Pullman. It's the former which we appear to have here in this latest spy video from the Nürburgring.
Replacing the previous Maybach 57, the new S-Class Maybach is expected to be based on the S65 AMG, keeping its 621-horsepower twin-turbo V12 but adding more space in the back (as evidenced by the modified C-pillar and rear side glass) and even more upscale accommodations. That will make it even heftier as well, but as you can see from this clip, Benz is keen to keep it handling on an even keel. Expect the new Maybach to arrive sometime next year, with the Pullman to follow in the place of the previous Maybach 62.
The failed experiment that was Maybach has sent the strategists at Daimler back to the drawing board, and we'll soon see what they come back with: an ultra-luxe version of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class to slot in between the "standard" model and the upcoming Pullman limousine. But that won't be the end of the story, if a new report from Australia's Motoring is any indication.
Rumor has it that Mercedes-Benz is developing Maybach into a kind of luxury sub-brand in the same way it has with AMG. So while Maybach won't have any exclusive models anymore (or showrooms), it will be applied to existing models to differentiate them from the common Benz.
Following the debut of the S-Class Maybach, word on the street is that Maybach will work up its own version of the GL-Class sport utility to a more luxurious specification, giving Mercedes a quick response to the upcoming Bentley SUV as well as the Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography. After that, a Maybach-ified S-Class Coupe could be in the works, and maybe even a version of the upcoming MLC, Benz's forthcoming BMW X6 rival.
If insider sources are to be believed, Mercedes-Benz is getting ready to launch the most expensive luxury sedan on the market next year in the form of the S-Class Pullman armored car for $1 million. If it's too flashy for you, then Mercedes is also reviving the Maybach name for an even longer wheelbase variant of the S-Class.
According to company insiders speaking with Bloomberg, the Pullman will be positioned at the ultimate expression of the Mercedes brand and will hark back to the classic S600 Pullman models of the '60s. The driver will sit in a partitioned cabin up front, while wealthy and fortunate passengers will be cosseted in two rows of face-to-face seats in the rear. At a reported 21-feet long, it will be even bigger than a Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase. While the armor probably makes up a few hundred thousand dollars of the price, the cost is still likely going to be significantly more than the old Maybach 62 S at $470,350. Only the one percent of the one percent need apply here.
A slight step down from the Pullman will be the still opulent S-Class Maybach. The reincarnation of the twice-dead brand would ride on an even larger body than the long wheelbase S-Class but still offer four seats. Prices for it are rumored to be double the current S600, which puts it around $300,000 or more. The insider told Bloomberg that the unveiling is planned for November at the LA Auto Show and Guangzhou Motor Show in China.
Update: ChoiceStream e-mailed to clarify some errors in our post, so we've updated the text below. ChoiceStream also let us know that "Maybach is not a client of ChoiceStream. ChoiceStream measures advertising audience trends via its Audience Cost Calendar Index, which tracks more than 300 specific audience segments for trends within the advertising buying and selling ecosystem on a monthly basis. Maybach happened to be one of those audience segments, aligned with the luxury vehicle category, which is why ChoiceStream identified the anomaly in the data correlating to the rise in popularity of Lorde's song."
People who read this site might be interested in Maybach because it spent almost all of its last revival in the Intensive Care Unit, and its next Lazarus act is expected to commence this November. But so-called millennials who know nothing of Maybach and have no interest in it beyond the curious have driven up the price of digital advertising for the luxury brand more than two-fold, at the same time as they're providing more lessons for Big Data.
A line in New Zealand singer Lorde's song "Royals" released last summer that goes, "But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece," has all kinds of kiddies trying to figure out "WTF is a Maybach?" According to online ad platform ChoiceStream, the spike in searches - even among a demographic "who are totally unqualified" - sent the cost of online advertising targeting potential Maybach buyers up by 233 percent compared to the cost of advertising to all demographics; this even as Google Trends tracked the continued decline of the search term "Maybach." Meanwhile, other luxury automotive brands were paying 148-percent less compared to the price of general advertising in order to reach their target demos.
According to a report in Reuters, we will get to know the new face of Maybach at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show and Guangzhou Motor Show. The revival of the name has been in the news for a while now, but what hasn't been clear is where it will fit in with other models like the coming Pullman. The Reuters piece says it will be "used to adorn an exclusive version of its S-Class limousine," but the real punch is reading that it is expected to "cost more than double the 165,000-euro ($228,000) asking price of its current flagship, the Mercedes-Benz S600."
The base price of a 2012 Maybach 57, the year the brand died, was $376,300. If Reuters is correct, and depending on how much "more" is added to "double," the price of Maybach just as a trim level and not as a standalone brand could still carry a gaudy premium for what the article calls "soft-touch leather and bespoke materials." True, that listed euro price will be higher than our own S600 - which we don't know the price of yet. But our 2103 S600 cost $160,300, which - again, assuming the double-down price is correct - would have a Maybach buyer staring at a $321,000 bill, or more, before he puts his Conway Stewart pen to work on options.
On the other hand, that still leaves room for a Maybach-branded S-Class to tout its cost difference relative to the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which currently starts at $402,940; if you have a third hand, though, the Bentley Mulsanne is "only" $303,700. We look forward to the LA show to find out exactly how Daimler is going to spice and slice this one up. As for that Pullman, Reuters says it will be a state limousine that has an additional, rear-facing bench in the chauffeured quarters. A camouflaged version of the reported limo - all 21 feet of it - was spotted recently in Germany.
Maybach was an audacious idea - a Mercedes-Benz that could truly do battle against Rolls-Royce - that ended up being a catastrophe, thanks to lackluster sales. After a 10-year stretch that was punctuated by nothing more exciting than the stillborn Exelero and Jay-Z and Kanye West attacking one with a blowtorch, we thought Mercedes was done with the resurrected brand.
Instead, rumors crept out back in October that Mercedes would once again revive Maybach for its top-of-the-line, long-wheelbase S-Class. Now, it looks like the next Maybach will arrive by the end of 2014, according to a report from AutoWeek. Situated above the current top-of-the-line S-Class, the S600, AW reports that it will do battle with the likes of the Bentley Mulsanne, Rolls-Royce Ghost and Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography Black LWB and will be priced at $250,000 to $300,000.
We reached out to Mercedes about this, and while there was no official comment, there also wasn't anything resembling a denial. That, along with the aforementioned past reports, makes it seem fairly likely that we could be seeing the Maybach badge back on the road before too long. To us, though, the return of Maybach seems like a rather poor choice. Considering the brand's limited success and Mercedes' long history of limos (Pullman or Grosser anyone?), we can't say we'd agree with this call.
Daimler's (relatively) brief ten-year romance with the Maybach brand may have drawn to a close, but that doesn't mean the name is lost once again to the annals of history. According to the latest reports coming from Germany, Mercedes-Benz may opt to keep the Maybach name alive on the top-tier version of the S-Class that's moving upmarket to take the place of the departed Maybach 57 and 62.
The flagship S-Class, previously thought to be called the Pullman, is expected to stretch the platform as far as it can go. Whether it's called Maybach or Pullman, it promises to pack as much luxury (if not quite as much clout) as a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, only less Anglo and more Saxon than the routes which its rivals BMW and Volkswagen opted to go in the acquisition and development of their uber-luxury marques.
Just how true these rumors prove to be remains to be seen. It could be all conjecture for what we know at this point. But it certainly doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility. After all, the Maybach marque was always more of a sub-brand of Mercedes than it was its own brand, and its cars were always seen for what they were: luxed-up S-Classes, which is what we're talking about here. And even though Maybach only sold 3,000 cars over its decade of production, Daimler surely spent a huge chunk of change building up the brand, and it would be understandably reluctant to just write it off entirely.
We recently spotted a stretched version of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but it sounds like this new ultra-luxurious version of the sedan might not be quite as much of a Maybach-replacing model that we initially expected. Automotive News says that the car has somewhat more modest targets, with the so-called "super S-Class" expected to list in the $200,000 to $250,000 range when it goes on sale in 2014. That's hardly chump change, but it's about $175,000 less than the now-dead Maybach 57.
After speaking with Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, AN's article says that this new S-Class model will be targeted at the Bentley Flying Spur and Rolls-Royce Ghost rather than more expensive models like the Mulsanne and Phantom, which makes sense since the Maybach brand was killed off due to slow sales. Of course, there is still the possibility that the three-row S600 Pullman could reach a little higher to fill in the void of those $400,000 sedans. Aside from the stretched body, Zetsche also promises cabin tech and luxury not offered on the standard S-Class, which is hard to imagine since the new S-Class has gobs of both already. During our recent first drive of the standard S-Class, we said that its interior is "going to give Bentley and Rolls-Royce night sweats," so it sounds like Daimler will be aiming for breathing difficulties and heart palpitations with this new model.