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Autoweek’s Murilee Martin reviews the 2016 Mercedes Maybach S600.

With all the talk about autonomous cars these days, we forget that the very rich have had such vehicles since not long after Karl Benz thought up this whole car thing. You buy a big, comfortable car, you hire a driver (and maybe a couple of heavies to keep the rabble at bay), and then you’re free to sip champagne in the back as your autonomous machine takes you to the board meeting, racehorse auction, decadent fin de siècle party, whatever.

While the biggest, smoothest, quietest, most Teutonically competent S-Klasse of them all could be driven by its owner — according to the Mercedes-Benz marketing wizards, most likely a hard-charging-yet-refined top-ranker in a place like Shenzhen or St. Petersburg — it is designed with the back-seat passenger in mind. We drove and rode in the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 around the hills east of Santa Barbara last week, and here’s what we thought.
Because the successful Maybach S600 owner will want to celebrate the consummation of that big Xiamen real estate deal by clinking some glasses of cold champagne, the car comes with a pair of solid-silver champagne flutes, kept in a fitted chiller. We couldn’t help but imagine that the ghost of The Great Helmsman himself might appear, shaking with rage, during the celebration and accuse the Maybach owner of drinking the blood of the peasants in silver cups. But that’s just us; the Mercedes-Benz brass predict that 60% of these cars will be sold in China, 16% in Russia, and 10% in the U.S., so we can assume that the car’s excellent Burmester sound system will drown out the echoes of China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
In the back of this car, you’ve got what amounts to a pair of top-of-the-line first-class airline seats, complete with footrests, pillows, foldout work tables, and a one-button recliner control. The ride isn’t anesthetized in 1975-Lincoln-on-a-waterbed fashion, but road imperfections are intimidated into submission by a riding-crop-wielding dominatrix of a suspension, and you can cruise right over fairly significant speed bumps at a decent clip without needing the services of the clips that hold your champagne flute in its cupholder (at this point, the ghost of Lenin joins Mao, to shriek that you, the pitiless capitalist bloodsucker, cannot feel the bones of the workers being crushed beneath your wheels!)
Unless those dead revolutionaries are right there in the car with you, though, you won’t hear them, because this machine is quiet enough to hear a the rustle of a single $100 bill gently striking the palm of a once-difficult provincial building inspector while cruising at 100 mph. The Mercedes-Benz folks claim that the quietest location in the Maybach S600 is the location of the rear-seat passengers’ heads when their seats are in full recline, and — having taken a very refreshing nap during a high-speed drive on a deferred-maintenance California state highway — we believe them.
If you’re the rare Maybach-Mercedes S600 owner who will deign to drive yourself, it turns out to feel surprisingly non-pachydermic on the road. With 612 lb-ft of torque available at a barely-turning-over 1,900 rpm, you’ll win most stoplight races (as if!) and the suspension is sufficiently communicative that you could push the car fairly hard if you were late to a crucial hearing at the Supreme People’s Procurate. And, on that subject, don’t expect high-level People’s Liberation Army or National People’s Congress officials to buy these cars, because General Secretary Xi Jinping’s recent displeasure with flashy Party officials flaunting great wealth is putting a crimp in Chinese luxury-goods sales.
The Burmester audio system is the best-sounding such rig I’ve ever heard in my life, and that includes systems not installed in motor vehicles. If you’re a coldblooded gangsta out doing business, the Mike Jones beats on your Burmester will do a proper job of rattling windows for blocks around. The LCD screens for the rear-seat passengers offer Internet access, so I was able to experience flashbacks of the last time I’d driven a Mercedes-Benz product.

The Maybach S600 isn’t at all flashy, which means it’s more likely to be used by embassy staffs than pop stars, but there are no corners cut in the comfort department. We think it might benefit from a bit of snazzification, with perhaps a hint of influence taken from flamboyant debauchees of Late Weimar-era Berlin to go with all the oversubtle 21st-century German science.
Strangely, $189,350 is a good deal for such a masterpiece of technology and hand-stitched luxury (though we’re not entirely sure what the bill for all the options on our as-tested cars would come to). Adding bulletproofing, the latest encrypted communication gear, and all the other gingerbread that many one-tenth-of-the-1-percenters prefer on their rides will push the price up quite a bit, though, so the reasonable-for-what-you-get initial price should seem attractive to frugal billionaires.