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Stately in size, decadent in its luxuries and rapid in its pace, the 2008 Maybach 57 could be the most exquisite car (a lot of) money can buy. However, it lacks the overwhelming character and panache of its only competitor, the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Indulgent in its luxurious indulgence, constructed like a leather-lined bank vault, made-to-order customization, beautiful ride, supremely powerful engines.
Not as special as a Rolls, unwieldy in traffic, too many pieces from the last-generation Mercedes parts bin, offensively expensive options.
Available 57 Models
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There are no major changes for the 2008 Maybach 57.
If Rolls-Royces are motorcars fit for Queen Elizabeth, the 2008 Maybach 57 is an auto fit for Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Maybach is all business, mixing a restrained German aesthetic with exquisite luxury, while the Rolls puts its emphasis on presentation and classical British opulence. For this rarest of rare luxury sedans, it is this difference in character that will ultimately determine which enters the garages of the wealthiest Americans.
Maybach dates back to post-World War I Germany, when the company produced a selection of opulent luxury automobiles on par with Great Britain's Rolls-Royce. These cars weren't Maybach's principal venture, though, as it primarily produced engines for trains, boats and zeppelins. Automobile production stopped after World War II and the brand became the possession of Daimler-Benz during the 1960s. That was fitting, since Wilhelm Maybach was chief designer of the very first Mercedes and a co-founder of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, the same company that would eventually merge with Benz & Cie to create one of the world's most honored automobile manufacturers.
Today's 2008 Maybach 57 and its higher-performance 57 S edition represent the brand's resurrection, brought forth when the parent company saw an ultraluxury niche present beyond the already lofty brand cachet established by Mercedes-Benz. They also saw chief German rivals BMW and Volkswagen gobble up Britain's most storied automotive marques in Rolls-Royce and Bentley, respectively.
Sharing more than just a passing resemblance to the previous-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Maybach 57 and its stretched 62 sibling come across as much more of an über-Benz than a Bentley seems like an über-Audi, for instance. The basic platform is similar, and each of the AMG-sourced twin-turbo V12 engines is constructed by a single technician (5.5-liter in the 57 and 6.0-liter in the 57 S). The larger power plant produces 604 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque, which results in a 0-60-mph sprint in about 5 seconds. That makes it one of the world's fastest sedans despite weighing 6,000 pounds -- more than a Ford Expedition.
Of course, performance is one thing, but for super limousines like a Maybach, the interior environment is of paramount importance. Leather and wood are in required abundance, while the rear quarters are set apart from Rolls-Royce by providing a greater selection of standard electronic goodies. There's also a small refrigerator to chill champagne -- although we're not sure how that jibes with open-container laws. When ordering their beautiful new car at a Maybach "Commissioning Studio," customers can equip their potential 57 or 57 S in literally any way they wish. If they want alpaca upholstery instead of regular old cow leather, the "Maybach Relationship Manager" can probably make it happen -- just be prepared to pay a colossal amount of money.
It's hard to compare cars that cost vastly more than the average American home and only slightly less than the GDP of Tajikistan. Despite its many niceties, though, the 2008 Maybach 57 can't match a Rolls-Royce for exquisitely decadent luxury and that uniquely British character that dates back a century. The Maybach has a classic name, but it's very much the world's nicest S-Class. It does offer more standard toys than the Rolls, but you're more likely to feel like a king when riding aboard a Phantom. In the Maybach, you'll feel more like a super-rich Trump type in need of onboard Bloomberg television and a good spot to place your gold-plated laptop.
The 2008 Maybach 57 is an ultraluxury sedan available in two trim levels. The upgraded 57 S is differentiated mostly by its more powerful engine. Standard features include 19-inch wheels, active self-leveling suspension, adaptive cruise control, a sunroof, power rear sunshades, 10-way power front seats with heat and massage, front seat memory settings, a full leather interior, two-person reclining rear bucket seats with heat, four-zone climate control with active air filter and rear beverage cooler. Also standard is Bluetooth, a navigation system with a rearview camera, a DVD entertainment system and a 21-speaker Bose surround-sound system with in-dash CD player, console-mounted six-CD changer, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack.
Despite these standard features, the made-to-order Maybach 57 can be specified however its purchaser desires. Regular optional extras mostly involve the rear quarters, including additional rear-seat entertainment options, a three-person backseat, ventilated front or rear seats, folding rear picnic tables, rear curtains and a tremendously cool sunroof that transforms from transparent to opaque at the push of a button.
Both the Maybach 57 and 57 S are powered by versions of the twin-turbocharged V12 Mercedes-Benz uses in some of its loftiest high-end vehicles. The 5.5-liter V12 in the 57 produces 543 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque, while the 6.0-liter version in the 57 S is rated at 604 hp and 738 lb-ft. That amount is enough to achieve 60 mph from a stop in less than 5 seconds.
Maybach models come with a standard complement of 10 airbags. Beyond the two bags in front there are side airbags for the front and rear passengers and side curtain airbags that span both front and rear. Other safety features include antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.
For the few Maybach owners who actually drive their car, they will find a front cabin that, like the exterior, basically resembles a lavish previous-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Electronic controls are subsequently behind the times and it generally lacks the sense of classical grandeur evident in the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Still, it's a safe bet most Maybach owners will be occupying the rear quarters as their chauffeur ferries them about. They will find a pair of reclining and heated bucket seats separated by a center console (a three-place bench is an option) that houses controls for the rear dual-zone climate control and the standard DVD entertainment system.
Every 2008 Maybach 57 drives like the large car that it is. Having said that, these are pretty amazing large cars. Both the 57 and the 57 S are seriously quick. In turns, the great weight works against the Maybach -- there's just no way to keep 3 tons completely buttoned down when going through a corner. Yet these are cars built to deliver diplomats to a meeting of the World Bank, not set a low lap time at the Nürburgring. For such deliveries, the Maybach provides a beautiful ride that swallows bumps without floating about like a luxury yacht upon the high seas.
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