Why would I buy it?
- Unmatched levels of comfort and refinement
- Incredible road presence
Why would I avoid it?
- Long list of optional extras
- Hardly any usable boot space
At Rs 2.80 crore on-road, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 is a 5.2m long extravagant proof that there is no limit to Indians and their love affair with larger-than-life SUVs. But here’s the thing, the GLS 600 doesn’t just do opulence in spades, it would also outpace most sports cars with its AMG GT-derived 4-litre twin-turbo V8. That and the fancy features are all wrapped in a striking albeit a little too ostentatious design which I have been told is an acquired taste.
This Maybach version, then, has unquestionably elevated the regular GLS’ luxury quotient to a new level, but is it the finest rolling palace the riches can buy?
Engine and Performance
Before we get to the heart and soul of the GLS600 i.e. the interior, let’s go through the mechanicals first. Now the engine powering this big SUV is a reworked version of the 4-litre, twin-turbo V8 that we have already seen in so many AMGs. Here, Mercedes has paired a 48-volt electrical system to take the combined output to 558bhp and 730Nm of torque. You also get an additional 250Nm of torque and 22bhp temporarily when the electric motor is fully juiced up. All that power, meanwhile, is transmitted by a 9-speed gearbox.
The GLS 600 will crack the ton in exactly 5 seconds as tested and it will do so with a thunderous exhaust note as long as you keep the windows down. As odd as it sounds, it doesn’t feel that rapid and that’s simply because you are cocooned by thick panes of glass and layers of sound deadening making the whole drive extremely hushed. Naturally, there are multiple driving modes on offer which can alter the steering feel, the engine’s characteristics and the suspension but the talking point is the ‘Maybach’ drive mode which goes the extra mile in delivering an incredibly smooth experience as you waft along the road. In fact, this mode has been configured specifically for chauffeur driven customers.
Firstly, the way it accelerates from standstill is extra linear compared to other modes thanks to a very flat accelerator curve for starting off smoothly. Secondly, the gearbox tune is also altered to make fewer gearshifts and whenever possible, the GLS 600 would always start off in the second gear to make progress even smoother at low speeds. Lastly, the stop/start function is disabled by default because it’s something that makes its presence felt in any car with a big engine. Irrespective of the drive mode, the 9-speed automatic is a revelation. Elsewhere in the premium Mercedes range it’s anyway a good gearbox but here, in the Maybach, it’s excellent at finding the right gear and shifting cogs incredibly smoothly.
Ride and Handling
Now let’s be honest, any road in and around Mumbai would be the perfect test bed for gauging the GLS 600’s trick underpinnings which include Mercedes’ air suspension tech, adaptive damping and lastly, something called as ‘E-ACTIVE’ body control system based on the 48-volt electric system onboard. The latter is what really sets this Maybach version apart from the ‘regular’ GLS. Based on the air suspension, the E-ACTIVE tech can individually control spring and damping forces at each wheel, suppressing rolling, pitching and lifting movements.
Basically the whole point of this system is to keep the GLS’ massive body as flat as possible over varying road conditions by reducing the amount of squat or pitch during braking and acceleration, and on poor road surfaces. Our test route also had lovely winding tarmac which brought the fancy suspension into focus. The GLS’ air suspension has something called as curve function which enables the car to lean into the corners to reduce body roll and in reality, the feeling is surreal as you sense the suspension working hard to keep all that bulk in check at speed. Ultimately, this feature is a little odd to experience the first few times but the air suspension does a great job of masking the GLS’ heft in the corners – it feels light on its feet and at the same time you always also get a sense of its size and commanding presence behind the wheel.
Admittedly, what’s even more impressive than the curve function is the suspension’s ability to read the road ahead and adjust the dampers along with the springs to tackle speed bumps and pot holes. The system, in fact, can detect bumps and road imperfections in advance via the front camera and the radar, thereby changing the compression on springs/dampers. This feature works particularly well over speed bumps – approach one at a reasonably slow speed and the GLS will simply glide over it flat with hardly any vertical movements to upset the occupants. In terms of refinement, the GLS 600 is on another planet compared to the regular model – the cabin is extremely quiet and for the most part, the ride quality is so well damped and flat (thanks to the trick suspension) you will not feel like stepping out upon arriving at your destination. It isn’t all perfect though – the combination of long travel suspension and 22-inch wheels can exhibit a certain level of abrasiveness over sharp edged potholes and drainage ditches. Also, weirdly enough, we noticed the rear suspension to be quite louder (in a hushed manner, of course) than the front when going over such surfaces.
Interior Space and Comfort
Anyone buying the GLS 600 is bound to be more interested in relishing the first-class levels of comfort of the back seat than the front. Either way, there are worse places one could be at. The cabin makes full use of the regular GLS’ generous dimensions to offer a lounge like space for up to four occupants. Yes, our test car only seats four but one can be rest assured of being surrounded by the finest of wood, leather and aluminium bits. The generosity and influence of Maybach is reflected for example in the Nappa leather lined dashboard, roof lining and thick carpeting. Even though the dash is unmistakably that of the regular GLS, there are Maybach touches scattered across the cabin. The instrument panel, for instance, is fully leather-lined and it flows into the door panels for that plush wraparound look.
The left and right spokes on the lovely three-spoke steering have control arrays with touch buttons, and Maybach lettering on the clasp. Lastly, the center console also features a posh looking hand rest with the Maybach emblem.
The air plane-like reclining rear seats are definitely the star of this three-pointed star. Step inside by climbing onto the very expensive looking retractable foot board and you will find yourself surrounded by an absurd amount of leather, wood and nearly every comfort-focused feature that money can buy. Between the two business class-style seats you have a high quality partition which flows downwards and merges with the center console. Frankly, there is a lot of resemblance with the regular GLS up front but you have got to hand it to Maybach for dressing up the rear with appropriately fine materials and the newest of tech.
In terms of seat comfort, it goes without saying that even exceptionally tall people would be comfortable spending hours in here – the cushioning is comparable to that of a posh sofa and because there are only four seats based on what is a six/seven seater cabin, there is tremendous amount of legroom, headroom and shoulder room.
Naturally, the seats can also be reclined (up to 43.5 degrees) and the foot rest can be extended for that ultimate reading-chair like experience. Better still, the middle partition houses extendable and foldable tables and even a refrigerator with space for champagne bottles for you to basically turn your Maybach into a mobile lounge.
Features and Equipment
Swathed in the finest quality leather, wood and aluminum, the GLS’ cabin is a powerhouse of features including deep carpets, multiple zone climate control, seats with a zillion different adjustments, digital screens everywhere and just about every new tech that you can imagine. The only car that’s even more feature packed is the all-new Maybach S-Class which takes the game further mainly because it’s based on Mercedes’ newest tech that we will go on to experience for years to come whereas the GLS 600 is relatively current.
The GLS 600 gets a long list of standard features but then again, the list of optional extras is probably just as long and given its upscale Maybach credentials, none will come cheap as you spec the car. The ‘First Class’ rear compartment, for instance, which gets you the four-seater configuration will cost you Rs 8 lakh. And on top of that, comfort-based features like the fold out tables, MBUX rear entertainment screens, high-end 27-speaker Burmester sound system and the mini refrigerator are all eye wateringly expensive.
For many the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 is unlikely to stack up given the fact that it’s based on a GLS and not a bespoke posh SUV. The price gap between the two is also considerably huge and while you get plenty of kit as standard, the options list is just as long as the car itself and everything on it is priced in harmony with the Maybach badge. And that’s the thing – the real value of the GLS 600 doesn’t lie in its foundation but its remarkable Maybach badge. The latter has elevated what is already a great luxury SUV and transcended its premium visage to something that brings a lot of clout.
Yes, three crore is a lot of money but next to something like a Rolls-Royce Cullinan or a Bentley Bentayga, the GLS 600 is a real bargain. The sense of absolute comfort, effortless performance and premium build that Mercedes-Maybach is synonymous with, is all there and the GLS 600 is every bit the high-riding limo as its rivals, if not more.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi