Conventional wisdom suggests the world probably doesn’t really need a car like the GLS 600. But when distinguished car makers such as Roll-Royce and Bentley are busy attracting a new generation of customers with their own upper-luxury SUVs in the form of the Cullinan and Bentayga, you can’t expect Mercedes’ upmarket Maybach division to simply look on from the sidelines.
The new leather-lined model sits at the very top of the third-generation GLS line-up, providing the Maybach sub-brand with its first proper SUV, albeit one that shares a lot with its less luxurious siblings. That includes its advanced chassis, which mates the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz’s E-Active Air Matic suspension with a roll-reducing curve function in a bid to provide it with a level of ride comfort and rolling refinement to challenge the high-priced competition.
That said, Mercedes’ designers have gone to some lengths to distance the GLS 600 from other GLS models, including the placement of its signature three-pointed star on the bonnet of one of its SUV models for the first time.
Other conspicuous design changes include a new chrome grille featuring vertical louvres, more prominent chrome elements within the bumpers, window surrounds and sills, standard 22in (and optional 23in) wheels, an optional two-tone exterior paint scheme in eight different colour combinations, electrically extending running boards, Maybach emblems within the D-pillars and altered tailpipes with cross ribs.
It might not boast the overall design uniqueness of the Cullinan or Bentayga, but there’s no denying the visual boldness of the latest Maybach-badged model, which stretches to 5205mm in length, 2030mm in width and 1838mm in height and uses the same 3135mm wheelbase as other GLS models.
Power for the GLS 600 comes from the same mild-hybrid drivetrain used by recently unveiled S580. It mates a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine with a 48V starter-generator integrated into the nine-speed automatic gearbox to provide the new Maybach SUV with 549bhp and 538lb ft of torque.
The reserves are channelled to each wheel via Mercedes’ 4Matic system, which operates in combination with a long list of standard driving assistant functions.
For comparison, the Cullinan’s twin-turbocharged 5.8-litre V12 petrol engine puts out 563bhp and 627lb ft and there’s 600bhp and 664lb ft from the range-topping Bentayga’s twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre petrol W12.
Inside, the GLS 600 sports a heavily upgraded cabin with nappa leather upholstery, Maybach-specific digital instruments and unique dashboard trim elements.
Options in the four-seat First Class spec version driven here include a pair of reclining rear seats with a massage function and a fixed rear centre console with folding tables and a refrigerator, a set-up that can be further enhanced with a panoramic glass roof.
A specially developed cargo blind and sound-deadening material within the bodyshell have also been added at the rear to dampen road noise.