British Internationl Motor Show.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Three months ago in July eXcel London hosted the British International Motor Show. As a dedicated petrol head I couldn’t restrain myself from visiting the show during at the press day to get personal with this year’s hottest cars. With an appetite for big non-environment friendly luxury cars I conducted a comparison between two similar but somewhat different executive sedans.

Note: Excuse the crappy pictures, don't know what happened that day. I became the most unsteady photographer after Michael J. Fox.

Budget(Lexus LS) vs Luxury(Maybach)

First up was the £84 000 Lexus LS600h which is the top of the range version in the LS lineup. The “h” suffix stand for hybrid meaning that the car is powered by electric engine that drives the car up to approximately 50km/h where the petrol engine takes over. Lexus didn’t spare any effort trying to impress visitors at the show as the LS600h was dressed in black with a panda white interior that can only be kept clean if no one is allowed in the car. With contrasting panels in the form of graphite good panels the overall presentation of the car couldn’t have been any better.

Crawling into the backseat my eyes bulged as I was struck by how fully loaded the car was. Buttons where everywhere with a 12 inch-ish sized screen could be flipped down from the ceiling for watching documentaries about South American dictators. The cookie jar was the center console dividing the two back seats. Here was two remote controls, a small fridge and various buttons controlling the seats that could ventilate you, heat you, huge you and kiss you. A funny feature was the massage function that triggered the sensation of petite Japanese geisha tip toeing on your back, felt cool at first but got spooky and annoying after a while. There were also body sensors in the car that will make sure you’re body temperature is at the user defined degrees making me curious as to what would happen if I tossed in a frozen chicken into the cabin.

Designed to be enjoyed from the backseat the seats could be reclined or extended with an ottoman. It was clear that the car is targeted towards diplomats and people who spend a lot of time getting driven around. The LS600h is not a car to buy for kids to enjoy in the backseat since buttons in the back are able of controlling the seats in the front. On the downside the rear seat comfort and hybrid engine comes to the cost of a rather smaller boot. To sum it up the LS600h is a highly impressive sedan that comes with rear seat hospitality no Mercedes, BMW, Audi can match.

You only live once and hesitating to buy an expensive product can sometimes lead to a purchase for the sole reason that you simply can! That is where cars like the Mercedes Maybach 62 come into the picture. Named 62 the car is 6.2 meter long as opposed to the short wheel version of it, the 57 that’s 5.7 meters.

They say that beauty comes from within and that applies to the MM 62 that looks very underwhelming from the exterior resembling the W220 Mercedes S-class that in fact, the car share technological underpinnings with. Many people might not notice it but those that are car enthusiasts can pick up on the many details that do give the negative mass production vibes you don’t want to get in a £270 000 car. Ultimately what you feel when inside the car is a sense of self importance.

Unexplainably the Maybach makes you feel like you are some, a person of importance that has accomplished something big in life. It gives you the sensation that you have Warren Buffert, OJ Simpsons lawyers, Prince Albert of Monaco and Jay-Z on speed dial. No other car sucked you into fantasy land like the Maybach did. The most striking aspect about the car is the overzealous leg space. Sitting in the Lexus I was impressed by the leg space but the MM 62 is just in a different league. Long as a bowling alley you can almost get down on the floor do push-ups in the back. Not exaggerating a single bit, the rear doors are no shorter than rectangular four seater dinner table. The generosity(I’m 180cm tall) is borderline excessive and more than you could image you’d ever need on a journey to work.

Moving on the entertainment in the back it’s no less daunting than in the Lexus. Like you would expect it comes with a fridge but also with a pair of €600 silver glasses designated for sipping champagne in. DVD, satellite TV, radio, internet, connectivity for Xbox/Wii is all there. Not only that but the car comes with two headphones and in the case of backseat passengers having distinct music taste they can in fact chose not to listen to the same music. The list of options is endless and even extends to ostentatious intercom systems that consists of microphones and speakers on the exterior of the car and allow people on the inside to eaves drop on those outside. More ridiculous options are be dwelled about for pages, features can be added accumulating to half the price of the Lexus.

Sadly the MM 62 does feel a leave you a bit cold. It doesn’t have the same charisma as the Bentley Flying Spur or Rolls Royce Phantom. The interior combination on the one exhibited at the Motor Show was gaudy and crass. Mercedes did cut corners to get this car out on the market quickly and the result turned out to flop. Sales are down the toilet and are falling with each quarter. The car can be compared with Hotels and restaurants in Las Vegas where a lot of the luxury feels fabricated, fake and superstitious lacking any form of class or character. Is there is a future for the Maybach? Maybe, it will depend on Mercedes’ and their ability to make their future Maybachs true luxury cars coming with bespoke designs not resembling any Mercedes.

Conclusion: The MM 62 cost three times more than the LS600h but is it three times better? It’s a debatable question but both cars have their fine share of quality. With sporty design, reasonable price and hybrid technology the Lexus is a very desirable car.

Surprisingly the Maybach does all the back seat hospitality much better. Just think about the front/rear seat sound proof divider that enables the owner, with discretion, squeeze the thigh of a mistress in preparation for the next kink in the rear without the driver hearing a single moan. Unlike the Lexus the Maybach comes with a connoisseur button that gets you into a contact with a person who will grant your every request whether it’s getting a helicopter ready or searching the city for your favorite Ben&Jerry’s ice cream. Similar to the carriage a Duchess might have used for long distance transport the comfort in the Maybach is unmatched. There’s simply no car with a better equipped back seat. Pictures say more than a thousand words and the one above says it all.