As Mercedes-Benz continues to polish its rarefied Maybach brand, it’s testing the Chinese appetite for the marque’s first-ever all-electric SUV concept. Called the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury, the SUV debuted Tuesday at Auto China 2018 in Beijing as the sixth Maybach concept vehicle from Mercedes-Benz Design in as many years.
The 750-horsepower, fully electric SUV concept boasts a range of more than 200 miles and a top speed of 155 mph. Mercedes says it can squeeze 60 miles from a five-minute charge, a convenience designed to entice China’s elite.
But the new Maybach concept is far from an appeal to practicality; it’s dressed to impress. Adapting Maybach’s traditional sedan form to the architecture of an SUV required balancing elegance and sportiness, says Daimler’s Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener. “Chinese customers expect us to stick to our DNA as a customer, and that’s why they buy us,” he says at the launch event in Beijing. “When you talk to Chinese customers, it’s very important to stay authentic; otherwise we wouldn’t be a luxury brand.”
Based on a design creed Mercedes calls “sensual purity,” the SUV sits the driver high above traffic, overlooking a gently-sloping hood that, along with the upright C-pillar, anchors the concept’s side profile. A long wheelbase – particularly voguish in China nowadays – and short rear overhangs emphasize its musculature. Mimicking the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 coupe concept that debuted at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2016, the SUV sports an oversized chrome-plated grille with vertical struts that draw inspiration from a well-tailored pinstripe suit. The concept’s air inlets get Maybach’s standard honeycomb pattern, while small headlamps bear the marque’s signature silhouette. “It’s reduced, but it has a lot of presence,” Wagener explains. “Its stance brings the power and beauty onto the street.”
But of course, Maybachs are made to be enjoyed from the inside, and the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury hews to tradition. Intended to be driven by a chauffeur, the SUV focuses on catering to passengers in the rear. (The spartan driver’s area gets only a sleek, free-standing widescreen cockpit with a pair of 12.3-inch displays.)
Conceived specifically for customers in China, Maybach’s largest market, the cabin nods to traditional design principles. Clad in crystal-white Nappa leather seats with rose-gold diamond stitching, the cabin takes inspiration from an ink painting style marked by simplicity, white surfaces and balanced proportions. Meanwhile, it makes ample use of materials such as aluminum and chrome trim to create a modern feel.
Meant to be enjoyed as a haven amid the country’s notorious traffic jams (commutes in China rank among the world’s longest and slowest), a wide center console serves up impromptu tea parties, featuring a sculpted tray made of “Magic Wood” ebony, an element used in traditional Chinese furniture design that provides a striking contrast against the white backdrop. Press a button to summon the tray from the console, where it stays shielded under a black, high-gloss sliding cover when not in use.
Maybach-branded teapot and cups are included. Tea is served.