Lovely Luxury Limos: Learning to Live Like the Leisure Class
Mercedes made luxury waves recently by reviving the Maybach nameplate. Again. Quick history lesson: Before World War II, Maybach was a German luxury car brand. During the war it built Panzer tank engines. In the late 1990s, after rivals BMW and Volkswagen respectively snatched up Rolls-Royce and Bentley, Mercedes-Benz decided it needed its own ultra-luxury player, so it dusted off the long-dormant Maybach badge and produced ultra-pricey, ultra-powerful vehicles that not enough 1 percenters wanted. Seriously, less than 50 Maybachs were sold in the U.S. in 2011. So Mercedes decided to “sunset” the brand, my favorite-ever euphemism. However, the more things change, the more things change right back again. In late 2014, Daimler fired up the defibrillator once more and showed the world the Mercedes-Maybach S600.
Over in England, one could make the case that Bentley had been running in zombie mode from 1931 (when Rolls bought it) right up until the recently departed Ferdinand Piëch stapled the British luxury brand into Volkswagen’s portfolio during the waning years of the Clinton administration. Sure, some of those pre-Piëch Arnages were pretty sweet, but they were just Rolls-Royces with potent, turbocharged engines. All that changed when the Germans took over, though I suppose one could argue that the Continental GT is just a short-wheelbase, two-door VW Phaeton. The Mulsanne, however, introduced at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, shares virtually nothing with nobody. Big, imposing, with a hand-wrought interior and an incredibly potent 6.8-liter, twin-turbo V-8 under its bonnet, the Mulsanne is ex-Bentley boss Franz-Josef Paefgen’s departing salvo. Last year, Bentley decided that 752 lb-ft of torque wasn’t nearly enough, so it launched the Mulsanne Speed with 811 lb-ft of twist. This, my friends, is a proper matchup.
We shall begin with how the two cars are similar. Sizewise, they’re monsters. Huge by any metric, the Mulsanne Speed at nearly 220 inches is only 10 inches shorter than a four-door Ford F-150 SuperCrew. The Maybach S600 is 5 inches shorter than the Bentley but sits upon a wheelbase 3.9 inches longer. The Maybach clocks in at 5,308 pounds, while that F-150 4×4 Lariat I referenced above sits pretty at 4,935 pounds. The Mulsanne Speed is a true three-tonner, living large at 6,041 pounds. The last 4×4 Ram EcoDiesel Outdoorsman four-door we tested weighed 5,990 pounds.
In terms of performance, or at least potential performance, each car is stacked. The Maybach gets a “detuned” version of the hand-built M275 AMG 6.0-liter, twin-turbo V-12. Instead of 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque, Mercedes dials the output back to just 523 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. Somehow, it still moves. I’ve already mentioned the Mulsanne Speed’s ridiculous 811 lb-ft of torque, so I’ll add that the big V-8 makes 530 hp, as well. Both cars fall somewhere north of adequate. Ready for the wacky part? The Maybach is the quicker of the two, hitting 60 mph in 4.8 seconds compared with 5 flat for the Bentley. This quickness carries over to the quarter mile where the S600 takes 13.2 seconds moving at 110.9 mph to the Speed’s 13.6 seconds at 103.3 mph. Why is the less potent car quicker? Aside from a near 700-pound weight penalty, the Bentley just doesn’t hook up. In fact, the non-Speed Mulsanne with only 505 hp and 752 lb-ft of torque hits 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and runs the quarter in 13.3 at 104.4 mph. This is one of the rare recorded instances of too much power.
In terms of driving—not that it matters—the Maybach has the edge. Sort of. As my colleague Scott Evans says: “When pushed hard, the Maybach handles very well. It is, after all, an S-Class. Magic Body Control is still a silly name, but it’s also accurate.” The Bentley, on the other hand, is more hair shirt, more analogue, more—dare I say it—British. As Evans says of the Mulsanne Speed: “It’s not as sterile. Every movement has a sense of occasion. It’s more engaging to drive.” I suppose another way of saying all this is that you’ll win the race in the Maybach, but you’ll have more fun getting to the finish line in the Bentley. Our testing bears these subjective impressions out, with the Maybach waltzing around our figure eight in 25.8 seconds, 26.6 seconds for the bigger Bentley. But I categorically doubt that a potential owner of either beastie has racing in mind when writing out the substantial check. Ain’t no OOS (Oligarch or Similar) buying either of these two for performance reasons.
Why then? Why fork over more than $200K US for the Mercedes-Maybach, or nearly double that for the Bentley? Because opulence. Not to go all academic on you, but my favorite American economist is a guy named Thorstein Veblen. He wrote a book called “The Theory of the Leisure Class.” Put simply, when electricity was new and expensive, only the wealthy could afford “electric light dinners.” However, once every single residence in the country was wired up, only the wealthy could afford to burn candles while they ate. Hence, candlelit dinners became the hot, decadent, desirable thing. Likewise, one doesn’t need a house-priced car. One can have one, so one does.
Might I invite you to have a peep at the back seats? In terms of sheer knocking-the-breath-out-of-your-lungs wowza, at first glance the Maybach wins this battle. Mercedes puts that extra 2 inches of wheelbase to great use, as the Maybach’s rear thrones nearly fold flat, just like a business class seat on a jet. The amount of legroom is staggering. Says Evans, who is about 5-foot-10, “My legs aren’t long enough to use the footrest under the front passenger’s seat.” Then you have the solid silver, $5,000 US champagne flutes that smartly lock into place next to the crafty, army-knifing, aluminum tray tables. There’s (of course) a small fridge that holds three bottles of bubbly. Everything back there is powered, heated, cooled, massaged, shaded, and remote-controlled.
To the uninitiated, the Mulsanne’s rear quarters look more pedestrian. But start poking, prodding, and pushing and you soon learn that the Bentley also has a (frustrating to use) remote control for the built-in screens and hideaway seat controls with heating, cooling, and massage functions. Everything’s there, but hidden. Push little buttons on the back of the front seats, and two metal, leather-coated tray tables silently and majestically fold down. Hit another button and you’re treated to the most absurdly priced option I can think of: $28K US for two popup iPads complete with built-in wireless keyboards. Push another button between the rear seats, and a frosted pane of glass slides down to reveal a two-bottle champagne fridge. It doesn’t eat up half the trunk the way the Maybach’s does. While there are only two bottles’ worth of storage, there are three cut crystal flutes with a Bentley “B” stamped on the bottom. Would you rather drink from silver or crystal? I’m thinking crystal. I’ll also go out on a limb and claim that three people drinking two bottles equals more fun than two people consuming three. I’ll also quote F. Scott Fitzgerald here about the rich: “They are different from you and me.”
Aside from the champagne solutions, shall we come to a conclusion about which back seat is preferable? Yes, and here’s where we turn snobby. The Bentley’s is better. Say huh? True, the seats don’t fold flat, but other than initial novelty, why would you want to lie down in a car? Aside from safety concerns (how well do seatbelts work when you’re prone?), horizontal is just an odd way to motor. Even if that is your bag, when you spend enough time in both, the quality of the materials in the Bentley truly starts to impress. Forget for a moment that each Mulsanne features the hides of 17 cows (really!). The leather is better than the Maybach’s. This particular Mulsanne Speed features gaudy carbon-fiber waist rails (why on earth?), but underneath the applique are huge hunks of wood. I’ve been to the factory and seen ’em. Under the Maybach’s quilted leather is plastic. The S600 is a very well-done, gussied-up S-Class. The Mulsanne is nothing but a Mulsanne.
That’s where the Mulsanne Speed bests the Maybach S600, and why the price is essentially double. There are men in Crewe with bulging forearms holding chisels that perform the woodworking. The leather is crafted using a pre-1955 tanning process. The Maybach, on the other hand, comes off the S-Class assembly line in Sindelfingen, using many of the same parts as the $95,000 US model (can you even imagine?). Here’s Evans take on this problem: “This Maybach has two major drawbacks: One, it looks too much like an S-Class. Needs more differentiation, something besides the wheels that shouts, ‘I’m a Maybach, and I’m special!’ Two, it lacks considerably in the customization department. Bentley and Rolls trade heavily on their custom stitching, woodwork, coloring, and other options. Maybach needs a custom shop.” And $4,995 US crosshatched stitching.
The Maybach features dazzling technology, but despite its near equal size to the Mulsanne probably better competes with Bentley’s Flying Spur, essentially a four-door Continental. The Mulsanne, on the other hand, is old-school luxury. You can hit a button that hides the center screen and another that makes the little digital readout between the analogue tach and speedo disappear. Sure, the Maybach’s displays are more impressive (i.e. better) than the Bentley’s. But going back to my man Veblin, I say it’s more luxurious to have the option to hide them behind a hunk of burled walnut. I’ll leave you with this: As the Maybach S600 is based on the new S-Class, it has an air filtration system than can pump perfume throughout the cabin. The Bentley Mulsanne Speed smells good.
Where’s the F@*&ing Phantom?
It’s been a longstanding goal of mine to compare the Rolls-Royce Phantom with the Bentley Mulsanne. If I have to explain why, your net worth is low. Bentley, for the record, is all for it. In other words, they’re fearless. Sadly, Rolls-Royce has recently started playing this silly little game wherein it claims its cars “don’t compete with anything.” Eye roll. I was even told point-blank that it would be more appropriate and accurate if I compared the Phantom with a private jet or a yacht. Double eye roll. I don’t know about you, but personally, I’d totally take the plane and/or the big boat.
What is Rolls-Royce afraid of? Who knows? I do know that a friend of mine who just purchased a Wraith asked me if I’d take a Wraith over a Bentley Continental GT. Meaning that despite the delusions of the current PR team at Rolls, rich dudes do cross-shop the two brands. MT editor-at-large Angus MacKenzie once told me that his mentor, Peter Robinson, has been “banned for life by Ferrari three times.” Meaning that the no-comparison-tests rules established by fraidy-cat companies like Ferrari and Rolls aren’t absolutely etched in stone. Hopefully, by the time the new Phantom rolls around in 2017, this shortsighted policy will be dead.
Do you think Rolls-Royce is being silly? Do you want to see the Phantom go head to head with the Mulsanne? Let THEM know: @rollsroycecars
|2016 Bentley Mulsanne Speed||2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD||Front-engine, RWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Twin-turbo 90-deg V-8, alum block/heads||Twin-turbo 60-deg V-12, alum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||OHV, 2 valves/cyl||SOHC, 3 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||411.9 cu in/6,750cc||364.9 cu in/5,980cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||530 hp @ 4,200 rpm||523 hp @ 4,900 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||811 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm||612 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm|
|REDLINE||4,500 rpm||6,200 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||11.4 lb/hp||10.1 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||7-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar||Multilink, hydraulic and coil springs, adj shocks; multilink, hydraulic and coil springs, adj shocks|
|STEERING RATIO||16.5:1 (est)||15.5:1|
|BRAKES, F;R||15.7-in vented disc; 14.6-in vented disc, ABS||15.4-in vented, drilled disc; 14.2-in vented, drilled disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F;R||9.0 x 21-in, forged aluminum||8.5 x 20-in; 9.5 x 20-in, cast aluminum|
|TIRES, F;R||265/40R21 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT||245/40R20 99Y; 275/35R20 102Y Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2|
|WHEELBASE||128.6 in||132.5 in|
|TRACK, F/R||63.6/65.0 in||63.9/64.5 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||219.5 x 75.8 x 59.9 in||214.5 x 74.8 x 58.8 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||41.3 ft||42.3 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||6,041 lb||5,308 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST., F/R||49/51%||51/49%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||40.1/38.1 in||42.3/37.9 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||41.9/42.9 in||41.4/40.0 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||52.7/52.7 in (est)||59.7/58.7 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||15.6 cu ft||12.3 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||1.9 sec||2.0 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||2.4||2.1|
|QUARTER MILE||13.6 sec @ 103.3 mph||13.2 sec @ 110.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||110 ft||114 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)||0.90 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.6 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)||25.8 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,400 rpm||1,300 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$411,123||$204,585|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, f/r side/head||Dual front, f/r side, f/r head|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/unlimited||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||3 yrs/unlimited||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||3 yrs/unlimited||4 yrs/50,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||25.0 gal||23.2 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||11/18/13 mpg||13/21/15 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||306/187 kW-hrs/100 miles||259/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.46 lb/mile||1.24 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded premium||Unleaded premium|