Maybach 57
A legendary name in luxury cars makes its successful return.

BMW owns the Rolls-Royce name, and Volkswagen has the Bentley name. Evidently, DaimlerBenz (or more properly, DaimlerChrysler) was unwilling to sit idly by as its competitors invested in brand names dripping in history and prestige, and then had their pick of an elite class of buyers. Thus, the German conglomerate has resurrected the Maybach name. Originally, this was one of the first automotive engineers, the chief designer in fact, of the first car that bore a Mercedes badge in 1901. Later, it referred to a line of custom-built luxury cars on sale during the 1920s and 1930s. Today, Maybach emerges from historical oblivion (as far as most Americans know) to become a luxury automobile division that resides far above Mercedes-Benz in price and prestige.

Two different versions of the Maybach are offered - the 57 and the 62 with each of the number designations referring to the car's length in meters. All of the 62's extra length goes to rear-seat room, allowing two occupants to recline fully in their seats accordingly, the larger Maybach is intended for those who will be driven around by a chauffeur. The designers strove to create an exterior look that was both elegant and timeless (since this is a car apt to stay in the family for several years).

Thanks to many factors, including size and packaging constraints, the overall look comes across as a tad chunky. Inside, opulence takes center stage. Every surface is high-grade leather, wood, chrome or some other soft-touch material. The instrumentation and controls will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in a Mercedes. The climate, stereo and navigation controls, unfortunately, are no easier to use than those in Mercedes vehicles. Comfy as it is to sit up front, the best place to sit in a Maybach is the backseat. It's a twin-bucket arrangement with a console in-between that houses a DVD player, a separate CD changer for use in the back (two pairs of high-quality wireless headphones are included) and a refrigerated compartment to keep cold refreshments at the ready.

Each rear seat offers a wide range of adjustments. A soft nubuck-upholstered (and feather stuffed) pillow is attached to the front of each head restraint, and leaning back upon it is sure to relax even the most uptight passenger.

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Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options
Maybachs are custom-built to each customer's taste. A long list of options, colors and interior furnishings can be applied to any vehicle, but you won't find a selection of popularly equipped Maybachs waiting for you on dealer lots. Instead, you must commission a Maybach by visiting a "Commissioning Studio" housed within Mercedes-Benz dealerships that have chosen to sell and service these vehicles. There, you will find a "Maybach Relationship Manager," who will guide you through the process (aided by a 50-inch plasma screen that can show every possible permutation of interior/exterior decor).

If a customer's wishes can't be met by the factory items, the company will permit said customer to consult with its designers (or even travel to the factory in Sindelfingen, Germany, to discuss ideas) so that the resulting Maybach accommodates him or her to the greatest extent possible.

Powertrains and Performance
The Maybach's 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-12 shares its design and components with that of the Mercedes-Benz S600. Since the Maybach has more than 1,400 pounds on the Benz, engineers increased the boost on both turbochargers to get a little more power out of the V-12. Output is rated at 543 horsepower at 5,250 rpm and 664 pound-feet of torque at 2,300 rpm (compared to 493 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque in the S600). The Airmatic DC suspension system provides for continual adjustment to the air spring and shock absorber rates for the benefit of ride comfort and handling stability.

An array of safety features is standard, from full airbag protection to ABS with stability control, to HID headlights (which, by the way, cast a shadow of the Maybach logo in the beam).

Interior Design and Special Features
Fine-quality leather and wood cover most every surface in the 57, and seat comfort is exceptional whether you're driving or riding. Rear passengers enjoy adjustable seating, and even the head restraints are covered by suede-textured down pillows, a substance Maybach claims is the best vibration-damping material in the world. Some controls and displays are confusing, among these the Mercedes-sourced COMAND navigation system.

Driving Impressions
Ride quality in the 57 is smooth. The only thing that detracts from the experience is the car's size. When in city traffic, the car feels manageable but somewhat disconnected from the road. If you're used to the agility of a 7 Series or S-Class, you might find the Maybach cumbersome in these situations. On the open road, the 57 proves surprisingly nimble; taken around a sweeping turn, it feels stable, secure and almost entertaining.

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