The automotive tastes of Car and Driver editors are varied, but if there’s one common thread to our lottery lists, it’s the Mercedes-Benz S-class. If ever we struck it rich, many of us would have an S-class of some sort as our daily driver. Sure, a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce might have more cachet, but the big Benz hits the sweet spot in terms of ride, power, luxury, comfort, and functionality, regardless of body style or powertrain.
But for some buyers, an S-class lacks the appropriate panache. If the world’s best-riding sedan isn’t good enough for you, clearly you live life on a different plane—your two cents are valued in whole dollars, you’re widely available for purchase as an action figure, and your name has been verbed. For those who live in this irrational world, there is the Maybach S550.
Cubic Dollars for Square Footage
The Maybach edition of the S550 4MATIC costs some $67,000 more than the regular ol’ Mercedes version, but that’s still a lot cheaper than other chauffeur-class sedans, and the Maybach incorporates all of the latest safety and infotainment technology from the S-class.
That hefty premium over a comparable S550 4MATIC nets a lot more space for rear-seat occupants. There are an extra 7.9 inches in the wheelbase, all of them allotted to the rear, where our 99th-percentile test dummy could comfortably cross his legs in what Mercedes claims is the quietest car interior on the market. (Our standard test measures noise levels in the front seat, where our meter recorded 70 decibels under full throttle and 63 at a 70-mph cruise, both among the lowest values we’ve seen.) Like a Rolls-Royce, the Maybach positions the rear seats so that the C-pillar blocks prying eyes from seeing who’s sitting there, particularly when those passengers lean back into the pillows fitted to the rear-seat headrests, which are so soft that we couldn’t help but close our eyes when lying back into them. Both outboard rear seats get the recliner treatment, with deployable leg rests, heating and cooling, and massage functionality. An airbag is embedded in each of the rear seatbelts—it’s a safety feature but an additional benefit is that it lends the impression of a softer, more luxurious belt. All told, the back of the Maybach is more spacious and comfortable than most first-class airliner accommodations, with the added benefit of not having to smell anyone’s feet, since the S550’s integrated air freshener perfumes the cabin with a Maybach-exclusive Agarwood scent.
A pair of screens in the front seatbacks and standard headphones allow rear-seat occupants to withdraw, Inception-style, even deeper into their own world within a world. And then there are the material upgrades, which include the leather headliner and the 1540-watt 24-speaker Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound stereo with tweeters that spiral out of the doors on startup and a huge cheese-grater speaker mounted between the Maybach’s two panoramic sunroofs—featuring, on our car, the $4950 Magic Sky Control variable opacity.
Restraint Is a Relative Term
For all its frippery, the Maybach is fairly restrained for an aristocrat cocoon—in the case of this example, maybe too restrained. The modest black-and-tan interior is attractive, but it doesn’t show off the design and craftsmanship as well as some of the more adventurous palettes. And, as much as we’re amused by the presence of throw pillows in the Maybach S-class, who actually likes throw pillows? They exist to be in the way. Where do they go when you’re sitting in the seat? On the other seat? If you have two people in the back, the pillows either get stuffed at your feet or they take up space in the trunk, which is already smaller than that of a regular S-class because of the intrusion of the seat-adjustment hardware. We prefer to think of them as souvenir chew toys for the weaponized German shepherd that guards your garage.