Four fewer cylinders and a drastically lower starting price don’t dilute any part of the luxurious Maybach experience.
– Detroit, Michigan
The facelifted 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class range will arrive at dealers later this year, but I’m here to tell you about a lesser-known update that happened for 2017. In addition to offering the Maybach S-Class in V12-only S600 guise, Mercedes added an S550 model, featuring the company’s biturbocharged V8 and the assistance of 4Matic all-wheel drive. The S550 also drastically lowers the cost of entry into the Maybach range – but don’t worry, there’s nothing ‘cheap’ about this less-expensive model.
No-compromise V8. I know, I know – there’s no replacement for displacement, and that super-smooth V12 is the engine to have. Well, you’re wrong. Mercedes’ biturbo 4.7-liter V8 is lovely under the hood of the stretched S-Class, making 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Plus, consider this: Despite being down 74 hp and 96 lb-ft compared to the V12, the S550 is just as quick to 60 miles per hour as the S600 – five seconds flat. The S550 is nearly 280 pounds lighter than the S600, and that’s with the addition of 4Matic all-wheel drive (the S600 is rear-drive only). The V8 is also more fuel-efficient, with EPA ratings of 16 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway, compared to 13/21 in the S600. On top of that...
It’s $25,000 cheaper. You can get the $166,200 S550 with the same luxury appointments as the $191,300 S600. The cars are visually identical, save for the model badges on the rear and the “4Matic” badge aft of the front wheels (easily removed, by the way). For no real gain in performance, and with the S550 not lacking any amenities, it seems smart to just opt for the V8. Besides, if you’re being chauffeured, it’s not like you really care about power under your right foot, anyway.
Opulence, I has it. Diamond-quilted seats with matching pillows for rear occupants. Three miles of legroom. A panoramic sunroof with electronically adjustable tint. The best sound system in the business. Seats that move in 1,000 different directions and offer different types of massage with varying levels of intensity. Power sun shades. Individual rear entertainment screens. A front infotainment screen with a split-view system because how dare you have to look at the same content as your driver. Heated armrests. And if you so desire, a tiny refrigerator for your champagne with handcrafted silver flutes. Get the picture?
The correct wheels. These are the Maybach exclusive chrome dish wheels, they cost $3,900, and if you don’t fit them to this car, you’re doing it wrong. Mercedes offers a total of six wheel choices for the Maybach S550, in 19- and 20-inch sizes, and while I prefer many of the other designs, these forged saucers are properly suited to this car.
Better than the best? Now that Maybach isn’t its own brand, the wow-factor is somewhat diminished. This long-wheelbase S550 looks like, well, a long-wheelbase S550 – show up at the club behind a Bentley, and almost no one will notice. At that point, the regular S-Class offers nearly all the same niceties for a fraction of the cost – a standard S550 is some $66,000 less expensive than its Maybach counterpart. Besides, if driving is your thing, there’s a good argument to be made for an AMG S-Class, which offers just as much luxury, with a wallop of thrills from behind the wheel.
Wait for the update. Mercedes just revealed its updated S-Class range in Shanghai, and you’d be smart to wait for those models to hit dealers. On the Maybach level, there’s a more powerful 4.0-liter biturbo V8 in the S560 model, and the interior gets a sprucing-up to include a lot of the latest comfort and technology offerings that Mercedes debuted in the current E-Class. Just look at these pictures – the 2018 Maybach definitely appears to be worth the wait.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com