Test Drive: Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet

On safari in the wild new vehicle that's limited to just 99 units

by Aaron Kohn

There is something special about cars that should never be. Last week, we got to ride along in one which came close to never being realized: the first-ever Maybach SUV. On the heels of the highly successful AMG G 63 6×6 and G 500 4×4^2, the G 650 Landaulet is a regular G-Class in the front half, but it starts to look just like the S-Class Mercedes-Maybach in the rear. While the G-Class has hardly changed since it was introduced in 1979, the variants, limited editions, commercial and consumer models have proven the G platform’s versatility. And, with 10-inch entertainment systems, ultra-luxe leather recliner seats and more, the Maybach identity is infused into this new car.

We put the G-Class through its paces with adventurer Michael Horn in Namibia last May. The vehicle is one of the toughest off-roaders on the market, and is in direct competition with the capabilities of the Land Rover Defender. So the question became, “How could an off-roader with a Maybach badge handle and ride?”

With hyenas following us around the border between South Arica and Botswana, we (along with photographer Adrian Steirn) sat in the back of the G 650 Landaulet. The Maybach seats offer the same ride you’d find in the S-Class Mercedes-Maybach, and soak up a lot of the bumps the G-Class is known for going over. There’s something incredibly surreal about having a heated massage seat and hot/cold cup-holders while driving through the wilderness.

Taking inspiration from horse-and-wagon days, with the drivers’ seats covered, the back opens like a cabriolet (or in this case soft-top Jeep) for an incredible view. Windows allow you to stick your head out, but without walls, you have the ability to stand, lean out, or of course lay back in the business-class luxury. We watched a lion, leopards, and hyenas while standing in the back and, when the rain rolled in, sat down and watched some hyenas try to eat the tires of a G 63 in front of us. A divider allows passengers privacy from the driver compartment, and turns opaque at the touch of a button, leaving you forgetting that you are in a G-Class altogether.

From an interior design perspective, the G 650 Landaulet brings the same console from the cockpit to the backseats. Instead of being able to use the switches to control the three different locks, the switches manage the retractable cover, lighting, and privacy divider. Even the G-Class glovebox is available to both rear passengers. But the seats and rear console are all Maybach. The iconic champagne glasses, tray tables and entertainment system are identical to those in the S-Class.

Though the G 650 Landaulet Mercedes-Maybach may seem impossible, it proves to be equally as capable as a G-Class and just as comfortable as a Maybach. Portal axles give the G 650 Landaulet extra lift from the standard G-Class for 450mm of clearance. The Mercedes-AMG V12 biturbo is extremely quiet, seeming to surprise animals used to the loud drone of other SUVs.

Pricing for the 99 examples will be announced at the Geneva Motor Show in early March.

Images by Aaron Kohn