Crossover & Midsize

Is the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 an ‘Affordable’ Rolls-Royce Cullinan Alternative?

If you want Corvette-beating performance for your Mercedes-Benz GLS, you turn to AMG. But if your interests lie in high-end comfortable luxury, there’s the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600. However, these days big-budget buyers are spoiled for choice when it comes to luxury SUVs, including ones that cost more than the Maybach GLS. And the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is arguably at the top of that list. So, is the GLS 600 a true Cullinan rival? YouTube team Throttle House decided to investigate.

What do you get in a $187,500 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 and a $440,000 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan?

A dark-green 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 in the desert next to some mountains
2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 | Mercedes-Benz

It’s strange to think of the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 as the budget option, considering it’s the most expensive American-made factory SUV. The GLS 600 starts at $160,500. And the example in the Throttle House is optioned to the equivalent of $187,500. However, even though it’s used, the 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan in the video is significantly more expensive.

A ‘standard’ 2021 Rolls-Royce Cullinan starts at about $340K, Car and Driver reports. And brand-new, the Black Badge trim costs around $500,000. As it stands, the used Cullinan Black Badge Throttle House tested is currently listed for the equivalent of $440,000. In essence, you could buy two new Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600s for the price of this one Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

A black 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge in a parking lot
2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge | Lecos Auto

The price difference isn’t the only disparity between these luxury SUVs. The 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 has a detuned version of the GLS 63’s powertrain, MotorTrend reports. Specifically, a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged mild-hybrid V8 rated at 550 hp and 538 lb-ft linked to a nine-speed automatic. Together with AWD, it’s enough to get the SUV from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds, Car and Driver reports.

The 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan also has AWD and a turbocharged engine. However, rather than a V8, it has an uprated version of the standard model’s 6.75-liter twin-turbocharged V12. In the Black Badge, the engine makes 592 hp and 664 lb-ft, Car and Driver reports. That’s enough to let the three-ton Cullinan go 0-60 mph in under five seconds, MT reports. And the eight-speed automatic shifts via GPS to ensure it’s always in the right gear, Autoblog explains.

But more than sheer speed, these SUVs are about luxury features and comforts. So, how does the GLS 600 stack up?

2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 vs. 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan: does half the price mean half the luxury?

On paper, the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 and 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge have similar features.

Both SUVs offer things like leather upholstery, adjustable air suspension, heated and ventilated massaging seats, and built-in champagne coolers, Roadshow reports. The two SUVs also have unfolding tables and off-road driving modes, Roadshow notes. And it’s worth pointing out that, despite their images, both the Cullinan and the GLS can genuinely venture off-pavement.

Plus, even on bumpy paved roads, both of these SUVs are supremely comfortable. On the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600’s side, that’s due to a combination of air springs and ‘E-Active Body Control.’ This system uses cameras to read the road ahead and prepare the GLS’s suspension for oncoming imperfections, Autoblog explains.

And while the Rolls-Royce Cullinan lacks the Ghost’s ‘dampers for the dampers,’ to quote Throttle House, “it’s probably the most boss feeling of any vehicle.” It may not have the GLS’s active body control, but it does have excellent air springs that “steamroll over…bumps and dings,” Automobile reports. And unlike the Maybach, it has four-wheel steering and sound-deadened tires, MT reports.

The blue-leather rear seats and Starliner headliner in a black 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge
2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge rear interior | Lecos Auto

RELATED: Is There Such a Thing as a Cheap Rolls-Royce?

It’s in the details where the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 and the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge show their differences. Both have ambient lighting, but only the Cullinan has the LED-lit ‘Starliner’ headliner. It’s also even more customizable than the Maybach. And while both SUVs have hood ornaments, the Cullinan’s ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ retracts to prevent thefts. Plus, the Rolls-Royce’s V12 is even smoother than the GLS 600’s V8. And, crucially, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan has a smoother and quieter ride as well as a less creaky interior.

However, while the Cullinan has adaptive cruise control, it’s lacking in ADAS features compared to the GLS. And the Rolls-Royce doesn’t have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Also, the GLS 600 corners slightly better than the Cullinan. And while it’s not quite as isolationist as the Rolls-Royce, the Maybach has “75-80% of the isolation and ride of a Rolls for half the price,” Throttle House says. Plus, its rear seats are more comfortable and adjustable and have more standard features.

Are these 1% chariots worth their six-figure price tags?

In Throttle House’s words, the 2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 and 2020 Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge are “the two most baller” vehicles. And considering how much they cost, choosing between them is like picking between two favorite vacation spots.

RELATED: Wildly Expensive 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class Is Somehow Worth It

But the question we started with was whether or not the Maybach was a true ‘bargain’ rival to the Cullinan. And the answer is yes—sort of. Per Throttle House, unless you’re ferrying around passengers, you can get most of the way to the Maybach with a well-optioned GLE. The Cullinan may have fewer tech features, but it makes up for it in subjective ways like material and ride quality. That being said, if you need second-row seats, the GLS 600’s seats are a step beyond even the Cullinan’s standard ones.

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