With its latest premium model, the Mercedes-Maybach Pullman, Mercedes-Benz is not only attempting to stretch one of its most valuable brands -- the Pullman marque -- it is also quite literally stretching the current definition of automotive luxury.
That's because the new Mercedes-Maybach Pullman, which will be making its official debut at the Geneva Motorshow in March, measures 6.5 meters from nose to tail. For some perspective, the Rolls-Royce Phantom extended wheelbase, owners of which Mercedes is clearly trying to court, is almost half a meter shorter.
But the car needs to be that long to ensure that two rear-seat passengers can travel in absolute luxury with more room to recline and stretch out than is typically found in a Paris or New York studio apartment. Mercedes describes the car's rear cabin as "a generously-sized and tastefully-appointed club lounge" and that's not hyperbole. The entire space is wrapped in the highest quality leather and the executive seats have integrated calf rests that can be raised and lowered just like the seats in an airline's business class section.
There's also the option of a vis-à-vis seating layout so that the car can carry four passengers, two on fold-down rear-facing seats and two in the executive reclining chairs.
As well as comfort, the car is all about privacy and seclusion. The rear windows come with blinds, and there's a glass partition that separates the chauffeur from the rear-seat passengers. It can be raised and lowered, and, with the press of a button, turn from transparent to opaque.
"Quite apart from providing stately and stylish seating for high-ranking passengers in the comfort and spaciousness for which it is famed, the new Mercedes-Maybach Pullman is of course the embodiment of exclusivity at its highest level," commented Ola Källenius, Member of the Daimler AG Management Board responsible for sales and marketing of Mercedes-Benz Cars. "One can sense the significance and greatness of it in every detail."
The car will come with a significant price tag too. Mercedes says that before personalization options, bespoke detailing or armoring, a ‘standard' Pullman will cost roughly €500,000, making it more expensive as well as longer than a Rolls-Royce.
But the people who will be considering the Pullman as their next daily run-around don't care about cost, but they do care about aesthetic individuality -- something all Rolls-Royce cars have but that in terms of external appearance, at least, the Pullman lacks -- it takes many of its visual cues from the Mercedes S-Class.
Still Mercedes must be confident that the car will be a hit, or else it wouldn't have resurrected the Pullman marque.
The argument that has been raging between Rolls-Royce and Mercedes over who builds the best car in the world is almost as old as the motorcar itself. Back in the 1960s, Mercedes decided to settle the dispute once and for all by building the 600 Pullman. Almost completely handcrafted, the car, which was the longest and largest ever built in Europe, was an exercise in proving what's possible when money is absolutely no object.
The 600 Pullman launched in 1965 and was such a huge success -- driven by kings, queens and rock stars in equal measure -- John Lennon, Coco Chanel, and the Pope each had one -- that it remained in production, unchanged, until 1980.
The all-new Pullman, which by no coincidence arrives on the original's 50th anniversary, is clearly meant to pick up the baton in terms of luxury, craftsmanship and of course, exclusivity, but the market has changed significantly since the original 600 Pullman wafted on to the road. As well as Rolls-Royce, the new car has to stand out from a crowd that includes the Range Rover Autobiography and the Bentley Mulsanne.