Ever wondered what would happen if you took a private jet, sliced off the wings, and infused all of its luxuries into a large SUV? The idea of a luxury-laden large SUV is nothing new. Still, ultra-luxury automakers’ current push into this once unoccupied space is a recent development with Bentley and Rolls-Royce all entering the fray. With these big British luxury names throwing their hats in the ring, it only fits that Mercedes-Benz wanted a slice of the pie for itself and has created the all-new 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS600. But can this first-ever Maybach SUV lure buyers away from the established players? Or is it not enough?
Flashy Styling Turns Heads, Makes This Maybach The Gem Of Any Parking Lot
The standard GLS is already a very stylish large luxury SUV, but the Maybach treatment takes its elegant lines and raises the temperature a few notches. The front chrome grille is a Maybach exclusive piece with the slots and the basic shape reflecting past Maybach models. However, the hood ornament is the trademark Mercedes three-pointed star, which serves as a subtle reminder of the Maybach’s new role as an extravagant trim level versus a traditional brand.
The exterior is slathered in a beautiful Lunar Blue and Iridium Silver two-tone paint, an $18,500 option (we’re not joking.) The color scheme here is beautiful, and in some ways, it makes us think about custom private jets and some of the wild paint schemes that their owners adorn them with. The massive 23-inch chrome wheels are also optional, but we highly recommend them since they play a huge part in enhancing the GLS600’s street presence, with our tester drawing plenty of stares, especially from curious neighbors. Like other GLS models, the rear styling is the weakest link here, with the back of our tester looking like a slab of melted fudge from some angles.
Overall, the Maybach is a noticeable step up over the standard GLS, but it finds itself in a very odd spot. On the one hand, it’s decidedly more elegant looking than the Rolls Royce Cullinan and the BMW X7 Alpina. But it also lacks the raw athleticism that defines the Bentley Bentayga. We suspect part of this is by design, and the bulk of Maybach buyers won’t mind one bit.
Private Jet Luxury In A Road-Friendly Package
While the exterior styling of the GLS600 Maybach had its own distinct charm, this beast is best appreciated from the inside with electronically operated power running boards helping to improve entry into the cabin when paired with the air suspension, which automatically lowers slightly when you open the door. Once you nestle yourself inside, you’re immediately taken in by the sheer amount of luxury that’s offered here. The perforated Nappa Leather seats are heated and ventilated and come with an insane amount of adjustments and settings. Need to relax after a long day? The seats also offer several massage settings include two hot relaxing versions.
Lacquered piano black plastic pieces are scattered throughout the cabin, while the steering wheel and other areas of the cabin are adorned in tasteful wood accents. The rear seats, though, are where the bulk of the pampering takes place. While the bulk of GLS models come standard with a third-row bench. The Maybach pitches it and instead transforms the second row into an opulent lounge for two lucky passengers. The middle seat gets lost in the shuffle, but space is occupied by a large center console that can be equipped with an optional $1,100 champagne refrigerator. The fridge can be enhanced with Maybach exclusive flute glasses, but it does hog a good chunk of the remaining cargo space in the back so pack lightly.
As for the seats themselves, they are very comfortable places to spend time in, with occupants having their own set of pillows to go along with the heavily cushioned headrests. They can also fully recline the seats with power-operated footrests that actually extend out to catch their lower legs and feet. This novel party trick is typically seen in modern movie theaters and, yes, private jets, but in the GLS, the front seats need to be moved up a bit to achieve maximum effect. Like the front seats, the rear ones have full heat, cooling, and massage too, and do a really nice job of making you feel like you truly made it in the world. The seatbacks hide storable picnic tables, and these tables can be set to two different positions depending on the type of device you are using.
World-Class Technology At The Touch Of Your Finger Tips
Thankfully, the opulent interior hasn’t forgotten that the GLS600 resides in a purely digital world and has several technologies in place to help cement its place in the modern age. The 27-speaker Burmester Surround Audio system coddles the ears with truly life-like sound quality, while the center-mounted touchscreen in the rear not only controls things in the back but can also bounce information to the larger front-mounted screen and even control some of the functions for front passengers. The screen can also be removed from its holder, and like Bentley’s TSR screen, it’s held in place via specially constructed magnets. The seatbacks can also be equipped with optional touchscreens operated by the remote, but our example did not come with those two items.
Our tester came with four-zone climate control, and the climate system can even disperse a variety of scents through the cabin via a small vial of perfume in the glovebox. But perhaps the thing that stuck out to us was the sheer amount of ambient lighting that’s crammed into this large SUV. The company has always been very good at using lighting to convey the mood of its owners, and it’s no different here. The lights snake their way across the dashboard, the doors, and even the floor. The upper lighting elements effectively wrap their way around the entire cabin and makes occupants feel like they have been cocooned in a halo of light. A single color is the default setup, but buyers can combine different hues and even use an “animated” series of colors for a more realistic effect.
GLS600 Maybach Has AMG Performance Wrapped In A Velvet Glove
With all of this luxury on hand, it should come as no surprise that the GLS600 Maybach also has the performance to back up its ambitious luxury goals. The motivation here comes from the familiar 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8, which also sees duty in some of Benz’s AMG models, with the Maybach’s unit producing 550 hp and 538 lb-ft of torque. That’s enough to launch the Maybach to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds with the mild-hybrid EQ Boost system adding 21 extra hp, which helps smooth out some of the low-end turbo lag that’s common with this particular engine. But while the EQ tech helps add some green vibes to the Maybach, this luxury-lined beast is still a thirsty beast, with our tester getting an average of 15 mpg in city driving with the combined figure ringing in at 16 mpg.
While this is an impressive amount of power, the Maybach is not as rabid as the 603 hp Mercedes-AMG GLS63. The Maybach has a much smoother character and can be thought of as a smooth glass of champagne versus a blunter glass of Jagermeister. This focus on smoothness is further amplified when the SUV is placed into “Maybach Mode,” which makes the acceleration start in second gear instead of first and makes other minor adjustments to maximize rear-seat comfort. Another mode called “Curve” mode uses the air suspension to help the Maybach actually lean into corners which helps eliminate some of the body roll that you feel in the other drive modes.
There’s also a special off-road mode that actually bounces the Maybach up and down. The idea here is that the bouncing helps the SUV get unstuck from soft sand, but many owners have been using it to make a name for themselves on social media. Just make sure you’re not prone to seasickness before you use it; the bouncing can be pretty rough on a sensitive stomach. The nine-speed automatic is about as smooth as one can get in an SUV, with the shifts being slick and very precise. Braking in our tester was also very composed, with the firm pedal feel being a very interesting contrast to the over 6,000 lbs of SUV they are tasked with stopping.
The 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS600 is a very prominent statement piece, but living large comes with an equally hefty price tag, with a base model starting at $160,500. Our tester came loaded to the brim with options which helped the price surge to a final total of $190,700. That includes the $18,500 two-tone paint scheme, the $5,500 23-inch wheels, and even the $1,800 refrigerator. While the Maybach is an impressive luxury vehicle that undercuts the Rolls Royce Cullinan and the Bentley Bentayga in price, it’s also an outlier, with the Rolls having a better cloud-like ride experience and the Bentayga beats it in terms of handling.
In some ways, it makes you feel like the Maybach could do more to truly help it stand out in the ultra-luxury SUV space. Perhaps some novel interior technology, innovative driving aides like we’ve seen in the recently launched S-Class, and maybe even some truly exotic touches to help it draw more attention to itself. As it stands, the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS600 is a potent luxury SUV that brings a lot to the table but is only scratching the surface of what it can truly achieve out in a world dominated by Bentley and Rolls Royce.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.