Maybach officially became a sub-brand of Mercedes-Benz back in 2015 and, so far, the badge has only graced the flagship S-Class sedan, which recently saw a world reveal of its own. But the growing segment of ultra-luxury SUVs has the Maybach family expanding with the launch of the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600. We went out to Malibu to get a first drive in Maybach’s first ever SUV.

When it comes to the exterior, it’s still the shell of the standard GLS, so the dimensions of this large SUV remain the same. But a detailed look shows Maybach badging, an exclusive grille that it shares with the Maybach S-Class, and the first ever standing Mercedes-Benz star on an SUV. 22-inch wheels are standard with 23s as an option. And of course, it wouldn’t be ultra-luxury without a few two-tone paint options.

Under the hood is a slightly detuned version of AMG’s 4.0L biturbo V8 engine that cranks out 550-horsepower and 538 lb-ft. of torque. That should give the GLS 600 a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds. The engine’s power is supplemented with EQ Boost, a 48-volt mild-hybrid system which helps both overall efficiency and performance. 4MATIC all-wheel-drive is standard.

Drive modes include a “Curves” mode which takes full advantage of Mercedes’ E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL suspension system. And we have to say, taking the GLS 600 up the twisting canyon roads around Santa Barbara was an absolute blast. With the suspension relaxed, it felt so nimble that it was easy to forget we were driving a 7,400 lb. SUV. 

And of course this is an SUV to not only drive but to be chauffeured in…so introduced is “Maybach” mode, which optimizes the driving experience for the passenger by doing things like shutting off the auto stop/start function and adjusting the suspension. 

Speaking of the interior, it doesn’t get much more comfortable than the Maybach GLS’s front seat. The two 12.3-inch screens effortlessly blend together for ease of use. Plus, a new generation of MBUX is faster and more intuitive than before. It includes Augmented Reality Head-Up Display that projects directional queues onto the road as you drive. 

Unlike the Maybach S-Class sedan, a four seat configuration comes standard in this SUV. Rear passengers have a 7-inch tablet to control the 64-color ambient lighting, massage chairs, and other comfort and media settings. An optional refrigerator will fit between the rear seats to store your celebratory champagne, and did we mention that there are Maybach scents available? Our brief time back there was spent relaxing with the seat in max recline and our drinks cold in the cooling cupholders. 

With very little to add-on, the Maybach GLS 600 starts at a hefty $161,550. Fully-loaded, it just tops $200,000.

The 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 is expected to arrive in dealers at the end of this year.

We’ll have much more on the first ever Maybach SUV coming up soon on MotorWeek!