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How Maybachs Work


The obvious car to compare the Maybach to is the 2004 Rolls-Royce Phantom. The Maybach and the Rolls are priced about the same, weigh about the same, have similar features and level of quality, the same buyers, etc.

Photo courtesy
Chevrolet Corvette

It is far more interesting, however, to compare the Maybach 57 to a Chevrolet Corvette. These cars are radically different. The Corvette is an unabashed two-seater sports car with a high-performance engine, sports-car frame and suspension and a lightweight fiberglass body. The Maybach is a huge luxury auto-yacht. The Maybach 57 weighs almost 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) more than the Corvette (nearly twice as much). The Maybach 57 is almost 4 feet (1.2 meters) longer than the Corvette.

And yet, look at the important performance figures*. In 0 to 60-mph (0-97 kph) acceleration, the Maybach 57 and the Corvette are equal -- 4.9 seconds. In 0 to 80-mph (0-129 kph) acceleration, the Maybach is actually one-tenth of a second quicker -- 7.8 seconds for the Maybach versus 7.9 seconds for the Corvette. (Note that a Porsche Boxster takes just a bit over 6 seconds to reach 60 mph -- the Corvette is a very quick car.)

In terms of braking, the Maybach 57 is actually better than the Corvette. Braking from 60 mph (97 kph), the Maybach takes 121 feet (37 meters). The Corvette takes 134 feet (41 meters). From 80 mph, the Maybach takes 212 feet (65 meters) versus 214 feet (65 meters) for the Corvette.

In the slalom, you would expect the Corvette to obliterate the Maybach, given that the Corvette is 3,000 pounds lighter and 4 feet shorter. But the speed through the 700-foot slalom is incredibly close -- 62.4 mph (100.4 kph) for the Corvette and 60.4 mph (97.2 kph) for the Maybach.

How is this possible? How can a huge car like a Maybach match a sports car like the Corvette in terms of performance?

Photo courtesy DaimlerChrysler
Maybach V-12 engine

It starts with the engine. While the Corvette's engine is slightly larger -- 5,665 cubic centimeters (cc) versus 5,513 cc for the Maybach -- the Maybach's is a high-tech V-12. The Maybach engine has features such as:

  • Three valves per cylinder and overhead cams (compared to two valves per cylinder in the Corvette)
  • Variable valve timing
  • Variable-length intake manifolds
  • Dual turbochargers with intercooler that can produce 18.9 psi of boost

This all adds up to an engine that produces 543 horsepower compared to 350 horsepower for the Corvette. The extra horsepower means that the power-to-weight ratios of the two cars are nearly identical.

On the braking side, the Maybach is very well endowed. The Maybach has huge disc brake rotors at 14.8 inches up front and 14 inches in the back. The Maybach actually has six brake calipers instead of the normal four -- two calipers on each front wheel. The entire braking system is redundant and computer controlled so that the CPU can decide which calipers to activate and how much pressure to apply to each. Computer control also allows special software features to be added. For example, if your foot comes off the accelerator rapidly, the braking system notices. The braking system assumes that, a few milliseconds later, you will be hitting the brakes for a panic stop. So, during those few milliseconds, the computer can move the brake pads into position against the rotors to allow quicker brake activation.

To handle the slalom, the Maybach has another computer-controlled system -- the car has air shocks that can auto-level the vehicle during acceleration, cornering and braking. The shocks also have adjustable internal dampers to control the stiffness of the suspension.

The performance equation for the Maybach is simple: The engineers have brought every possible piece of technology into this car to make it behave like a sports car.

*We're comparing the Maybach with the 2003 50th Anniversary Corvette, using spec sheets for the two cars from Road & Track magazine.