W205 Airmatic vs Standard Suspension

Roger Bill

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Feb 27, 2014
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W205 C200 Petrol
Hi, Just wondered if anyone has had the opportunity to test drive both Airmatic and standard steel suspension? Also does anyone know of a UK dealer with an Airmatic demonstrator car?

I know the specification of the C Class Sport I'd like to order except for the suspension. Because I occasionally get back problems the choice of suspension to smooth our UK roads with all their potholes and speed bumps is critical for me.

The local Merc dealer's demonstrators all have standard suspension and they don't expect to get one with Airmatic until next year. This is surprising given that the car magazines have tested more W205 with Airmatic.

Most UK car journalists seem to prefer the standard steel suspension but the salesman at the local Merc dealer simply said that if I like the standard suspension, Airmatic will just be "better"! Because of the confused advice in the magazines and as ride/handling quality is a matter of personal preference it's a choice I'm reluctant to make until I've test driven both options. I can defer getting a new car until next May which I guess with current delivery lead times will just about be OK if I can get test drives in early January.
 

k187

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Bristol have a fully loaded c250 with airmatic. I wanted to buy it but they can't sell it for another month and a half :p
 

blue gnome123

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Reading some of the reports of the airmatic W205. Most of the journalists complaints have been that the airmatic models felt a little floaty - which reading between the lines sounds like they aren't passing on the bumps when driven hard by the journalists............. which seems to be the point of airmatic!
 

cb1965

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Reading some of the reports of the airmatic W205. Most of the journalists complaints have been that the airmatic models felt a little floaty - which reading between the lines sounds like they aren't passing on the bumps when driven hard by the journalists............. which seems to be the point of airmatic!
Agreed, journos invariably like to hoon around a bit no matter what the car so they will prefer the slightly tauter and sportier feel of the standard suspension, but if you want those bumps ironed out I reckon airmatic is the way to go.
 

raj.das

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Aug 1, 2014
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BMW 525d M Sport F10
I too couldn't test out one with Air Suspension but the standard set up was a lot more harsh than my current BMW 525d and I figured that the Air Suspension has got to be better in terms of comfort anyway...

...let's hope so!!
 
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Roger Bill

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Feb 27, 2014
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W205 C200 Petrol
Hi all,

Many thanks for all the very useful input. I've now had a short test drive in a C200 Sport on standard steel suspension and 17" wheels. Unfortunately I wasn't able to try it on a familiar road but I was slightly disappointed with the ride quality. The salesman confirmed they wouldn't be getting any Airmatic equipped cars until the new year so, because ride quality is a critical part of my decision, I've decided to wait until I can test drive a C Class Sport with Airmatic. Unfortunately the car at Bristol is an AMG Line with 18" wheels and presumably the AMG Line Airmatic setup is firmer than that on the Sport?

I was also a little disappointed with occasional jerks from the automatic gearbox. My brother's W204 C250 doesn't suffer from this problem so I was wondering if the 7 speed automatic gearbox is smoother in combination with the diesel than the petrol engines?

Some other factors which have made me decide to wait before placing an order: the presence of an electrical fault on the test drive car which the salesman glibly said they hadn't been able to trace, a chaotic computer quotation system which required longer to enter my details than the test drive, uncertainties regarding the availability of various options and delivery dates. These are all minor points but because I've no urgent need to change my car I feel I'd rather wait until the new model and transfer of production to South Africa has had a few months to settle down.
 

k187

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I think there's only normal suspension and sports suspension, and then airmatic. The amg line is just the trim and styling.

I agree with you though, if there's no urgency try a car that's the spec you actually want or very close to it when it's available and then make your decision.

Fault wise I've heard of a few issues but nothing serious as yet. The worst was someone who had a tracker fitted and his whole command console shut off. Tracker company said it was nothing to do with the tracker as it wasn't fitted anywhere near that region, and it was later traced to a loose cable that was always there.

Options and availability wise the 360 camera still isn't available, and all cars are delayed by 1/2 months due to the factory change. If I didn't need a new car ASAP I would also wait.

Going to pick up my loaner c class coupe today though as my car slipped from 18th august to 18th September.
 

grober

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AIRMATIC no question. Why the shortage? Because everybody is speccing their cars with it perhaps? :rolleyes: I blame the Chinese.;)
 

Soot1e55

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The "Sport" has steel Comfort Suspension as fitted to the "SE" but lowered by 15mm. The steel suspension on the "AMG Line" is Sports so will be firmer than the Comfort.

Airmatic system will be exactly the same on both "Sport" and "AMG Lines".

My Airmatic C250 AMG is sitting in the dealers compound (having arrived yesterday) awaiting 1 Sep collection so I cannot comment on the ride as yet!
 

ManiacGT

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BMW e89 35i Z4 - MB S205 C200
A bit of a thread resurrection this but how are you getting on with the AirMatic equipped car? I've a C Class estate on order with AirMatic and I'm trying to decide between 18" and 19" wheels at the moment. I'm reading from some that AirMatic actually makes the hit from potholes even worse than standard springs but that at all other times its better. I drive quite poor roads on my commute and I'll remove AirMatic if its going to make things worse rather than better.
 
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Roger Bill

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W205 C200 Petrol
A bit of a thread resurrection this but how are you getting on with the AirMatic equipped car? I've a C Class estate on order with AirMatic and I'm trying to decide between 18" and 19" wheels at the moment. I'm reading from some that AirMatic actually makes the hit from potholes even worse than standard springs but that at all other times its better. I drive quite poor roads on my commute and I'll remove AirMatic if its going to make things worse rather than better.
I eventually got to test drive a C Class with Airmatic; impressive comfort and handling and so have ordered a C200 Petrol Sport (expected delivery May/June). Although I'm not a fast driver I thought the standard steel suspension wallowed a little too much whereas it stays remarkably flat through bends with Airmatic which, I thought, had much better bump absorption. My only criticism was at certain speeds on gently undulating roads there was an odd pitching motion but this could be dialled out by switching from comfort to the sport setting. Apparently the ride height is automatically lowered when the speed exceeds a given setting to improve stability and fuel consumption. I'm hoping Airmatic won't cause problems especially as this car is a significant investment for me and I hope to keep it for 6+ years as I now only do about 10,000 miles pa.

As regards wheel size I'm sure the lower profile 19" tyres will have a noticeable effect on ride comfort. This web site TRC Calculator includes a useful "comfort value" calculator given an input of tyre sizes. For the W205 the numbers are 8.1 for the 16" wheels, 6.4 for 17", 4.7/4.2 for 18" and 2.9/2.8 for 19" wheels. These "comfort values" range from 0 (very bad) up to 10 (very good). The value depends on the height of the tyre shoulder and is based on trials with different tyres. No account is taken of the fact that the W205 18" and 19" are fitted with run-flats tyres whereas the 16" and 17" tyres are standard tyres which generally have more supple side walls. However, ride/comfort is a highly personal choice so only you can decide whether a particular tyre size is OK for you. Unfortunately I doubt you'll be able to find two Airmatic demonstrators to test with 18" and 19" wheels.

Another complication is that the AMG Line steel suspension is a firmer setup than that on the Sport but I've heard conflicting reports as to whether the Airmatic AMG Line and Sport setups have a similar difference.
 
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Roger Bill

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PS When choosing between 18" and 19" wheels another factor which you may want to consider is the impact of tyre size on C02 emissions. The W205 price list on the Mercedes UK website contains all the details.
 

ManiacGT

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Well I've decided to go down the 19" route, as usual, for the look. While I did test two slightly different cars (saloon with 19" and estate with 18") most real life reports I've heard suggest there's not much difference between the two sizes, esp when you factor in run flats. In other words, they'll both be fairly firm, hence why I went with AirMatic which I'm told by the dealer is same over Sport or AMG Line and you effectively get normal tyred comfort in AirMatic Comfort mode then firm then ridiculously never use it firm.

End of March the estate should be here... so then we'll see. If I've gone wrong, I can experiment with non run flats or smaller wheels down the road but at least I've got the nicer looking (IMHO) wheels in the first place.
 
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Roger Bill

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Well I've decided to go down the 19" route, as usual, for the look. While I did test two slightly different cars (saloon with 19" and estate with 18") most real life reports I've heard suggest there's not much difference between the two sizes, esp when you factor in run flats. In other words, they'll both be fairly firm, hence why I went with AirMatic which I'm told by the dealer is same over Sport or AMG Line and you effectively get normal tyred comfort in AirMatic Comfort mode then firm then ridiculously never use it firm.

End of March the estate should be here... so then we'll see. If I've gone wrong, I can experiment with non run flats or smaller wheels down the road but at least I've got the nicer looking (IMHO) wheels in the first place.
If you don't mind a firm ride I think you'll be fine with 19"/Airmatic combination. If not, as you say, you could always experiment with alternative tyres or smaller wheels.

I'm reading from some that AirMatic actually makes the hit from potholes even worse than standard springs but that at all other times its better. I drive quite poor roads on my commute and I'll remove AirMatic if its going to make things worse rather than better.
Based on a test drive on some rough roads near my home I thought Airmatic coped better with potholes and speed bumps than the steel suspension W205 I had driven and better than my 2009 Lexus IS250. I'll be very interested to hear how you find your car in terms of ride comfort, quality, etc as I've got to wait until May/June before I get mine.
 

ManiacGT

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I seem to get conflicting feedback from people on this with some saying its comfortable on 19's and others saying its firm/harsh. Its either subjective, or guesswork. In any event the order is in now so I'll be able to give feedback soon. I can't see theres really a huge difference between 19" and 18". Perhaps 17" and 19" you could tell.
 

whitenemesis

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Any feedback on a qualitative property will always be subjective.
 

parkwood

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We too have ordered airmatic on an estate with 17 inch wheels. My husband is very sensitive to low vibration noise which to him sounds like thumping and has an almost physical effect in leaving him feeling as if he has been physically hit over the head when travelling over certain surfaces. He absolutely hated our eclass avantgarde declaring it the worst car ever for giving rise to a lot of low vibration on poor surfaces, not potholed roads but those with lots of small undulations typically found on rural roads here in france where they reguarly simply lay a new 2inch layer of tarmac over existing.
We changed to the glk which he finds better but still not fully acceptable. he appreciates all other aspects of mercedes cars and found audis had similar issues coupled with other irritating noises. He has spent ages in the last couple of years researching what may be causing his complaints and appreciates his sensitivities are so out of the norm a manufacturer will not address them specifically. When the c class was announced with air suspension he was immediately interested, citroen had previously been an alternative choice because of the suspension technology but sadly after 10+ years of german cars though their build quality hitreliability has not and in the showroom it did not meet expectatands. I was very unhappy at the thought of buying one!
We first tested the c sportline estate on 18 inch wheels and he was immediately impressed! It is probably more to do with the stiffness of the body with the new aluminium architecture than totally the suspension. We then tried a luxury saloon with airmatic and the difference was not marked but it did seem for want of a better description more luxurious For which i think you can read soft but it was not wallowy. Sport+ on the short test run was fun.
The glk has surprising handling for an suv it is far more fun to drive than the w211 e class estate but the new c is even better. We have had the sportline on an extended drive and finally my husband feels he has a mercedes which he can travel in comfortably on rural roads. To say I am surprised he liked a lowered sports suspension would be an understatement. We have ordered the airmatic of course not least because we do need the ability to raise the ride height from time to time.
I have loved all my mercedes and found the e class very precticable and comfortable, the glk more fun to drive and I hope when we get the new c class a car that at last we can both enjoy all the time!
 

ItalianTuneUp

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Airmatic is great.
 

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