Stuttgart, Germany - One of the nice things about having low-volume luxury sub-brand like Maybach is that occasionally it allows you to go way, way over the top. In this case, quite literally.
This outrageous sort-of-convertible five star beetle-crusher is the fifth model - and the first off-roader - from Daimler-Benz’ re-incarnated Maybach division - the Mercedes-Maybach G650 Landaulet.*
Ignoring the historical connotations (see below) it’s essentially a long-wheelbase G-Wagen (578mm longer than standard) with a cabriolet-style folding roof from the C-pillar back; the rest of it is nothing more than parts-bin engineering at a truly inspired level.
Its engine is AMG’s flagship six-litre twin-turbo V12, rated in this application for 463kW at 5000 revs and 1000Nm from 2300-4300rpm, driving through a seven-speed automatic transmission with a low-range transfer case and three differential locks, any or all of which can be engaged ‘on the fly’.
It runs on Unimog-style portal axles and special 22 inch rims (with ‘Landaulet’ engraved around the edges!), wearing 325/55 tyres, giving it a towering 450mm of ground clearance. That means a huge step up to get inside, so the running boards extend electrically to form a comfortable step.
The body has been cut away from just behind the B pillar on top and from the C pillars at the sides, and replaced by a power-operated fabric roof. Under that you’ll find the two fully-reclining individual rear seats from an S-Class Pullman sedan, complete with 'hot stone' massage function, inflatable air chambers and calf rests.
A large centre console between the seats includes thermal cup holders, two tray tables with leather tops, so that your tablet or paperwork doesn’t slide around while you’re busy with it, and the controls for the rear-compartment aircon and the glass partition between the front seats and the al fresco rear seating area, which can be raised and lowered, or changed from transparent to opaque, at the touch of a button.
Further forward there’s a proper control panel, with switchgear for the interior lighting and the folding roof, two glove compartments and two 25cm high-definition monitors, each with its own infotainment channel.
You had to ask…
Just 99 of these ultra-luxury off-roaders will be built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria; the first will be displayed at the Geneva motor show in March 2017 and customer deliveries are scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2017.
Nothing so crass as cost has been officially discussed, but Mercedes-Maybach insiders are saying the G650 is likely to be even more expensive than the equally spectacular 2014 AMG G63 6x6, pricing for which started at €480 000 (R6.8 million). It won't be available in South Africa, however, as production is strictly limited to left-hand drive units.
* What on earth is a landaulet?
The name derives from a lightweight luxury town carriage with a double-ended folding roof developed in the Rhineland city of Landau in the mid-18th century so that the aristocracy could be seen and admired when moving about the town on fine days.
Royalty still use them for state occasions; Queen Elizabeth has a fleet of 12 and the Imperial household of Japan, five.
A shorter version with a single folding roof section at the rear became known as a landaulet, and the name was later applied to motor cars with what we would now call a cabriolet body.