The last new Maybach that will ever be shipped to Canada spends its days gleaming in the sunlight, parked by a floor-to-ceiling window in the second-floor showroom of Mercedes-Benz Downtown in Toronto. It is awaiting a buyer. If you fancy the exclusivity of an already ultra-rare car scheduled for discontinuation in November, it could be yours. But before you pop down for a test drive, note the base price alone is $412,000, and that once you add a few basic options (sliding rear curtains, ventilated seats, folding rear tables) that figure rises considerably. HST will add another $55,000 or so.
The model is called the 57S, which at 5.7 metres end to end is actually the smaller of the two Maybach saloons. It is also equipped with the sportier running gear—namely, a highly tuned 630 horsepower version of the standard twin-turbo V-12 that enables the 2,800 kilogram car to accelerate from rest to 100 kph in less than five seconds. As I see it, though, the important thing is that there is a wine cooler set between the two reclining rear seats. As well, this particular model was fitted with the $4,000 option of a roof-integrated solar panel that powers the car’s cabin ventilation system, obviously conceived to allow you to quiet any hostile and righteous Prius drivers hurling abuse your way at red lights.
Chances are, though, no one who crosses paths with you on the open road will have any idea what you are driving. Maybach enjoyed a good 20-year run as a luxury carmaker of consequence before ceasing production in 1941, But they made so few cars (about 2,000) that hardly anyone remembers the brand outside of Germany. It was also so long ago that no usable styling cues were available to reference. The hefty grace of Bentley styling can be easily identified from blocks away, and so too the pyramid-topped radiator grill of a Rolls-Royce. But other than its vaguely familiar orange-backed double-M emblem, the Maybach designers had to essentially start from scratch when they resuscitated the brand in 1997.
In those happier economic times, when Muhammad Ali was still the world’s best-known Muslim, projections for the ultra-luxury car market were rosy. New and improved German-engineered supercars—from legendary brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Bugatti—were supposed to expand the international market from about 4,000 annual sales to 11,000. Maybach itself announced expected sales of 1,000 cars per annum. They never got close—and last year, sales slipped below 200 cars worldwide.
Truth be told, despite a styling tweak that strengthened the nose and lightened the tail, the Maybach has presence, but it’s not a beauty. Yet the build quality and attention to detail in the cabin are dazzling. I do not know what it is like to drive, but it was a nice place to sit.
Jacob Richler is a Toronto-based writer, cookbook author, father and fan of fine things