Want to have a posh overdose? Wait until Mercedes puts the Vision Ultimate Luxury into production

Arguably, the most crucial launch event at the 2019 New York Auto Show was that of the third-generation Mercedes-Benz GLS. The flagship luxury SUV from Mercedes will take on the BMW X7 soon, but Mercedes could actually be cooking up a version that would aim straight at the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Insane? Not for those who saw the Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept up close and personal.

After three years since the GLS name was introduced as part of Mercedes’ refreshment of its model nameplates, a new generation was introduced. Given the American consumer’s propensity for buying oversized SUVs, the 2020 GLS was introduced at the New York Auto Show, and the first news that came from the unveiling got us thinking. For starters, there won’t be any electric version due to the limited demand for an SUV of this size featuring an electric drivetrain and, on the other hand, for those craving for power, there will be an AMG version or maybe a few.

But, maybe the most significant thing we heard, via Dr. Andreas Zygan, Mercedes’ Head of SUV Development, was that the S Class of SUVs might get the Maybach treatment just like the S Class of the sedans did. This sort of comes as a confirmation for the rumors we’ve seen lingering in the air for a few years. We went as far as writing a speculative review for it but only now can we say we’re getting closer and closer to a Maybach SUV actually happening. Mercedes previewed this possibility with the latest of the Maybach Vision concept that was presented in 2018.

Grotesque or Exquisite? There is No In-Between With This Mothership of An SUV

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 614173
2020 Mercedes-Maybach GLS Rendering

Are you wondering why Mercedes-Benz isn’t planning to build another compact, practical, economical, and affordable car, something like the diminutive Mercedes 170 V (W136) from the ’30s and, instead, are gearing up for a glitzy, posh SUV the size of a glacier? Well, because there are now 36 million millionaires in the world and, according to Investopedia.com, "the number of U.S. households with a net worth of $1 million or more increased by 400,000 to reach a record 10.8 million in 2016." What is more, 51% of the world’s ultra high net worth individuals (defined as people with a net worth above $50 million) reside in the U.S. What I’m saying is that there’s a very good reason why the Big Apple saw the introduction of the GLS and why it was there that Dr. Andreas Zygan talked about the possibility of a Mercedes-Maybach SUV.

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs
- image 778873
2018 Mercedes-Maybach Vision Concept

The project hasn’t received the green light yet but it might if the market is deemed receptive by Mercedes-Benz. "There is no decision we have taken, but what you see in the exquisite GLS is that we’ve developed a lot of things – the comfort and surroundings we’ve focused on – so the car has the possibility of a further project, but it’s not official," said Dr. Zygan. "We’re looking closely and if we’re convinced, it would not take so long to make a decision," he added while referring directly to the Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept first seen at the 2018 Beijing Auto Show and saying, "Why not?".

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs Exterior
- image 778326
2018 Mercedes-Maybach Vision Concept

“At the end, it is clear that it’s down to demands of customers – such a car is driven by customer demand and we need enough numbers," Dr. Zygan underlined. "We have a very intensive discussion about this, but right now in the near future there won’t be such a concept." What does he mean by the near future? I take it as the next couple of years. With a model like this usually staying in production for up to six years, I think it wouldn’t be impossible to witness the Mercedes-Maybach SUV drop sometime around 2023 and maybe earlier.

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs Exterior Interior
- image 780089
2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

To gauge the interest for such a model, I peeked over at the model’s British competitor, the Cullinan. While only introduced at the end of 2018, at least 70 have already been sold in Europe since and Rolls-Royce is working overtime to meet the demand which currently even outstrips the production capacity. According to Motor Authority, who’s quoting Automotive News, "Martin Fritsches, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Americas, said the company’s production plant in Goodwood, England, is running at 100-percent capacity to build the Cullinan, adding that the waiting list has production slots filled through July, but more orders continue to roll in."

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs Exterior
- image 780073
2018 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Indeed, Rolls-Royce had its most profitable year ever in 2018 when it sold over 4,100 vehicles, the demand seeing the Goodwood plant welcome 200 new employees of whom 100 are now working in the bespoke department. When you read this, take into consideration two things: 1) the Cullinan costs $325,000 before you add stuff like the $46,000 picnic hamper or the $16,000 gold-plated hood ornament, and 2) almost nobody wants a base Cullinan.

What all this means is that there’s a sizeable chunk of the whole SUV market that’s looking at ways to quench its need for high-riding, jumbo-sized SUVs with insane amounts of luxury (and tech) onboard. The Cullinan is one option while the Bentley Bentayga is the other one. About 2,000 of those were sold in 2016 and 2017 together in the U.S. alone and the VAG Group-owned automaker kept building the Bentayga in big numbers last year as well.

So, in my mind, it's not a question of if in the case of the Mercedes-Maybach SUV but a question of when.

Another question is whether or not the production version will share the dubious three-box design of the concept that, according to Mercedes, combined the strengths of a sedan with those of an SUV, all within the lines drawn by the ’Sensual Purity’ design language.

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs
- image 685485
2016 Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 Concept

The Ultimate Luxury Concept also carried over the enormous grille with multiple vertical bars of the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 Coupe and the 2017 Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 Cabriolet. But while those were elegant, lush, land yachts with a lot of charisma and presence, the SUV looks lumpy and strange with its spine that runs down the middle and splits the rear window in two like in the case of the Bugatti Type 57 S/C Atlantic. With this being said, that detail is the only one shared between the achingly gorgeous Atlantic and the blindingly ugly Ultimate Luxury SUV.

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs Exterior High Resolution
- image 727392
2017 Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 Cabriolet

Now, I’m not saying the current crop of ultra-luxurious SUVs are particularly strong when it comes to styling. I mean, the Cullinan was effectively designed using a ruler by a big fan of the GTA franchise because, frankly, the car looks like something that would roll out the production of fictional automaker Enus. Then there’s the Bentayga and, to be fair, it looks a whole lot better but I don’t think you can find many fans of Bentley’s weird tiny outboard headlights present on all of the new products of the British automaker.

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs
- image 833904
2017 Bentley Bentayga

But it’s not about the design, right? After all, people who’ll see it (be it the Cullinan or the Bentayga or whatever Mercedes comes up with) will envy you anyway because you’ve paid boatloads of money (anywhere between $300,000 and $400,000 since the S Class Maybach hovers between $333,080 and $406,560 depending on engine options) for it. So, what matters is the interior. The Ultimate Luxury Concept boasted ebony wood inside, intricate lighting, and also a complete tea set that is neatly hidden away from view in the tunnel between the seats. Nappa leather covers the seats and, on the dash, there are two 12.3-inch digital displays. There’s also a new infotainment system in there with a clever user experience system comprising the touchpad on the center console and Touch Control buttons on the wheel, besides the actual screens on the two-tier dash.

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs Interior
- image 778331
2018 Mercedes-Maybach Vision Interior

Surely the production version won’t feature such an outlandish-looking cabin but the list of options will most definitely be long and even more outlandish. I could also bet on an outlandish powertrain. While the definitive ’No’ given by Mercedes to a potential electric GLS leaves foggy prospects for an electric Mercedes-Maybach SUV, I’m sure the company could simply stick a big V-8 (considering no V-12s will be in production by then) in front of the cabin, although the prospect of "four compact permanent-magnet synchronous motors and fully variable all-wheel drive" is enticing. Car & Driver was betting in an older piece that the Maybach SUV will be fitted with "the same twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V-8 as the Maybach S560 sedan". That unit puts out 463 horsepower between 5,250 and 5,500 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm. Car & Driver also quoted Autonews.com who talked with Dietmar Exler, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, and he said that the Maybach SUV will be "a halo car" that will "help build the Mercedes brand," as if that was particularly necessary in the case of one of the world’s oldest car manufacturers.

In my mind, it’s clear that Mercedes must rush (rather than sit back and wait) and put the Maybach-badged SUV intro production before even more players join this niche. In the Car & Driver piece that was published in March (and others that appeared around the same time), the year 2020 was seen as the time when we’ll see the SUV in flesh. Now, with Dr. Zygan slightly downplaying the possibility at the launch of the GLS, I think (as I’ve said before) that the timeframe has lengthened a bit but that I think could backfire on Mercedes. Let’s wait and see what we’ll get: a GLS with added bling and a $200,000 price tag or an almost redesigned SUV with just the underpinnings of the GLS present as a reminder of the link between the two and a +$300,000 price tag. I’m going for the latter if Mercedes decides it’s taking more time on it rather than less as more time can also spawn from a need to further develop things.

Further reading

2018 Mercedes-Maybach GLS Exclusive Renderings
- image 614172

Read up on our speculative review of the 2020 Mercedes-Maybach GLS SUV

The 2018 Vision Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept Could Lend DNA to One of Mercedes' Latest SUVs Exterior
- image 778318

Get in the know and read our full review of the 2018 Mercedes-Maybach Vision Concept

2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Exterior
- image 780067
The front end says Phantom all the way
With a few exceptions, of course

Read everything we know about the 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

2017 Bentley Bentayga
- image 833906

Check out our full review of the 2017 Bentley Bentayga

2017 Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 Cabriolet Exterior High Resolution
- image 727419

Browse through out full review of the 2017 Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 Cabriolet Concept

2016 Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6
- image 685487

Read up on everything we know about the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach Vision 6 Concept

Source: Auto Express

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: