If we're going to discuss Ultra Luxury it's important to understand what makes an Ultra Luxury car, ultra luxury or more importantly; what they aren't. The important thing is the numbers mean nothing. If you're a Porsche guy that loves comparing horsepower, these aren't the cars for you. If you like the top speed of a Lamborghini, these aren't the cars for you. Ultra Luxury is all about the driving experience. Whether you sit in the back on a reclining bespoke leather seat and someone drives for you or you decide to take a round behind the matching wood grained wheel, the drive has to be the ultimate experience. If a car has more horsepower or more interior space or all the stupid things that help you decide if that CRV is right for you they don't mean anything in the world of Ultra Luxury. A common pleb sitting in the passenger seat of one of these would barely contain the cacophony of sensations invading their senses from all directions. Then of course, these cars weren't made for you, so a typical reviewer isn't going to do a very good job of explaining it. You need someone with a history in the brands (this is where I come in). What's going to be even more confusing is that all the vehicles we're about to discuss do that and do it well. So why did Maybach fail?
It's easy to get excited about the Maybach brand. It's still one of my favorites and I was disappointed to see it go and I would never take away from the experience that the original brand gave me, but it was not something we all didn't know was coming. At the time of its collapse I also owned an S600 and functionally there was little difference between the two vehicles. The same exceptional driving experience I received in my S600 was, at best, slightly tamer than the Maybach experience. An experience that I would pay two hundred thousand dollars more for in the Maybach. So even though I loved the Maybach I really felt like I was purchasing a little metal badge on the hood, even if it wasn't 100% true.
In comparison Rolls-Royce does source technology from their BMW family and the Bentley frame spent its early career with a Volkswagen badge on it, but once they left their German roots it was impossible to compare it to its adopted family. In fact, many would feel it an insult to compare a hand-made Rolls-Royce or Bentley to their parent company. So when you pay those inflated stickers for those cars you feel you're paying for the right reason. There's no other place you can go to get that unique experience.
I know it may seem weird to say this as many of those analytic guys out there are quick to say that in the expensive world their is no brand loyalty, but if you can afford 7 cars I highly doubt they'll all be the same brand. I know that if you're a Rolls-Royce guy, you're a Rolls-Royce guy. There are experiences that each brand have that are unique to that brand. To put it in context you'll understand their is a no-expense-is-to-much for the Rolls-Royce. If you've ever felt the lamb's wool mats you'll quickly tell yourself you need to make millions so you can afford them (They cost the same price as a small sedan and are insanely worth it). The Bentley has a traditional feel of wood grain and old fashioned irreverent appeal that its had since the first one rolled off the assembly line. If you ever get a chance to sit in one take a deep breath and smell that leather that one person meticulously cuts from a pattern and hand fits around the seat. That's distinctly Bentley, a brand that got out of racing because it "knew everything there was to know" and who am I to question their logic with their track record? All their owners share that humble dominance that I so cherish in them.
The Maybach felt like a chauffeured car. It had unique tech and balance. It felt big and unapologetic, but then again, so did my Mercedes. Even my ultimate driving experience BMW 7 series felt, "different" when compared to Rolls it shared the tech with. See the problem is, I'm a Mercedes guy. I don't know why but I'll go back to Mercedes and AMG for those perfect seats, that "I'm faster than you" feel, and that feel like I'm a star of the show Madmen all day long. You know, the exact same feeling that the Maybach had except I didn't have the excitement of the black and chrome underpinning. Basically it made the Maybach feel like an overpriced limo and it's just a very bad direction to go in. It has no identity and if I can't identify with it why would I own it? I realized that I loved the Maybach not because it was a Maybach, but because I was a Mercedes guy and it was the rich uncle everyone wanted to hang out with, but every night we went back to our family.
Now that the Maybach has made a sort of comeback I am excited, but I feel they're falling right back into their old ways. Tan colored cars that feel like they had a left-over paint can that needed to be used to the large satellite dish looking wheels that make me disdain the car even more than the odd shapes of the new cars, but what's even more egregious is that it's really just another big S class V12. What happened to the haughty two tone vehicles of the past? Whenever I pass a Rolls-Royce or Bentley I stop and look on in awe. Passing a Maybach the rims might catch my eye, but just long enough to say, "ugh" and move along.
Some people have asked me what I would do if I had the say in the next Maybach. Although it sounds like an immense undertaking I think I would be up for the task. There was a time when Maybach snuck to the forefront and had a Bugatti Veyron moment. It was called the Excelero, also known as the Darth Vader by its fans. The car was a concept that was made to test fast wheels on similar vehicles. Basically it was a mix between the bespoke feel of the Ultra Luxury mixed with the immense power of AMG. Something that would give the Veyron a run for its money. Even today people discuss it as the $8 million car. That means that Maybach needs to separate itself from the Mercedes brand. I would take a team similar to who built the Excelero and put them around a board room table far from Germany, in Italy or Britain. I would put the Excelero on the wall and say, "how do we bring this excitement to every car in the line-up? Go."
The reality is the Maybach brand is an amazing badge. It's a value that has gone unrealized because it lives in a market that doesn't care about its accomplishments. They don't care that it's faster or sleeker or more exclusive. Maybach needs to develop its own image, its own characteristics and every time we see it we need to be frozen in our tracks and gawk at it the way it deserves. It's the same reason I put the Excelero picture above and not the current model. Because if I put the latest car you probably wouldn't have read the article. How sad is that?