The Mercedes W220 is the flagship Mercedes four-door sedan made between 1999 and 2006. It is the fourth generation of the S-Class and is widely considered the worst S-Class yet. The reason why most people deem the W220 to be the worst is that it came in an era in which Mercedes stopped making overengineered cars to save money.
The W220 is also one of the least reliable Mercedes sedans in general because it suffers from a variety of issues that can ruin the entire ownership experience. The most common Mercedes W220 issues are associated with rust, the air suspension system, the electricals, the steering system, and finally the engine.
Many of these are severe and typically happen on all W220 models which means that you likely going to encounter all of these if you do go for a W220. Sure, preventive maintenance is going to play a major role in suppressing most of the car’s issues, but the W220 simply isn’t as well built as an S-Class usually is.
Either way, be sure to perform a thorough pre-purchase inspection if you are after a W220. Go over all of the issues mentioned above in great detail as some of these can cost a few thousand dollars to fix. The W220 is a difficult car to own and is called the worst S-Class of all time for a reason.
Mercedes W220 rust issues
The W220 is sadly also prone to severe rust, especially the pre-facelift model. Rust tends to accumulate underneath the car, in the inner wheel wells, around the headlights, under the bumpers, and even on some suspension components. Fixing rust is a difficult thing to do, and that is why you should try and find a W220 with no rust at all.
The turret is also known to accumulate rust over time which means that replacement parts are the likely fix for severe corrosion. If corrosion is not dealt with in due time, it can ruin the car’s resale value, so much so that the W220 then costs less than a year’s worth of maintenance costs.
Mercedes W220 air suspension system
The W220 Mercedes is a certified lowrider, not because the suspension is designed with lowrider mode in mind, yet rather because the car tends to sink due to air suspension issues. There are numerous W220 models around the world virtually kissing the floor because the air suspension system is as bad as they come.
The most common suspension-related issues are faulty air struts, air leaks, and a malfunctioning air pump. These can cost quite a bit of money to replace, but some specialists say that they can repair them for only a fraction of the cost. Either way, if you come across a W220 that is sagging, chances are the air suspension system is toast.
Mercedes W220 electrical issues
Rust issues, air suspension issues, and electrical issues are part of the Mercedes W220 doomsday triad. This means that these three types of issues are so bad that they typically ruin the entire ownership experience. Electrical issues are numerous, starting with bad headlights, bad soft-close doors, faulty switches, ABC pump issues, and a draining battery.
It does not stop there because the W220 also suffers from faulty power windows, a faulty power sunroof, a faulty crank position sensor, cluster light issues, radio issues, and a whole lot more. You should get yourself an OBD reader and always keep it inside the car because you will need it with a W220.
Mercedes W220 steering system issues
The Mercedes W220 is known to suffer from an issue called “torque steer”. It happens when you accelerate and the car and the car steers without you actually want it to. The issue here is mostly down to the suspension and the wheel alignment which often tends to go out of whack for various reasons.
The rear wheels don’t face the optimal direction under acceleration which causes the entire car to steer. This is obviously a huge issue, so be sure to fix it whenever it happens.
Mercedes W220 engine issues
To round up the list of W220 gremlins, we also need to talk about the engines. The reality is that the W220 engines are nowhere near as unreliable as some other components are, but the OM 628 engine is known for timing issues, the M137 engine leaks oil while both the M137 and the M275 cost a lot of money to maintain.
All in all, the engines in the W220 are not perfect, but they are a cut above the suspension, the electricals, and the dreaded water-based paint that seems to rust like the car is a sunken ship.
Is the Mercedes W220 really that bad?
Yes, it is. The reasons why that is are plentiful. For starters, the W220 is an S-Class which means that it represents the very top echelon of the Mercedes Benz catalog. Therefore, the car should set an example for other cheaper Mercedes models to follow. The W220 is unreliable, it lacks quality, and it looks weird.
All in all, the W220 does deserve all of the bad reputation because it truly is worse than all other Mercedes Benz S-Class models. That is not to say that buying one is a strict no-go, but you should be aware of what you are getting yourself into.
Should I buy a Mercedes W220?
If you like the way the W220 looks and you set aside a considerable amount of money for maintenance costs, the W220 could be a decent purchase at best. The car does deserve its bad reputation but if you know how to buy a car and take care of it, the W220 could serve you as every other car out there.
Don’t act surprised if you get stuck with a huge repair bill and don’t go gentle into that good night because the W220 is a problem waiting to happen.
What is the best W220 model to buy?
No matter the engine you want, always go for the post-facelift W220 models because they are way better than the pre-facelift models. They don’t use water-based paint which means that they are far more reliable.
The S430 is considered a more dependable model while the S500 is not too different. The S55 and the S600 are extremely expensive to run and maintain.