Move over, G-Wagen; Mercedes has a new flagship luxury SUV. The new 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS aims to be the finest luxury-oriented Benz SUV you’ve ever seen, and there’s more to this new Maybach than initially meets the eye. When we saw the SUV in person, we discovered the value is in the details and inside.
The Maybach GLS is like The Dress; the Mercedes will sharply divide opinions, and you’ll have little luck convincing others of your point of view. While some will see nothing more than a GLS trying too hard, others may appreciate the effort that went into crafting the new model. Those who want greater cachet than the three-pointed star will stick with the Bentley Bentayga or spend more on a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. This GLS is the only Mercedes SUV deemed worthy of a three-pointed star mounted on the edge of the hood—a cool distinction even if Mercedes is also an automaker with its name on a few sub-$40,000 cars. That’s not an image issue those British super-luxury SUVs have.
But then again, that also makes this glitzy Mercedes great for when you want a super-luxury SUV without a shouty, ultra-exclusive badge. Maybach S-Class owners will instantly see the family resemblance in the Maybach GLS’ grille, which features a similar look with multiple vertical slats. In the lower front fascia, a ton of cross-hatched brightwork speaks to the GLS’ place at the top of the Mercedes lineup. Eight different two-tone paint combinations are available.
Riding on the same wheelbase as other GLS models and built in the same Alabama factory, onlookers may suspect something’s up with the Maybach badge on the D-pillar or the bold 23-inch multi-spoke wheels (22s are also available). The rear also gets minor visual updates, but as we said, the real story’s inside.
Just like an executive luxury sedan, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS offers a four-seat configuration (a five-seat model will also be available). If you’re out to impress clients, order your Maybach GLS with just two rear seats—we found them quite comfortable at a preview event in France. The traditional sedan aesthetic of the Maybach-ed S-Class may please some, but entering a Maybach SUV could ease entry and exit. And once inside, you’ll look down on everything (and everyone) else.
With China’s luxury market more focused on chauffeured transportation, a six-cylinder engine will likely power their version of the Maybach GLS. Our versions may be exclusively powered by a hotter version of the 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8 mild hybrid in the 2020 GLS 580. Still using a nine-speed automatic, American Mercedes-Maybach GLS600 SUVs have 550 hp and 538 lb-ft of torque, and they accelerate to 60 mph in just under five seconds, potentially leaving room for another model with more than 600 hp. We’ve tested a 2020 GLS 580 hitting 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, but if you’re regularly at full throttle in a Maybach, you’re doing it wrong.
The focus inside the Maybach GLS really was the back seat. Although the GLS has some of the fanciest pedals we’ve ever seen, for the most part, the front controls look and feel like standard GLS fare. The rear seat may impress, but we do have one suggestion for a future Maybach GLS: Make the door-mounted arm/elbow rests as cushy as the ones in the center of the rear seats.
Whether or not you’ll actually be driving your Maybach SUV, Daimler’s head of SUV development Dr. Andreas Zygan tells us this special GLS has different suspension tuning compared to other GLS models, to assure that “Maybach has the latest and greatest” updates in the Mercedes fleet. Also, expect it to be very quiet.
The fact that this nearly $200,000 SUV is backed by Mercedes may ultimately be what attracts select buyers to the Maybach GLS once it becomes available in the U.S. in the middle of 2020. If you desire an SUV that’s subtle in badge yet over the top in detailing, the Maybach GLS could be the perfect 4–5 seat SUV to add to your automotive fleet.
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