The Mercedes-Maybach Haute Voiture Is a Study in Smooth

Granted, when George Clooney and family need to get to his Lake Como estate, a helicopter is employed, covering the 50 miles from Milan’s Malpensa airport in under 20 minutes. However, if forced to complete the hour journey on Italian roads, the best vehicle for the task is the Mercedes-Maybach Haute Voiture.

Only 150 editions of this $400,000-plus stunner will be produced—our test vehicle is number 2, per a lacquered plaque in the backseat—and little differs from the regular Mercedes-Maybach S680 in terms of powertrain. It’s the standard 6.0-liter V12 bi-turbo mill, good for 621 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of yank, more than ample to propel the two-and-a-half-ton luxury land yacht.

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The Haute Voiture’s magic is in the design flourishes. The exterior receives an exclusive two-tone combo of metallic nautical blue over a shimmering light rose. That nautical blue is used for the 22-inch rims, and the final look is very comely, drawing all the stares and camera snaps when pulling away from Milan’s Palazzo Cordusio Gran Melia hotel. This particular piazza is covered in jagged cobblestones, though you wouldn’t know it with closed eyes. Extra dampening sops up the bumps, making the ride buttery smooth. The Maybach’s suspension is on par with Rolls-Royce’s magic carpet suspension.

Firing up the autostrada toward Lake Como, snow-capped Italian Alps in the distance, the Maybach Haute Voiture shines. Crank up some bossa nova tunes and let the Burmester immersive surround sound system do its thing. You’ll hear every breath the musicians take; the speakers are that sublime, and the cabin blocks all exterior noise.

Mercedes-Maybach S-Klasse Haute Voiture
Mercedes-Maybach S-Klasse Haute Voiture

The first driving mode I opt for in any Mercedes is Sport; in the Haute Voiture it’s fine and fun and can definitely get the 5,346-pound sedan hauling, but the real hero is the Maybach dynamic mode. It smooths out the accelerator, eliminating any jerkiness no matter how you’re depressing the pedal. And it softens the suspension in the rear, ideal for backseat passengers, particularly during tighter switchbacks as Como nears. The ride was so smooth that my passenger reclined in the massaging rear seat and was able to get some work done.

The Haute Voiture is enormous, nearly 7 feet wide at the mirrors. The streets around Lake Como are narrow, and deep breaths and whispered prayers are standard every time Fiat 500s and Mercedes A-Classes whiz by. The Maybach’s largess feels manageable thanks to rear-wheel-steering. This feature is very helpful when we miss the turn for the Mandarin Oriental Lake Como and complete a three-point turn in a tight parking lot, only one foot longer than the Maybach’s 17-foot wheelbase.

After a quick espresso—it’s after 11 am and thus sacrilegious to order any other caffeinated beverage in Italy—we head up the road a few more minutes to Villa Lario, a decadent five-star hotel nestled along the lake’s shore.

Here, you can grab a cocktail that uses herbs grown on the property, or dine on delicious elevated fare (try the langoustine tagliatelle or the cacio e pepe ravioli to start, then go for the red snapper) then head down to Villa Lario’s dock to board a 10-meter wooden boat for a tour of the lake.

Your skipper, from Lake Como’s Best, will take you to Clooney’s expansive property to point out that the shutters are open, meaning the actor will be arriving imminently. Then zip you across the water to show off other famous villas, such as the $15,000-per-night option that Beyonce used for her birthday party last year. This palatial mountainside manse has a running waterfall that cuts through the living room, visible from the boat.

Mercedes-Maybach S-Klasse Haute Voiture
Mercedes-Maybach S-Klasse Haute Voiture

After, the backseat of the Haute Voiture awaits, rose gold-colored champagne flutes glistening in the Italian sun. Dark nautical blue and rose gold abound in the interior, with plenty of crystal and glossy opal-white features. Blue, beige, rose gold, and gold boucle fabric wraps around the interior. It looks like it could’ve been used to make a Chanel suit in the Sixties. Linen and mohair floor mats absorb your feet, while your entire body is gently pummeled by one of the eight massage modes. The interior of the Haute Voiture is a beautiful jewel.

So what’s the best seat in the Haute Voiture: front or rear? “Both are wonderful,” says Daniel Lescow, head of Mercedes-Maybach, later that night at a party to celebrate an art collaboration with Maybach and David LaChapelle. “Many Maybach customers enjoy driving themselves on weekends and having a chauffeur during the week.” Lescow is right; I loved both seats equally.

Lescow demurs on specific allocation numbers, though he does share that the Haute Voiture is already sold out for the U.S. market. Perhaps interested buyers will luck out and find a vehicle in another market, though.

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