James Belchamber tests the Maybach

You don't have to be an oligarch to test-drive a Maybach, but you probably do to own one. Armour plating is optional, says Sean O'Grady

Price: £293,135
Engine: 6-litre V12 twin turbos with 612 horsepower
Performance: 0 to 60mph in 5 seconds; top speed 175mph (limited)
C02: 390g/km
Worth considering: Bentley Arnage; Rolls-Royce Phantom

We don't match cars with readers on The Verdict, despite some manufacturers pleading with us not to allow boy-racers to try their ponderous people-carriers, or the infirm to tame their roadsters.

Actually, most of these stereotypes prove refreshingly wrong in reality, and the most frightening drives I've "enjoyed" with reader-testers have been with gentlemen in their sixties, a bit like going for a walk with an old but still vicious pit bull terrier. It's the experience that gives them the confidence, you see.

In any case, it's also fun to see what people who might not usually consider a particular car, for whatever reasons, make of it. Hence the Maybach. We didn't have any football-club chairmen or Russian oligarchs (not exclusive categories, I know) writing in, so our testers were ordinary chaps, you might say. Except for Tod who, at 6ft 9in, is one of the tallest testers we've had. Tellingly, though, the Maybach 57S swallowed him whole.

The even longer Maybach 62, in which the reader-testers were chauffeured to their drive, is the true limousine. There's no other car on the market - not even the Rolls-Royce Phantom or Bentley Arnage - that offers the sort of reclining seats you'd usually find on a passenger jet. They turn the car into a boudoir, complete with drapes and a Japanese-style opaque roof.

But it's the 57S that's the driver's car, the sort that the chauffeurs would probably favour: it's faster, a bit shorter and more wieldy. Mercedes' in-house tuners AMG have been let loose on it, and made a predictably competent job. Vast power is delivered without fuss. If you really want to do 200mph, go for a Bentley, though, because, for safety, the Maybach is limited to 175mph. Maybe you can't have everything.

The downside of the sportiness of the Maybach 57S is that it's not as serene a ride as its siblings (including the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which looks dinky next to it). Nor is it as refined as a big Lexus, the ultimate in noise suppression. Nor, at almost three tons, is it agile. However, the real pleasure with a Maybach comes at the commissioning stage: you can have the trim and colour combo of your choice, and virtually any option that money can buy (including armour-plating). Our 57S came in black with carbon-fibre trim. Well, I want mine in butter-yellow, with hound's-tooth check seats (like my first Mini) and black stained walnut.

The Maybach experience is not to be missed. So keep writing in. You, too, could be an oligarch for a day.

James Belchamber, 30, management consultant, south London


"James, would you like to drive the new Maybach 57S now?" "Not really!" At the time of asking, however, I was contentedly wafting around in the back of the ultra-luxurious Maybach 62. Never have I felt so comfortable, relaxed and cocooned from the outside world. The differentiating factor between the 57S and the 57 is that you now get adjustable sports suspension, striking-looking new 20-inch wheels and increased horsepower. Yet I questioned why, if I could afford £300,000, would I want to be in the front seat of this car and not be wallowing around in the back of it? I wanted an engaging drive, why wouldn't I buy the better Mercedes McLaren SLR?

Tod Duke-Yonge, 32, designer, Twickenham


This is an impressive car, with more than a few surprises up its sleeve. First is the sheer scale of the thing - this is a seriously big car. Fortunately this size is carried over into the interior, not always the case. I'm 6ft 9in, in most cars I would put the seat all the way back and hope that I fitted. In this I was too far away from the steering wheel. This is the only car I've driven where I've had to use the sun visors - usually I just use the roofline but that was too high in this so out came the visors. I've driven some quick cars before but to get Porsche Turbo levels of acceleration out of a four-door ultra luxury saloon weighing nearly 3 tonnes is breathtaking.

Barry Raphael, 44, finance director, Addlestone, Surrey


Textures, colours, fabric, steel and highly polished wood are all of the highest quality. The rear seating is reminiscent of the comfort of a business jet taxiing down a runway - you are oblivious to the passing world. But the fact that the vehicle was missing a coathook, leaving an exposed screwhead; that the sat-nav that could not find my address, and the flimsy (comparatively) switchgear in the roofliner controlling the door self-closing mechanism (which failed to work on one occasion) are the type of details that someone spending upwards of £300,000 on executive transport would not fail to recognise.


If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@independent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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