Doll, Russell and Maybach

What is good must also be beautiful — Wilhelm Maybach

Image: (c)

As a member of the 21st Century ascendency you have become used to the finer things in life. Your cutlery is silver, your furnishings ornate and the staff just a bell push away. Luxury and ostentation is a way of life, so naturally, you demand your vehicle to announce this reality, to herald your self-importance. But rather than continue to state the bleeding obvious, we must turn to the dawn of the motor car which, in its infancy, had competition from a different form of travel the sea.

In the late 19th century, Atlantic ocean travel had become de rigueur for the wealthy. Iron-wrought, steam powered ships chased the Blue Riband, the fastest possible crossing time between the coasts of America and Britain. And as such craft became larger and more prestigious than their wooden predecessors becoming in effect floating hotels opulence levels rose considerably. 

Charles Fitzroy Doll, noted hotel designer of the day, took levels to the maximum with London’s Russell hotel. Openly flamboyant, lavishly decorated, both inside and out, the building remains an Victorian statement like few others. This body of work (1892-99) landed him the role of fitting out the RMS Titanic’s dining room, at a time when the horseless carriage amounted to little more than its own statement. 

By the time of that unfortunate sailing, Wilhelm Maybach had already been hailed in France as ‘The King of Designers’, creating limousines of both limited number and high regard. What might the man think of his name now adorning the new Mercedes-Maybach EQS? I’m inclined to believe it would have met with his approval. The first all electric M-M[1] follows an ethos blending styles and materials that both Doll and Maybach could probably embrace. 

M-M customers expect the extraordinary. Extra comfort, technology and detail.” So says Ola Källenius, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz Board[2]. Let’s begin with the latter quality: detail. The Maybach emblem and nameplate feature everywhere the front, chrome plated vertical stripped grille, the rear door, along with of course the wheel centres. But that’s not nearly enough. The D-pillar sports a chromed version of the radius triangle, whereas the B-post and headlight surrounds are positively festooned with the things, admittedly small. Remaining outside, the chrome edging to the DLO lends itself a sunglasses look, if perhaps more of the Dame Edna Everage persuasion. Splendid!

Image: (c)

The interior places yet more emblems in headrest cushions, front seat backrests, the stainless steel pedals and finally as a projection for the rear footwells. Since the outside announces your presence with its Doll-esque, two-toned ostentation, inside sees flamboyance levels rise whilst focusing distinctly on relaxation for all occupants.

Where to begin? The vegetable tanned Nappa leather can be ordered in either espresso/balao brown or macchiato/bronze pearl with an option of crystal white/silver grey. Using coffee bean shells as the leather’s tanning agents, water is conducted through a closed circuit before being cleaned and recycled. This ‘fatliquoring’[3] effect is plant based and even generates a second income for those coffee bean farmers. Hurrah!

Image: (c)

The (uniformed?) driver views the MBUX Hyperscreen, chock full of M-M specific animations which includes speed-determined sized digits along with a “silk scarf” that moves “elegantly as the wind.” Rose gold surrounds the circular dials and the driver can set graphic display styles such as Sporty, MAYBACH and the surely never-to-be-used Discreet. AIRMATIC suspension allows for adjustments of 35mm, along with rear steering angles that help reduce those turning circles. Driving characteristics fall under SPORT, INDIVIDUAL, the equally never to be used OFFROAD or ECO with the default, most comforting setting being MAYBACH. EQS drivers receive their own Executive seats ventilated, heated, massaging and on approving the Chauffeur Package, even the calf muscles can be cosseted in ENERGISING COMFORT. 

And comfort, for those rear passengers, is all important. Looking back to those halcyon, ocean going days, compromises were the norm. Clanking, hissing steam power vibrated the German ocean liner, Deutschland, to the point the vessel became nicknamed “The Cocktail Shaker” pity those partygoers.

M-M seeks out a cocooning, feel-good effect for EQS passengers. This all encompassing package includes HEPA air filtration, acoustic foams in the wheel arches (to disambiguate hateful grit) along with driveline encapsulation to create the utmost in NVH suppression. Odours of any nature can be counteracted by No.12 MOOD Ebony, “an extraordinary and polarising sandalwood and spice blend, designed not to please but seduce.” One must wonder over the eleven unused fragrances. 

Image: (c)

Not interested in the fifteen speaker Burmester® 4D’s capabilities? Simply allow the M-M generated “Aerial Grace” to pervade the cabin, an interactive tone that reacts to a dozen or more parameters whilst being whisked electrically from the local off-licence from where you can then enjoy a chilled beverage from the silver plated goblets. Charging points, tables, individually controlled LED mood lights along with a welcome/goodbye light routine to make the whole slothful journey to the harbour/nightclub/condominium/private jet decidedly more palatable. 

Enough flimflam, let’s enter the real world. Manufacturers from the days when Wilhelm and Doll were active courted the wealthy as the proletariat struggled ever on. The world has moved on as much as the divide widens. Ocean going liners have become oligarch’s yachts. International hotel chains, akin the automobile industry, offer little other than the ‘premium experience’. Will the chauffeur of this machine be a cynically driven soul, glad of the monthly salary, ambivalent of the whole situation or of who’s being ferried about? And will those rear cabin dwellers wax lyrical to their peers the details and complexity of their chariot in what is, already an overtly obese, fossil fuelled arrangement currently available in three pointed star’s dealerships?

Image: (c)

The extremes shown by today’s piece doubtlessly will antagonise some readers. This is no defence of the product, more a statement that regardless the general economic situation, brands will chase the market. 

I feel quite sure the Maybach experience will be sublime. Possessing no sea legs, however makes this traveller queasy at the result.

Data Sources: “The Ship Asunder” by Tom Nancollas,

[1] Mercedes-Maybach for the uninitiated. 

[2] G. Wagener’s typically understated take being “We strive to add the shine to the already beautiful. The car’s interior is an emotional and stylish statement, promising luxurious travel at the highest level, where we are redefining the SUV luxury future.” Note no mention of the exterior…

[3] A process in the production of some leathers in which oils and fats are used to soften it, and sometimes to add a fat-soluble dye. But you knew that…

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

28 thoughts on “Doll, Russell and Maybach”

  1. All that and yet it still looks distinctly… vulgar, shall we say.

    MM obviously have a distinct customer in mind, who might we imagine driving this car? Peak Clarkson “Top Gear” had a litmus test, devised by the guru himself, to help judge whether or not it merited inclusion on “THE COOL WALL”. The test? Can you imagine (Upper crust English lady thespian) Kristin Scott Thomas driving this car. I think most readers would give the EQS a nope here.

    An alternative test with a dichotomous outcome; “The Jordan test”, as described many years ago by “Metro” newspaper; “Is it classy like (The late) Queen Noor of Jordan, or trashy like (Katy Price) Jordan?” I think there will be no dissent about the outcome here. This is a car for the TikTok buffoon, Balenciaga festooned Dubai crowd.

    For me the clincher was the rose gold trimmings; “Posh copper effect” is a detail that says so much. It also tells me not only who will drive it now but who will drive it in 8 to 10 years,when EQS’s are starting to hit the second hand market. The answer gentle readers; people in Cheshire. For these folk it will replace the Maserati SUV’s, Gawd help us, that currently clutter a fair number of driveways near my partner’s home. When their Levantes start to turn into unreliable money pits and become Non-u even for them, the EQS will be waiting in the wings to banish the memory of a generation of Maserati that should never have been. For that I think we should be grateful to Maybach.

    P.S note how the buttons and gadgetry between the rear seats makes it look like it’s already cluttered with it’s occupant’s possessions, a styling own goal.

  2. Regardless of all the luxury (ie. tacky and tasteless) interior fittings, externally the thing looks incredibly bland, dull and ugly. It’s a composite of all the existing uninteresting SUVs currently on the market.

  3. Automotive chintz for those who don’t know the difference between money and good taste, or believe the former can always buy the latter.

    I could bang on about the terrible detailing (such as the fact that the two-tone paint doesn’t align at all with the feature lines on the car) but can’t really be bothered. 😬

    1. Even the one tone paint doesn’t match. That side/rear three-quarter view looks like a bad paint match on a bumper repaint, but it’s the press shot. So much for paying for extra quality.

  4. Words fail me – I don’t know where to start or end, so best to say nothing as I have nothing nice to say.

    I enjoyed the article though.

  5. I have to disagree with the comments to date. To my eyes the Maybach disappoints. For the money, it’s not nearly tasteless enough.

    The problem with the SUV concept is that it doesn’t allow that much flexibility for designers. Hence a Jaguar is too easily mistaken for a KIA – or was it a Hyundai? Maybe that’s why Mercedes have made sure there are plenty of Maybach logos in place, just to reassure you that you didn’t climb into the Audi parked beside by mistake.

    If you had shown me this car without a badge, I’d have guessed its price at somewhere between £25,000 to £100,000. The fact that it’s actually twice the top figure is however totally justifiable, because it’s painted with more care. And because it’s a Maybach.

    Even the interior falls in an area between functional and chinzy, resulting in somewhere that is too visually noisy to be cosseting, yet with seats that wouldn’t look out of place in an upmarket care home. Those poor old billionaires must have such sensitive frames.

    And Maybach, on a point of order, maybe breezes “move elegantly” but the wind can move in many ways, some very inelegant.

  6. DTW is certainly expanding my horizons. I had never heard of Doll; do you reckon he had a hard time in school with that surname?
    But seriously folks, how hard it must be nowadays to design a prestige product. You can’t just rely on extra chromium applique, which was mostly an American thing anyway. You can’t rely on extra detailing, as so many cars these days sport all sorts of extraneous surface clutter. What do you do for a cue, a visual trigger? To add an extra degree of difficulty, let’s add a qualifier: without appearing gauche?
    So what have we here, as Mercedes tries for another bite at the Maybach cherry? I’ll let those better suited to it analyse the minutiae of the design, but somehow Mercedes seem to have created something you won’t mistake for a full-dress Kia. That says as much for Kia as it does for Mercedes-Benz. Who would have thought twenty years ago you could mention the two in the same sentence, seriously?
    But. There is a But.
    What a shame the rear seat area looks like the aftermath of an explosion at a high-end trimmer’s shop. Metal accent strips whizzing hither and yon (a bit Dali rather than Doll?), eerie blue glowing lights outlining some things you presumably might need to find after hours (recalling the brief craze for undercar neon lighting) baggy-looking headrests (seventies loose-pillow upholstery revixit?), diamond-quilted seats (I do like that, but they fight visually with the headrests) and a whopping great central console with detailing suggestive of a bowling alley. Hmm. My mental jury is out on the console treatment. Would I be embarrassed to say I like it?
    The multiplicity of marque emblems shotgunned around the interior is just ridiculous. Totally, indefensibly ridiculous. Even the Americans at their worst wouldn’t have done this. I doubt the rear seat occupant is about to forget what he/she has purchased. Is there a ‘Good Taste’ option which allows for these to be deleted?
    Nope, best viewed from outside methinks.

  7. Aside from everything mentioned in the (excellent) article, the styling of the thing is just so…ordinary. I’m sure it matters not-a-jot to the intended buyer, but remove the badges and gilded flim-flam and this could be mistaken for a mid-2000’s Kia MPV.

  8. As Richard says, by today’s standards, the Maybach is a bit ordinary. It’s just plush and comfortable without making as big a statement as a Cullinan (or Escalade or Navigator), for example.

    1. Again I must disagree. The styling of the Cullinan is not nearly conspicuous enough. It just looks like a slightly larger London taxi. And in lime green, a taxi that’s advertising an energy drink.

      Until someone decides to hew a car body out of marble, I think the only real status differentiator left in this segment is size. The LWB Escalade certainly won’t get mistaken for a Skoda.

    2. Ah, yes – the Cullinan Monster edition.

      The canyo- er, Hongqi (Red Flag) E-HS9 is pretty impressive – it genuinely makes the Maybach look modest and sporty. Mind you, it’s an EV, so it must be good for the environment. Ahem.

    1. Oh, god, now I can’t unsee the giant London taxi now.
      Guess I won’t be buying a RR now…

  9. Isn’t the great irony of the exercise that the three primary badges on the vehicle – bonnet, boot and steering wheel – are still three pointed stars? The frippery of the Maybach logo-spraying exercise puts me in mind of a bakery with pretensions of grandeur where an expensively developed monogram pattern is applied to any surface that will take it in the hopes of signifying quality… but a bun is still a bun.

  10. The first photo appears to have been taken on the set of 1980s Blue Peter. Just out of shot is Simon Groom in front of the bring and buy sale totaliser.

  11. “We strive to add the shine to the already beautiful.” Herr Wagener really has a high opinion of his talents and is clearly unfamiliar with the expression ‘gilding the lily’.

    This graceless lump annoyed me so much earlier that I forgot my manners: well done, Andrew, for remarkably even-handed assessment of the Mercedes-Maybach. I’m sure I couldn’t have maintained my objectivity in such trying circumstances. 😁

    1. A veritable monument.

      To Andrew’s writing style and restraint, that is.

      I agree with Bristow, though: Mercedes keeps trying to half-ass this luxury thing. Give it leather stamped with imprints of Gorden Wageners left nipple or something. Use that BMW e-ink technology to project AI-generated, insulting memes at the plebs. Go mad.

  12. I’m in awe of the massive grille.. I see that it isn’t fossil-fueled – does it filter plankton?

  13. I’ve spotted Gorden’s own personalized C-Class:

    and Ian Callum’s singular F-Type:

  14. The chief of Maybach clearly mentions China and South Korea as the most important markets. He says, especially the people in Seoul are able to understand the Maybach-way of great luxury cars.
    I rather think they cannot understand some other famous brands. I never saw a Maybach in Saint Tropez or Monaco for example.

    I only know two owners of Maybach.
    Kim Yong Un and Marcus Prince of Anhalt. Both are not the best ambassadors for Maybach or other brands wishing to upgrade their reputation….

    1. These people, Peter?

      It would be unfair to paint the people of an entire nation with the same ugly brush, but I am mortified.

      As tasteless as Maybach might seem… I can believe Maybach is real because as Cesar pointed out: Louis Vuitton (French I think?) But it must be horrible to be trapped in Russia. Mercedes has divested completely from Russia, so thankfully the answer is a definite no.

    2. Yes, gooddog, that was exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. Maybe it’s just as well MB has left Russia. Is there anything left for the good people of Dartz to add to a Maybach?

  15. Andrew thank you for a great article.

    As to the M…M…Maybach best just to assume they know their market.

    It’s the faintest of faint praise but I do find it less offensive than some of their other offerings, for example the (re)launch saloons.

  16. Ah, yes. A car for out-of-touch, sociopathic “self-made” nepopreneurs (portmanteau from the words nepotism and enterpreneur) and their Marie-Antoinettes. It simply reeks of Gilded Age. Or, more aptly, it simply reeks.

  17. Should you ever have wondered what or who served as his Gordenness’ design inspiration for Mercedes-Maybach’s ‘more is more’ cabin ambience, look no further. It was all here, if we could only have realised it. But that’s our Mr. Wagener – fashion icon – style guru. We are not worthy.

    Special – Karl Lagerfeld’s Salo(o)ns

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: