For the past few decades, Mercedes has been equipping their top-end cars with a complex and sophisticated air suspension system called AIRMATIC. Many potential Mercedes customers fear that the AIRMATIC system might start causing issues and thus cost thousands of dollars to fix.
In reality, this is hardly ever the case as these systems are not as unreliable nor as expensive to fix as most people believe. Indeed, older Mercedes AIRMATIC systems were far from perfect and you should expect a 20-year old car to have issues that originate from component wear and tear, it’s the reality of engineering.
The AIRMATIC system replaced conventional coil springs back in the year 2000 with the W220 S-Class and ever since then, Mercedes has been improving the system with each newer iteration. The fact of the matter is that AIRMATIC is both complex and incredibly useful.
It is not the most reliable system on the planet, but it also is not the most unreliable. If you take proper care of it and you don’t drive your car like a lunatic, the system should be able to serve you for a long time. There are loads of information about this system everywhere, and newer Mercedes cars indeed offer better iterations of this system.
Mercedes AIRMATIC features and benefits – Reasons to opt for AIRMATIC
A true luxury car is not all that luxurious nor comfortable without a sophisticated air suspension system, and that’s a fact. However, there are many more benefits to a thorough air suspension system besides just comfort, it also enables you to auto-level the ride height of your car depending on how many passengers are in the car.
This ensures that the car always has a perfect ride height which increases efficiency and makes the car more stable. The car is able to adapt to specific driving environments such as highway driving by lowering itself to ensure a more comfortable, more efficient, and quieter driving experience.
With AIRMATIC, you can raise the suspension with a press of a button which means that you will easily be able to clear low curbs and other road obstacles such as steep on-ramps. AIRMATIC is also found on performance-oriented AMG models because it enables you to adjust the stiffness of the suspension which improves handling.
One of the most impressive features the system offers is auto-damping which keeps your car from leaning while accelerating, decelerating, or during hard cornering.
Mercedes AIRMATIC drawbacks – Why you should not opt for AIRMATIC
Even though the AIRMATIC system is incredibly useful and it completely changes how a Mercedes behaves, it is not perfect. Common issues associated with the AIRMATIC system include air compressor issues, relay issues, air leaks, or air strut failures.
Most of these can easily be noticed beforehand if your car leans to one side or the other or it loses ride height no matter the driving mode. If this does happen, your car is going to become a lot less efficient and a lot less controllable.
The AIRMATIC system costs as much as $5000 to replace completely, even though this is rarely ever the case. The national average costs associated with fixing the AIRMATIC are not as bad as everyone thinks at $800 including both labor and parts.
The system does cost a few grand from the factory, but it does help your resale value quite a bit.
Mercedes cars that benefit from AIRMATIC the most
There are three types of Mercedes cars in regards to the AIRMATIC air suspension system. Some Mercedes models are not even available with the AIRMATIC system at all, or because some markets around the world don’t get it.
Some Mercedes models also don’t come with the AIRMATIC system from the factory but you are able to get it if you are willing to pay for it. Finally, the very high-end Mercedes cars come with AIRMATIC from the factory.
It makes no sense to drive a Mercedes Benz S-Class or a Mercedes Benz GLS without it. The same story goes for performance-oriented models like the GT 63 AMG. Some cars are not nearly as comfortable without the AIRMATIC system and thus should never be had without one.
With that being said, a Mercedes A-Class or B-Class are not often equipped with AIRMATIC because they are not able to compete with the likes of the S-Class, the GLS, or the AMG GT.
How long does a Mercedes AIRMATIC system last?
It depends on the car in question, the way you drive it, and how well maintained it is. However, you should be able to enjoy the AIRMATIC system without any issues for at least 100k miles. There are many instances where these systems can last a lot more than that.
In order to maximize the lifespan of the AIRMATIC system, be sure to always maintain the car whenever necessary and always opt for original parts whenever you need to replace something. Also, be sure to take the car to a licensed Mercedes workshop, otherwise, you are likely going to face issues a lot sooner.
Are air suspension systems worth it?
Mercedes is not the only brand that offers air suspension from the factory because almost every premium brand offers some form of air suspension. These systems often cost a few thousand dollars from the factory so many people are undecided if they are willing to spend that kind of money if the car in question is already comfortable enough.
That’s the bottom of it, if you deem a car comfortable enough without the air suspension, then the air suspension is likely not worth it. However, no car out there will be as comfortable nor sophisticated without a quality-made air suspension system.
Can I retrofit my car with an air suspension system?
There are many companies out there that offer air suspension upgrades to cars that don’t come with air suspension. These can sometimes be worth it, but most of the time these systems will destroy your car’s resale value and maybe even make it a lot less reliable.
Mercedes cars that don’t come with air suspension are not eligible for AIRMATIC retrofits, so don’t believe anyone that tells you otherwise. This is because the AIRMATIC system works in tandem with many other crucial car components which are all designed with air suspension in mind.