Mercedes-Maybach S600 a stunning luxury car

The 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 has a base price of $189,350, but with options the bill comes to $203,635.

The test-fleet driver arrived with the car that would replace the Toyota Yaris with which I had spent the previous week.

Clearly, this was my idea of a fair trade: an under-$20,000 Toyota for an over-$200,000 Mercedes-Benz.

Actually, the 2016 Mercedes in question - a brand new, ultra-luxury model called the Mercedes-Maybach S600 - had a base price of only $189,350. But after you add must-have options like silver-plated champagne flutes, a three-bottle wine cooler, and folding tray tables, the bill comes to $203,635.

A stunning luxury car that ought to leave Rolls-Royce and Bentley with chest pains worthy of digitalis, this is really Mercedes' second bite at the Maybach apple.

Maybach, founded in 1909, was an uber-luxury automaker until the Second World War rained on its assembly line. Mercedes bought the name in 1997 and began building Maybach brand cars a few years later. After a decade of forgettable sales, the company pulled the plug in 2012. One reason for the lack of sales was probably the car's cost, which was extremely high even by Rolls/Bentley standards. The 2012 Maybach 57 model listed for $379,050. But if you wanted to raise your standard of driving with the Maybach Landaulet, the tag was $1,382,750.

This new car is a lot more affordable than the Maybach it replaces (I know, more affordable is a relative term). And it is now a Mercedes model rather than another brand. But it is still built off a stretched S-Class platform, although the new S-Class chassis is a lot better than the stale stuff under the last Maybach.

The Mercedes-Maybach S600 is over eight inches longer than the long-wheelbase S600, and that produces over a half-foot of additional rear seat leg room. And that extra room is crucial to this car's essential mission: making the folks in the backseat as comfortable as possible.

You see, while this high-performing sedan is a pleasure to drive, its emphasis is on the happiness of its owner, who Mercedes obviously feels will sit behind his or her driver. Taking a seat in the back of the test car made that apparent.

You are surrounded by myrtle wood veneers and high quality leather for openers. Even the headliner is Nappa leather. The legroom here would put a smile on the face of an NBA center. The two power rear seats recline and provide a leg rest à la Barcalounger. There's a leather throw pillow, and a cozy lamb's wool floor mat.

There's also so much electrical gadgetry in this car that you could retire on the cost of its wiring harness.

Sun bothering you? Flip switches that raise and lower the shades on the side and rear windows. Flip another for the sunroof. Want to watch a movie or check the navi? Flick on the screen on the back of the seat in front of you. Illuminated mirrors drop from the ceiling. A table folds out of the console if you need it. There are champagne flutes in one console compartment and an adjacent refrigerator for your bubbly or whatever. Special cupholders lock the flutes in place. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Also, Mercedes claims this backseat is quieter than any other production sedan's, and I believe it.

The car's quietude is complemented by the characteristic smoothness of its V-12 engine, a six-liter, twin-turbo affair that develops 523 horsepower and makes for rapid transit.

That big engine in this heavy car produces EPA mileage ratings of 13 city and 20 highway - which probably aren't good enough to engender a big, wet kiss from the president of the Sierra Club.


2016 Mercedes- Maybach S600.

Base price: $189,350.

As tested: $203,635.

Standard gear: 6-liter, bi-turbo engine, 7-speed automatic transmission, rear-drive. Safety devices such as a surround-view camera system, and esoteric amenities such as a leather headliner and heated windshield.

Options: Include special 20-inch alloy wheels, champagne flutes, and a refrigerator, as well as an Executive Rear Seat Package offering heated and cooled cupholders and a wood-veneer console containing tray tables.

Fuel economy: 13 city, 20 highway.

Handling: Surprisingly athletic.

Engine performance: Fine power.

Styling: Sleek elegance.

Ride comfort: Excellent.

Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper.

The Ben key: four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.