Back in the late 1990s, Rolls-Royce and Bentley were up for sale and BMW eventually acquired the former while the Volkswagen Group got the latter. As Daimler-Benz did not have anything beyond the Mercedes-Benz S-Class that could be on par with the limousine of those two ultra luxury British brands, it decided to revive a brand it had acquired in 1960 – Maybach. This was a historically significant brand which produced elegant and desirable cars between 1921 and 1940.
In 2002, the carmaker launched Maybach as a standalone brand with two very expensive models, designed with the same sort of superlative luxury that would rival the best in the world. There were great plans to have a strong presence at the summit of the car market but only 3,000 were ever sold in 9 years – when the target was 1,000 units each year. The old brand name made no impact either, and the pricetag was considered just too high. By 2013, the Maybach brand was once again retired.
However, Mercedes-Benz did not stop trying to have an offering to rival Rolls-Royce and Bentley and it instead decided to develop an ultra luxurious version of the S-Class, and giving it exclusivity by being branded as Mercedes-Maybach. Since 2015, there have been two S-Class based models, with the GLS SUV joining last year. The approach worked better, with around 60,000 units delivered worldwide during the first 5 years.
With the S-Class having gone into the new W223 generation since then, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class models were updated likewise, differentiated by the model code of Z223. Although having about 70% of components shared with the W223, the Z223 is a longer car with a body that is almost 5 metres in length or 180 mm longer than the longest version of the W223 S-Class. This allows the wheelbase to be stretched to 3396 mm to provide even more room for the rear occupants.
While the size and unique grille would also differentiate from the W223, the word mark MAYBACH is elegantly integrated into the chrome surround of the grille. The brand logo is also affixed to the C-pillars, and for those who want still more exclusivity, the car can be ordered with the optional 2-tone paint finish with a dividing line which is applied by hand.
The M176 V8 engine under the long bonnet produces 503 ps/700 Nm, with an additional 15 kW and 200 Nm from an electric motor. The hybrid system uses an integrated second-generation starter-alternator and 48V electrical system. 4MATIC, of course, signifies that all four wheels are powered, receiving their power through a 9-speed automatic transmission (9G-TRONIC).
While the W223 S-Class has a balance of performance and comfort, the Z223 version from Mercedes-Maybach is more focussed on ride comfort. AIRMATIC air suspension with level control and continuously adjustable damping ADS+ is standard equipment. The fully active E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension has ROAD SURFACE SCAN to monitor the road ahead with a stereo camera. When uneven surfaces are detected, the suspension will be adapted to compensate and keep the ride smooth.
Thanks to this predictive control, the vehicle body ‘floats’ across undulations with practically no vertical movement. With the curve inclination function CURVE, the car body leans into bends rather than tilting outwards. This imposes lower lateral forces on the occupants, further improving perceived comfort.
Even the driving mode is focussed on comfort as DYNAMIC SELECT has the additional MAYBACH MODE (which the W223 S-Class does not have) to provide even more comfortable and smoother movement. There is also a CHAUFFEUR mode with gentler acceleration characteristics and moving off in second gear.
Both axles are capable of steering, thus reducing the turning circle. Rear-axle steering reduces the turning circle by up to 2 metres and customers can choose 4.5 degree and 10 degree steering to have a turning circle of 12.4 or 11.4 metres, instead of 13.4 metres.
The interior of the car may have many similarities to the latest W223 S-Class but there are more luxury features and the quality of materials is clearly much higher. while the W223 S-Class which may be driven by the owner, the same can’t be said with the Z223 S-Class so much more attention is given to the rear section where there are not only two fully reclining seats but also an extensive range of infotainment functions.
They can watch movies or surf the internet with two 11.6-inch touchscreen displays on the backrests of the front seats. There is also a MBUX Rear Tablet as standard equipment which can be taken out and used like a normal tablet with Android apps. MBUX Interior Assist will monitor the movements (using cameras in the ceiling) of the rear occupants behind and after they close the doors with a gesture, they can use other gestures for a range of operations.
For example, to switch on the reading light, they just need to move their hands up and down below the lights. To make seat belt fastening easier on the outer rear seats, the belt extender emerges as soon as a corresponding hand movement is recognised as an intention to reach for the belt. Of course, the occupants will have to first learn the gestures although there are also many functions which the MBUX assistant can carry out with the ‘Hey Mercedes’ command.
Even more advanced safety features
The W223 S-Class has already introduced advanced safety features that include a rear airbag. This too is present in the Z223 S-Class as well as seat cushion airbags, beltbags, sidebags and windowbags. This means that in a severe accident, the rear passengers are surrounded by airbags that will help prevent or reduce injuries. Additionally, the PRE-SAFE positioning function also moves the rear seats to a more favourable position during the crash. The system can increase the pressure in the air chambers in the side bolsters of the multi-contour seats which holds the occupants in a better seating position and reduces whiplash.
Of course, the front occupants also have protective systems as advanced as those at the rear , with a preventive, semi-reversible side restraint system PRE-SAFE Impulse Side installed as standard. In addition, when a side impact with another vehicle threatens, the car’s body can be raised by the E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension within a few tenths of a second. This directs the impact forces towards particularly resistant structures in the lower area of the bodywork. For day-to-day driving, there are new and extended assistance systems that can reduce the workload on the driver so he can make sure that the car is driven in a manner that is comfortable.
Priced from RM1,928,815.76 (without insurance and with 50% of sales tax exempted until June 30, 2022), the Z223 S-Class is obviously intended for very wealthy customers. While you could buy a brand new W223 S-Class for less and then have it personalised extensively – perhaps at less cost – it could be that there are customers who like the idea of such an ultra luxurious model being made by the manufacturer rather than ‘enhanced’ by some independent customisation company. And for Mercedes-Benz, there’s also a nice fat profit margin on such cars which makes it worth their while even though the volume may be around a thousand units a month worldwide.