The Mercedes AIRMATIC air suspension system was introduced with the W220 S-Class, and since then, many newer Mercedes sedans and SUVs are offered with this suspension set—up.
In general, car suspension consists out of a steel coil spring, but the AIRMATIC system uses air to provide either a pillowy ride or a capable corner cruncher, at just a push of a button.
This set-up consists out of adapting damping which also further increases the dynamic capabilities of the car, and it also offers a more compliant performance driving set-up. The benefits of such a sophisticated system are rather plentiful, and that’s why the AIRMATIC system sits at the top of the car suspension food chain.
The AIRMATIC system was introduced to offer a variable suspension set-up that is able to adjust to specific road quality and driving style. The list of benefits of such a system over a more traditional coil suspension set-up is fairly lengthy and definitely worth considering,
The AIRMATIC system offers automatic auto-leveling functionality, this means that the car will actively compensate for the additional weight of the cargo and the passengers in an effort of providing perfect handling dynamics, and also improve fuel efficiency.
The system is also able to adjust its height automatically in specific scenarios such as highway driving, the car will hunker down, and this will improve the aerodynamic properties of the car, which will further increase the fuel efficiency
This system also offers axle lifting for hassle-free clearance, specific selectable driving modes and profiles depending on your style, and adaptive damping. Adaptive damping enables the car to stay as flat as possible under intense braking or acceleration which drastically improves the handling and overall comfort.
AIRMATIC Mercedes sedans
The smallest Mercedes sedan is the C-Class, and the C-Class can also be optioned with the AIRMATIC system. Without the AIRMATIC system, the C-Class offers decent performance, but if you want a true Mercedes-Benz experience in the smaller C-Class, an AIRMATIC suspension is a must.
The newest mid-size Mercedes E-Class comes with the AIRMATIC suspension as standard, and the system also offers the same functionality as seen in other Mercedes sedans. The E-Class has grown in size and weight quite considerably over the last few years, and the AIRMATIC system certainly does help with offering a plush ride quality.
The AIRMATIC system was first introduced for the S-Class, and the newest S-Class offers the most advanced AIRMATIC system yet. The system is capable of additional auto-leveling features, and it also incorporates additional comfort and even safety features in an event of a side impact.
All Mercedes sedans are expected to offer AIRMATIC as standard in a few years, as Mercedes keeps on developing the system. As of lately, the AIRMATIC system has certainly become one of the definitive aspects of a true Mercedes-Benz experience.
AIRMATIC Mercedes SUVs
All larger Mercedes SUVs are equipped with the AIRMATIC suspension, the GLA and the GLB compact SUVs are still not yet being offered with the AIRMATIC suspension setup.
The GLC somewhat follows the same principle as the C-Class does, but only in SUV form. That means that the AIRMATIC system does not come equipped as standard, but you are able to option in out in various different packages depending on the time and market.
The GLE however does come with the AIRMATIC system as standard, and if combined with the E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL, the suspension in the GLE is the most advanced SUV suspension setup in Mercedes history.
The same goes with the GLS as well, as these systems are also capable of fairly advanced off-road capabilities. GLS’s and GLE’s equipped with the optional E-ACTIVE BODY CONTROL are literally able to jump and dance, true story.
How much does the AIRMATIC system cost to buy or fix/replace?
The initial cost of the AIRMATIC suspension is somewhere between $1k-4k. This all depends on many factors such as the need to option out an entire package to get the AIRMATIC system, and the costs and packages do differ in different markets.
The AIRMATIC system costs an average of $700-800 to fix, but this can also vary greatly from one car to the other. The system is not designed to last a lifetime though, an expected lifespan of the system is around 10-15 years, after that the system will not be as capable as it once was, and the replacement prices all over the place.
Is the AIRMATIC system reliable?
This question is rather tricky, as it is fairly difficult to actually answer this question with a simple yes or no. The system is fairly complex, and it is no secret that the AIRMATIC system is not rated as bulletproof, nor indestructible.
The early versions of the AIRMATIC system have a bunch of problems, and they definitely were not reliable. The modern system is expected to offer everything one would hope for if you take care of all the necessary maintenance and occasional check-ups.
The front suspension is a little bit less reliable as it does carry more weight than the one in the back. Furthermore, the way the car is treated throughout the years can take a heavy toll on the suspension system, so if you are buying second hand, a thorough check-up is always advised.
What are the common issues with AIRMATIC suspension?
Many of the components that make up the AIRMATIC suspension have an expected life-span. So, the air strut assembly is expected to last about 105000 miles, after you tick these miles, you should carefully listen for a hissing sound that would indicate an air bladder failure taking place.
The air springs themselves are also rated for about 115000, and the air springs are usually the problem one mostly experiences with the AIRMATIC system. It’s fairly common to experience leakage, so if one side is higher than the other, it’s probably the air springs going bananas.
Other systems that are known to fail are the dampers themselves, which result in pitching and fairly noticeable degradation of ride quality. Ride height sensors are also known to fail, so do the valve blocks and even the compressor itself after 125000-ish miles.