A Mercedes S-Class always was one of the top luxury sedans out there, in fact sometimes better than the more prestigious Rolls Royces and Bentleys. But when rival BMW bought Rolls Royce (and Volkswagen Bentley), Mercedes felt they had to keep up by reviving the Maybach brand – and failed miserably. Not that the Maybach 62 or “smaller” 57 were not luxurious enough, but they remained too Mercedes, and were seen as an S-Class blown out of proportions. It took Mercedes to recover from that before reviving the Maybach name again as a luxury trim-line, first cautiously, then more self-confidently with the facelift of the previous X222 and now ostentatiously with this top-of-the-range Mercedes Maybach S680 (Z223).
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This is probably reflected best in its bi-colour versions, this Kalahari Gold/Rubellite Red being one of the most beautiful options IMO. And it has been made in scale too, by Norev in a dealer edition about a year ago and now by Almost Real, so that a comparison seems inevitable. Such a comparison may seem unfair, but with both replicating the exact same vehicle spec and Norev/Mercedes asking a rather unusually steep 160€ while the Almost Real comes at an RRP of 218 $, it begs the question of how much Norev is able to close the gap quality-wise.
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An instant difference is in the paint: The Almost Real has a more glowing red and richer gold, while the Norev´s red is almost brown and the gold literally pales next to the Almost Real. The metallic effect is much finer on the Almost Real too. Kudos to both manufacturers, though, for correctly having the golden paint inside the door frames for the lower red sections, as in reality the entire car is first painted gold before being painted over in red on the lower outside. The radiator grilles are both nicely chromed and perforated, but the MAYBACH script is chiselled more sharply into the Almost Real than the Norev. The plates masking the radar systems inset into the grille are more defined on the Almost Real too, with the Norev having one shiny plate with the chrome stripes just printed on while the Almost Real has an upper plate with three-dimensional chrome strips and a recessed lower plate. The chromed giant lower spoiler air-intakes are both perforated, but the Almost Real’s are yet again finer and replicate the parking sensors. On the black, white and silver Almost Real’s the mesh is black, which is an option for the V12 S680 where chromed mesh is the standard, while black mesh usually is the S580 V8 standard. The projectors in the headlamps are far more detailed on the Almost Real too, depicting the optional digital while the Norev does the standard version.
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On the hood, the chrome strip is merely printed onto the elevated spine on the Norev while the Almost Real features a separate strip set into a gap in the elevation, just like the Mercedes Star hood ornament is just photoetched flat metal while the Almost Real is chromed and rounded. Opening the hood, it opens on dog legs on the Norev, while the Almost Real features far more refined hinges and dampers that keep the hood wider ajar. The engine itself is so much nicer and more detailed on the Almost Real again, with OEM stickers completely absent from the Norev and a shallow engine bay made from a single plate, while the Almost Real has OEM stickers, scripts on the oil-lid, perforated mesh, a blue washer-fluid lid, and (slightly bleeding) gold colour to give the illusion of wheel arches, etc. – clearly, many more separate pieces, nowhere more obvious than on the air ducts, to create more depth on a modern engine that will originally remain cleanly uncluttered. Only the balloony coolant container seems incorrectly white in this effort to create depth (when compared to online pictures). But the Norev seems to wrongly have silvered the V12 script and engine cover.
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Both models have the dish-shaped 20” forged wheels, but the Norev´s are flat silver and don´t mirror, while the Almost Real’s are mirror-shiny and have MAYBACH scripts and can do the Maybach´s famous party-trick of steering its hind wheels. Neither of the two has tire branding, which to be honest seems strangely inconsistent with Almost Real’s latest efforts: The Jaguar XJ6 and Zonda Cinque don´t have branding, and the Daimler XJ40 does, this again doesn´t. A more serious difference is in the wheels´ diameter: The Norev´s wheels are 40mm, while the Almost Real’s are only 38 mm. The rims are to blame, as Norev´s 31 mm rims are 2 mm more in diameter than Almost Real’s. Add to this the common issue of an increased ride height on Norev models, the difference clearly visible from the bigger gap in the wheel arches, and it results in a difference in height of 3 mm with both vehicles side by side (which would translate into more than 2 inches or 5 cm in real life!).
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In terms of badging and chrome applications, the Norev does pretty well on the flanks, including the Maybach logo on the C-pillar, but in contrast, the Almost Real is completely missing the adequate V12 badge. On the rear, both are almost the same, the MAYBACH script being similarly nice – if the Almost Real wasn´t missing the “H”. A quality issue solved by excellent after-sales parts supply is probably only to be had by Chinese dealers who have direct access to Almost Real. Otherwise, such a quality control issue can probably only be solved by using the corresponding Norev spare, which in this case wouldn´t be noticeable. The S 680 badge on the right of the boot lid would be more of a problem, as Norev has taken the real-life option to delete it. The chrome strips around the bottom rear and exhausts are a less shiny silver print on the Norev, a shiny separate part on the Almost Real, while the chrome strip wrapping the rear of the car from tail light to tail light across the boot lid is on par for each. Even the tail lights are not so different, more refined again on the Almost Real while from the photos you might even like the brighter reflection of the Norev´s better. But on the smaller reflectors of the Norev mounting pins appear and the rear bumper lacks the Almost Real’s parking sensors. Opening the boot, the Almost Real comes with two pieces of luggage and the optional fridge eating into the boot space. The Norev does not have these features, but has a fluffy carpet whereas Almost Real once again has used a different material to emulate carpet – seemingly a new strategy. Both limos have a panoramic glass roof, but only the Almost Real has tinted glass for it as on the rear window and rear passenger doors, plus the hump housing the antennas in the rear section of the roof.
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The absence or presence of the fridge option has its consequences for the rear cabin too: While the Norev displays the centre console closed, the Almost Real has it open with two of the Robbe & Berking for Maybach silver champagne flutes. If you opt for those on the Mercedes configurator, it automatically adds the fridge. The Norev´s interior is in lighter cream most closely resembling the Macchiato Beige leather option, correctly combined with same colour fabric seat belts and a same colour parcel shelf, brown dash top and a lighter shade aluminum striped veneer, while the Almost Real has a sandy shade for the seats, closest to the more exclusive MANUFAKTUR Pastel Yellow leather option and then correctly combined with black seat belts and a black parcel shelf, grey dash top. However, the German configurator would then make the roof liner, carpets and lower door trim black and would not allow for veneer with aluminum stripes all found on this Almost Real. So that is rather puzzling, but may be a Chinese market option. On the new attractive mono-coloured Patagonia Red version the MANUFAKTUR white interior seems more correct, having a black footwell and lower trim. The Norev has carpet, the Almost Real has a texture reminding of very fine sandpaper. The Norev being not bad at all inside the cabin, the Almost Real is far superior in the upholstery´s texture, replicating the finely dotted ventilation holes in the leather and two cushions in the rear that the Norev does not have. Also, Norev´s diamonds of the diamond stitching are incorrectly much smaller than the Almost Real’s. On the other hand, the Almost Real’s rear seatbelts are almost completely hidden away in a gap between the seats and C-pillar, while the Norev´s run across the edge of the seat as shown in pictures of the real car’s cabin.
With these differences and both models in the same price category for our Models of the Year Awards, Almost Real still wins this comparison hands down. A price difference of merely 60 $ or € is absolutely worth the investment here. Of course, the single-colour versions are cheaper for each manufacturer, but there is a reason why this colour option is very quickly sold out, with Almost Real’s very desirable model being limited to 504 pieces. The all-new single-colour Patagonia Red variant is limited to 504 models too and makes a very attractive alternative.