Mercedes-Benz Maybach (1997)
Luxury finds a new language: Maybach
Where: Tokyo Motor Show, Tokyo
What: Chauffeur-driven ultimate-luxury limousine
Powertrain: Four-stroke, twelve-cylinder gasoline engine, 6.0 liter displacement, rear-wheel drive, six-speed automatic transmission
- Reclining seat with large thigh support and swiveling footrest -> introduced 2002 in the Maybach (W 240)
- Electrically adjustable single seat with thigh support -> introduced 2002 in the Maybach (W 240)
- Rear-seat entertainment system: 20-inch flat TV/video screen, high-performance sound system with radio, CD changer and minidisk player, functions controllable via two small six-inch monitors -> introduced 2002 in the Maybach (W 240)
- High-end communication system with three mobile phones -> introduced 2002 in the Maybach (W 240)
- Electrochromic roof -> introduced 2002 in the Maybach (W 240)
- Headlamps with adaptive lighting technology -> introduced 2003 as bi-xenon headlamps with Active Light System in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W 211)
- V12 engine with automatic cylinder cut-out -> introduced 1998 in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W 220)
- Active suspension with electronically controlled springing/damping system -> introduced 1999 in the Mercedes-Benz CL (C 215)
- Sequential turn signals
- LED tail light, brake light, rear fog lamp, reversing light and turn signal -> introduced 2003 in the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren (C 199)
- Hybrid body construction consisting of fiber composites, aluminum and magnesium
At the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz presented a highly distinguished new concept vehicle, the chauffeur-driven Maybach limousine. The Maybach offered the fullest and most exclusive possible range of in-car amenities including a reclining seat and a state-of-the-art rear-seat entertainment and communication system. The engineering too was of the very highest standard, including features such as electronically controlled adaptive headlamps or a V12 6.0 liter engine with automatic cylinder cut-out.
Both the vehicle and its name were a tribute to Wilhelm Maybach, the inspired engineer who worked with Gottlieb Daimler when the automobile was still in its infancy, as well as to his no less gifted son Karl Maybach, who in the 1920s and 1930s built luxury automobiles of the highest distinction and repute. The Tokyo concept was also, however, a salute to the many Mercedes customers who demand ultimate luxury because, quite simply, that’s their way of life.
The Mercedes-Benz Maybach concept was enthusiastically received by the public, ensuring that this model too was able to move forward to volume production. The first hand-finished models left the Maybach manufacturing facility in Sindelfingen in 2002. Their radiator grille was graced not by a Mercedes star but by the Maybach “double M” insignia, Mercedes-Benz having decided to revive the renowned name as a brand in its own right.
The Maybach gave the engineers and designers a rare opportunity to follow up on all those ideas which they would normally reject as being too extravagant. The result was a car which represented the absolute ultimate in ride comfort, timeless styling and consummate engineering.
At 5.77 meters, the exterior length of the concept exceeded that of the long-wheelbase version of the Mercedes-Benz S 600 by almost 56 centimeters. Its wheelbase was exactly 40 centimeters longer and it was also six centimeters taller and six centimeters wider. The regally spacious interior was used to full effect, since the Maybach was designed as a chauffeur-driven car. The styling had been honed at the Daimler-Benz Design Center in Japan, and was based on a perfect balance between two dimensions: tradition and innovation. Two-tone paintwork, fine metal fittings, refined interior materials and numerous special high-tech features all helped to define the ambience of this unique sedan, whose elegant silhouette was emphasized by a luminescent strip running along the waistline. This took the form of an extremely thin luminescent film whose color and brightness could be adapted to suit the owner’s tastes, and which gave the effect of a dynamic light sculpture.
The driving area showed careful attention to the needs of the person at the wheel, not only in terms of the actual driving task but also of ambience. Most pampered of all however were the rear-seat passengers, whose first impression was one of extreme spaciousness. The sumptuous interior, with plush materials like cream-colored leather, select wood, subtly smoked glass and high-grade metal trim, created a lounge-like environment. The two individual seats were independently power-adjustable and invited their occupants to sit back and luxuriate in their surroundings. The right-hand seat, which reclined like a first-class airline seat, featured a large thigh support and swiveling footrest. This seat went into production in the long-wheelbase Maybach 62, while the left-hand seat, which likewise featured a comfortable reclining position, was adopted in the Maybach 57.
The high-class luxury furnishings of the Tokyo concept also included a bar from which the passengers could help themselves to hot or cold drinks, a humidor for cigars and a high-end communication system comprising three telephones. One of these served exclusively as a data line enabling the onboard personal computer to access the Internet, e-mails or an office network, so that passengers could carry on working while they were in transit. The second telephone allowed the chauffeur to take calls and route them through to a separate receiver in the rear. The third telephone was exclusively for the private use of the rear-seat passengers.
The lavish Maybach entertainment system included a roof-mounted 20-inch flat screen for unspoiled TV/video viewing, with a high-end sound system providing excellent sound quality both for this equipment and for the radio, CD player and minidisk player. Rear-seat passengers could control all functions using two small six-inch touch-sensitive monitors on the left- and right-hand sides of the passenger compartment. The well-thought-out menu structure was intuitive and easy to use.
One particularly neat piece of technology was the electrochromic glass roof. When passengers looked out from the vehicle, the glass could either appear completely clear and transparent, producing a natural daylight ambience, or at the push of a button could become translucent like a gemstone. The transparent or translucent effects were activated by applying a voltage to a conducting polymer layer situated underneath the glass.
The Maybach’s high-tech engineering included an active suspension system featuring electronically controlled springing and damping at each wheel. The active suspension system provided excellent ride comfort and counteracted all roll movement when cornering.
The lighting technology at the front and rear of the Maybach was ground-breaking. The front headlamps incorporated different reflectors for different operating conditions, such as urban driving, driving in bad weather or motorway journeys. An electronic system controlled the headlamps adaptively, matching the light direction to different driving situations. The sequential turn signals were more visible to other road users. In all the various segments of the rear lights the tail light, brake light, rear fog lamp, reversing light and turn signal technology was used.
The bodywork of the luxury concept car was an innovative hybrid construction which achieved significant weight savings by using fiber composites, aluminum and magnesium.
The Mercedes-Benz Maybach concept car exhibited at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show offered a future perspective on the technology and equipment of luxury cars of tomorrow. Today, the Maybach has long since moved out of the future and into the present even if it does still sometimes seem as if it were a car from another world.