What is it?
Electric cars have altered our perception of refinement with their near-silent drivetrains: in just a few years, the standards in this particular area have increased enormously. Even so, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the overall quietness of the new Maybach S680, a V12-powered limousine that for the most part is every bit as serene as the latest crop of high-end EVs.
Set off in the new leather-lined saloon, which has a 180mm-longer wheelbase than the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class from which it’s derived, and you can’t help but marvel at the hushed qualities of its engine. There’s an inherent calmness to its operation that puts it in the same exalted class as the Rolls-Royce Ghost for tranquillity.
The twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre V12, now mated to Mercedes’ own nine-speed torque-converter gearbox and 4Matic four-wheel drive system, is a development of the M277 unit used by its predecessor, the S650, making 603bhp and a stout 663lb ft of torque from 2000-4000rpm. That’s 18bhp and 74lb ft less than before but still 40bhp and 36lb ft more than is made by the 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V12 in the Ghost.
The S680 is almost silent at step-off and on light throttle loads, and working it hard on open roads and motorways yields only a distant hum that always remains well isolated. Meanwhile, the gearbox, which can be operated via wheel-mounted paddles, shifts with silky precision.
The quietness of the drivetrain is enhanced by Mercedes’ Active Road Noise Compensation system. This works like noise-cancelling headphones, detecting unwanted low-frequency sounds and playing counter phased soundwaves over the car’s stereo to cancel them out.
Aside from its outstanding calm, the S680 also performs strongly, as evidenced by its 0-62mph time of 4.5sec. This is a heavy but quick car, perhaps not in the same league as the Bentley Flying Spur for outright punch but certainly among the world’s most accomplished cruisers. Terrifically seamless, it is enjoyable for the driver as well as soothing for passengers in the expansive rear.