Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 first drive review

The Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 amps up luxury from the standard GLS. But should it really cost twice as much as the SUV it is based on?
The Maybach GLS looks like a standard GLS that learned how to groom itself.
The Maybach GLS looks like a standard GLS that learned how to groom itself.Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

The Maybach is incredibly imposing and the bling makes it hard to miss. Maybach is a heavy word. Say it however you like — May-back, like the Americans do, or Mai-bahk the way the Germans pronounce it. The way it rolls from the tip of your lips to the back of your mouth gives it a weight that few other car names can boast of. Its legacy possibly has something to do with it — Maybach is synonymous with the ultra-luxe, of raising the bar at the absolute top end. That continues in 2024, with the Maybach badge being fitted onto only the most opulent Mercs. Yes, you have the S-Class but a few years ago the GLS also got the honour of wearing the badge. The first-ever GLS Maybach moved the (humble, in this context) regular GLS upwards, pushing it to sit shoulder to shoulder with the Range Rovers and Bentaygas of the world. Now, there’s an update.

The Maybach GLS looks like a standard GLS that learned how to groom itself. You know, how when men get older and they learn to comb their hair, suit up and put on a nice watch? The Maybach has taken the standard GLS and done exactly that — a little sharper, a little more bling, a little more suave than before. You’ve got this shiny grille up front, large 22-inch wheels (that can be upsized to 23-inch monoblocks for a cool Rs`10 lakh), Maybach logos on the D pillars, and more chrome at the rear. There are a whole lot of Maybach logos around the air vents in the bumper as well, but I think they’ve gone a bit overboard there. It’s almost like this sophisticated gent has gone and put on a gaudy Louis Vuitton tee with a million LV logos on it. The car pictured here doesn’t have the optional dual-tone paint but should you choose to spec it so, you’re going to have to part with an additional Rs`40 lakh. Open one of the massive doors of the Maybach, and the side step glides out from underneath the car to greet you. Climb inside and things are familiar — you’ve got the same general layout as the GLS with the twin screens up front. However, as it is with most luxury, the devil is in the details. Like the steering wheel — a combination of wood and leather. There’s high-quality soft-touch Nappa leather, open pore oakwood trim all over that feels more more expensive than before. The 13-speaker Burmester system is an absolute belter. You’ve got thicker floor mats, almost like shag carpets. More Maybach logos too — on the centre console, on the pedals and plenty inside the instrument cluster as well.

The statement is obviously the first-class backseat — a Rs`9.7 lakh option. Yes, a bench is standard. What you get if you tick this box is a four-seater setup with the centre tunnel in the middle. You can recline it all the way back and move the co-driver seat all the way forward to make plenty of room. The Maybach GLS doesn’t have a wheelbase any longer than the standard GLS, but you don’t really need more with the amount of room back here. Of course, you get the usual cooled/heated/massaging seats, temperature controlled cup holders, a wireless phone charger in the rear and the entertainment package with the screens. You also get the tablet in the armrest that allows you to control everything from the seats, music, nav — the works. This particular one has some additional equipment in here too — the fridge (a Rs`2.68 lakh option), the tray tables (a Rs`4.68 lakh option) and you can also get a champagne flute holder (Rs`2.08 lakh option). There are few better ways to move between places than the backseat of a Maybach — stretch, chill, work, drink — you’re the boss, you decide. Getting behind the ’wheel is quite the occasion as well. You’ve got a 4-litre V8 at your beck and call. This is the same 4-litre block as in the S 63 but it is set up very, very differently. Here, it isn’t a hard-edged performance-focussed tune but instead uses the endless grunt to make the driving experience feel effortless. That isn’t to say it isn’t quick — 100kmph comes up in a rapid 4.9 seconds. I know our brains have been scrambled by modern EVs, but sub-5 sec for a massive luxury SUV is pretty good! There’s a Maybach mode that makes the drivetrain incredibly relaxed and smooth — refusing to downshift and instead holding a high gear and using the near endless torque to make steady progress.

Should you want to hustle it, shift it into Sport mode and the V8 shows a more aggressive side but it is pretty unbecoming of the Maybach. You’re better off in comfort or Maybach mode. There’s also a mild hybrid system that adds some electric boost when necessary — some 22bhp and 250Nm — nowhere close to as potent as the S 63’s plug-in system. What stands out is the supreme refinement and broad-chested effortlessness with which the Maybach goes about its business.

Then there’s the active suspension. E-Active body control is what Mercedes-Benz terms it and it is essentially trick suspension that has active dampers, that can be individually manipulated by pumping fluid through them. This is what allows the Maybach to ‘bounce’ — a mode designed to extricate the SUV in sticky off-road situations by improving traction but one that you’ll see more on Instagram than anywhere else. This suspension does wonders to the GLS’ ride and handling though. Where a standard GLS is rather firm and reluctant to go around bends, the Maybach GLS simply wafts over our roads. There’s a hint of firmness to it at low speeds, particularly over sharper bumps — the 22s making their presence felt here. But there’s a plushness to the ride at speed — you can waft along on our highways effortlessly. You want a Maybach to be comfortable and this GLS is just that — whether in the driver’s seat or the back, it isolates you from the outside world and relaxes you. The suspension has a massive effect on handling too. Put it into Curve mode and instead of rolling like any 2-tonne SUV would, it actually leans into corners like a motorcycle, to counteract the roll. It is an unnerving sensation at first but once you get used to it, you realise that the lack of roll actually keeps you from being thrown around by lateral Gs. It robs some of the natural sensations of weight transfer but the person in the back will appreciate the fact that they aren’t being chucked around at the whims of the driver. All this gives the GLS a broader spread of ability, expanding its capabilities both on the comfort and handling front.

The Maybach GLS takes an already plush SUV and refines the experience to a very high degree. Every surface is lavish, every bit of tech is focussed on making it more comfortable. The engine is top-shelf stuff, as is the fancy suspension. It drives with a composure that few other SUVs can manage, while keeping you completely cocooned on the inside. I’ve always wondered why someone would pay twice the money for a car that essentially shares the same underpinnings, and even the same three letter model name — G-L-S. But then again, this particular GLS has another name joining it. A heavy one. Maybach.

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