Maybach as a brand has existed since 1909 and had been a rather successful manufacturer prior to the second world war, where it made the V12 Maybach HL230 engine for the Panzer and Tiger series of German tanks.

    Having had its factory destroyed during the war, the brand was purchased by Daimler-Benz in the 1960s where it helped out with the production of Mercedes-Benz W108 and W116 model ranges.

    Outside of that it sat dormant until the German giant decided in 1997 that it wanted to take on the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

    Its previous-generation models, the Maybach 57 and Maybach 62 (and their derivatives) failed to make a global impact, with less than 3000 sales in 16 years, for myriad reasons.

    The brand was reborn in 2014 under the Mercedes umbrella as ‘Mercedes-Maybach’, in the same format as ‘Mercedes-AMG’ high-performance cars.

    Which brings us to its latest creation, the V12 Mercedes-Maybach S680, the absolute pinnacle of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Priced from $574,000 plus options and on-roads, the S680 is 235 per cent more expensive than the standard S-Class.

    At a realistic on-road price of around $650,000 for a large saloon, the S680 has a lot of competition from the likes of the Bentley Mulsanne ($541,000) and Rolls Royce Ghost ($644,650).

    So what makes the Maybach so special?

    By the Germans’ own admission, the Maybach is not meant to be driven by its owner. The Maybach is the sort of car one would buy for its extensive and highly advanced features.

    Where the likes of Rolls and Bentley excel in ultimate expression of luxury, both in terms of brand and quality, the Maybach takes the edge in technology and innovation.

    There are a near-endless set of features in both the S-Class and then Maybach. Having recently spent some time driving an S680, we have picked our top five favourite features that are available in Australia.

    In Europe, the car’s super impressive active projection lighting (which can literally project warning signs onto the road) and autonomous driving systems are also available, but we don’t get them here thanks to our draconian design regulations.

    Active road noise compensation

    Noise-cancelling technology is nothing new, nor is its application in vehicles. Although most of us are used to the technology in headphones (invented by Amar Bose in 1989), the first car to have active noise cancelling technology was none other than a Japanese edition 1992 Nissan Bluebird. Ironically, the technology for in-car use was first developed by Lotus.

    But where the technology has come to with the latest iteration Maybach is almost incomparable to its use decades ago.

    In the S680 at speeds between 20km/h and 180km/h the road noise cancelling technology is so superior that we often wondered if the car was electric (it’s not, in fact, it has a ridiculously awesome V12). So, how does it work?

    For audio engineers, the concept of counter-phased sound waves might be easy to understand but for the rest of you, let us give a quick explanation. For almost every sound wave, there is a counter frequency which cancels it out.

    When a car is driving over road surfaces, it generates low-frequency noises which cause droning inside the cabin.

    The Maybach has six acceleration sensors just in the suspension system which rapidly capture the noise emitted and send that to a computer that runs a special algorithm to create the necessary counter-noise in advance.

    In just three milliseconds (yes 3ms), the droning sound waves are phase-shifted by 180 degrees and reproduced by the bass speakers of the Maybach’s 31 speaker surround sound system so that they are cancelled out. Mercedes engineers worked out that if was any slower, the human ear could detect the difference and it would not have the desired effect.

    Once that process starts, the audio system then uses four interior microphones for monitoring and adapting as it goes along, creating a feedback loop. Mercedes says the counterwaves of the active road noise compensation cannot be heard by the occupants, which we can definitely attest to be true.

    The system works regardless of whether the audio sound system appears to be switched off, as the amplifiers are always in operation.

    In addition to the active noise cancelling, there is a heap of extra absorbant foam in the rear wheel arches as well as thicker glass. If you want to go all out, you can even option the car with noise-optimised tyres that have foam absorbers inside to reduce tyre noise further (though we would say you would have to suffer from super hearing to tell the difference).

    It’s not something we can really emphasis in text, but once you experience it, you will wonder why there is any noise in any car.

    Rear and front seat safety technology

    This may not sound as sexy as 31 speakers trying to put you to sleep, but the Maybach is built for its owner, who is most likely sitting in the back, which is why safety systems are absolutely paramount as (with the S-Class) it becomes the first car that we know of which has front facing airbags… for the rear passengers.

    That’s right, there is an airbag that comes out of the back of the front seats to protect rear passengers using a special tubular structure that rapidly inflates thanks to compressed gas from a cold gas generator.. But wait, there is so, so much more.

    Apart from the regular suite of airbags and safety tech, the Maybach also brings the already mentioned frontal rear airbag, in addition to cushion airbags (which stop you from submarining in case the rear seat is in a recline position), beltbags (out of your seatbelt), sidebags and a middle airbag.

    Although it’s easy for manufacturers to say their car has certain number of airbags, how they are used and deployed is critical to their effectiveness. For the Maybach, there is a computer that detects all crashes using a selection of crash sensors and can work out based on the data provided, the severity of the crash itself.

    From window-bags and side-bags for side impacts to the use of exterior satellite sensors located at the base of the B-pillars, as well as pressure sensors in all four doors, the vehicle is able to estimate the severity of the impact. But it starts working well before there is even a crash.

    When the Maybach detects the vehicle is about to crash, special air chambers in the side bolsters of the front seat backrest are inflated in fractions of a second. Not only that, right before a side-on with another vehicle the Maybach body is raised by the active body suspension in under 10ms, which helps directs the impact forces towards higher crash resistant structures in the lower area of the vehicle.

    There is also a new centre airbag that stops the driver and front passenger having any chance of head contact.

    Takes up to a week to hand paint

    The painting process for ultra high-end vehicles is no simple robotic task. Brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Ferrari hand paint plenty of features on their vehicles and Mercedes-Maybach is no different.

    If you happen to pick the two-tone option (like the designo rubelit red/kalahari gold pictured here), the painting process becomes extremely involved and takes around one whole week, with any minor imperfection resulting in a complete process restart.

    Firstly, the two-tone of the Maybach is not across a natural dividing line, which makes the painting process far more difficult. The process starts by the full body undertaking an automatically and electrostatically full coat of paint and a layer of clearcoat in the colour that will make up the lower part of the Maybach.

    According to Maybach, in the electrostatic painting process, atomised statically charged paint particles are deposited on the (earthed) bodyshell. From there, the bodyshell is transferred to the custom paint shop where it is ground to a matt finish by hand.

    It is then masked off along the designed dividing line, which we imagine would require a great deal of precision given it’s not separated by a recess or below a trim strip. By hand, specialists use adhesive tape with a corresponding gap to apply the only four-millimetre wide dividing line between the two colours.

    If you want to know just how much effort goes into this process to make sure it comes out perfect, before painting starts, the doors are weighted down before masking the dividing line so that it looks exact when the windows, power window fittings, loudspeakers, panelling and other technical equipment weigh the door down in the finish product.

    Before the top half is painted, all the surfaces that will later bear the lower colour are masked off (including the transitions to the interior, e.g. at the doors or wheel arches – even where trim or a lining will later be installed).

    Then begins the painstaking task of painting the top half completely by hand. Pneumatically atomised by compressed air, the paint is applied so that it presents the same picture as after electrostatic painting. According to Mercedes, this is required as parts installed later on, e.g. the bumpers, must precisely match the paint finish.

    Once the second tone is applied but before it has fully dried, the masking tape is removed and the complete bodyshell is then given a new coat of clear varnish. The idea is that if you run your hand over the two separating paint surfaces and dividing line, you cannot feel the difference in paint texture.

    If anything goes even remotely wrong during this process, the complete bodyshell is reground, the topcoat is re-finished and the whole bodyshell is given a new clear coat. Not a bad way to spend a week.

    The last Mercedes V12

    While the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 in the S580 is nothing to sneeze at, do you really want to share your Maybach’s powerplant with an old C63?

    The 6.0-litre Mercedes Benz twin-turbo V12 engine in the S680 might be from a different era technologically, but its also an era that many of us wish to return to.

    Based on the of the 2000s technology M275, which itself is based loosely on the M137 naturally-aspirated V12 of the ’90s, the Mercedes-Benz M279 engine has been around since 2012 and this is likely its very last application in an S-Class, if not by Mercedes-Benz, ever.

    With the brand making far more noise about its fully electric EQS and almost nothing about the fact that it still sells a V12, its very obvious that while the V12 is offered because some Maybach customers wouldn’t have it any other way, this is very much its last hoorah.

    With 450kW of power and 900Nm of torque, the V12 moves the S680 from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds with its all-wheel drive setup. Not bad for a car that weighs 2350kg (kerb). Yet it’s not about performance with a V12; its about smoothness, effortless torque and a soundtrack that you know is there (even if you really can’t hear it thanks to the amazing noise insulation).

    Buttons are so 2010, the Maybach can read your mind, kind of…

    Ok so it’s not a mind reader per se, but the latest MBUX Interior Assist system in the Maybach is always looking to see what you’re doing and responding accordingly. Even in the rear seats.

    Using cameras placed in the roof, the Maybach is watching for specific gesture and movements and responding. As an example, the automatic comfort doors can be closed by a hand gesture and stopped by extending an arm, and the rear seat belt extender emerges as soon as you put your hand behind you to grab the belt.

    While driving, if the driver looks over his or her shoulder toward the rear window, the head restraints of unoccupied rear seats are automatically retracted to their lowest position for a better rear view. If sir wants more room, a simple hand gesture towards the front passenger seat moves it forward. Don’t like the roller sun blind? Just tell it to shoo with your hand.

    It has smart lighting that turns on and off as you need it, for example if you reach for the reading light it will turn on before you touch it. If you happen to be looking for something in the seat next to you, centre console or storage compartments, a light is automatically switched on and then switched off when you’re done. This gives the passenger more guidance.

    The light illuminates the respective seat, the control panel of the rear air-conditioning system, the seat belt extender, and the appropriate map pocket in the backrest of the front seat. It is extinguished when the hand is withdrawn.

    Our favourite feature though, is the exit warning function. In some cars, the vehicle will warn rear passengers if they are about to open the door into approaching cars. In the Maybach, you don’t even need to grab the door handle for the warning to sound, you merely have to think about it and begin the action of wanting to grab the door handle and you get the warning that little bit sooner.

    Alborz Fallah

    Alborz is the founder of CarAdvice (sold to Nine and now Drive) and co-founder of CarExpert. He is an honourary adjunct professor & entrepreneur in residence at the University of QLD. He loves naturally-aspirated V8s, V10s and V12s and is in denial about the impending death of the internal combustion engine.

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