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post #31 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-05-2008, 08:09 AM
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Hi - I too am looking at the same vehicle '03 4matic with about 40K miles. Has good carfax although I have not seen specific books and records. The posts make it seem like '03+ were the ones to get for this generation. How has it been so far? I recently sold my '95 W140 S500 which was fantastic! I hesitate when I see so much plastic in the new ones. Thoughts ? I also have found a 560SEL and a 450SEL both of which look in really good shape.
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post #32 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-06-2008, 07:53 AM
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Why an '03 S-Class?

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Originally Posted by gcmazza View Post
Hi - I too am looking at the same vehicle '03 4matic with about 40K miles. Has good carfax although I have not seen specific books and records. The posts make it seem like '03+ were the ones to get for this generation. How has it been so far? I recently sold my '95 W140 S500 which was fantastic! I hesitate when I see so much plastic in the new ones. Thoughts ? I also have found a 560SEL and a 450SEL both of which look in really good shape.

Mr. Mazza, you ask excellent questions, and the answers are matters of taste and mission statement.

First, on the mission statement, if you're in a climate where the car will see ice and snow, or even lots of heavy rain, 4Matic is a tremendous plus. That rules out the earlier cars.

Second, as to taste, I also enjoy the immense solidity of the '90s S-Class (W140) cars, but not their relatively lumpy handling; they're not anywhere near as much fun to drive as the 2000+ S-Class (W220) cars.

The first few years of W220 had too much plastic and too little build quality, but by 2003 that was well sorted out. My car has just as solid a feeling as the late-90s S500s and S600s I've driven, and is just as quiet and comfortable, but is an absolute blast to drive on twisty roads.

The computers controlling throttle and transmission really do adapt to your driving style, and my car now knows very well how to scoot, and to hold each gear to redline when I floor it. It's LOTS of fun when that makes sense (particularly with the AMG staggered wheels and the right non-winter tires), then I set the air suspension to full soft and it's a peaceful long-haul cruiser for four adults of any size.

Everything always works, and my dealer is amazingly good at supporting the car.

There is one weakness I know of in the '03-ish cars compared to those from a few years later, which is the seals at the tops of the front suspension struts. The older design can leak air over time. The new replacement parts do not leak. If your car is still under warranty, these seals can be replaced with that coverage.

One minor nuisance with the '03 compared to the '04 and later is that the nav system uses a deck of CDs rather than a single DVD to cover the US and Canada. On long trips, I need now and then to change discs. This has not turned out to be a major nuisance. MBUSA continues to make updated CDs available for this generation of nav systems.

The phone system adapts cleanly to modern Bluetooth phones by replacing the Moto V60 phone that came with the cars with a "puck" sold by M-B and third parties that speaks Bluetooth to your phone and looks like a phone to the COMAND system. Result is smooth integration of all features and high quality handsfree operation.

I could go on and on, but I think you can see that I heartily endorse the '03 S500 4Matic!

Last edited by Kong9999; 04-06-2008 at 07:57 AM. Reason: spelling
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post #33 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-06-2008, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Kong9999 View Post
............

I could go on and on, but I think you can see that I heartily endorse the '03 S500 4Matic!
I'm curious about your tire and wheel setup... I've always heard that we cannot put a staggered setup on a 4-matic. What size tires and wheels do you have and what brand and model tires do you run? Have you experienced any problems w/ them on your 4-matic?
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post #34 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-06-2008, 09:29 AM
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Yes, you can use staggered wheels on 4Matic IF you match revs per mile

If you're going to use different sizes of tire front and rear on any AWD car, and this includes 4Matic, it is absolutely necessary that all four tires make the same number of revs per mile.

This number can be found, for example, in Tire Rack's "Spec" section for each model of tire. Different tire models of the same nominal size can have different revs per mile, so you must shop carefully.

My car came with 225/55-17 Conti CH95 tires, which make 769 revs per mile. For the winter, I replaced these tires on the OE rims with Nokian Hakkapeliitta RSi tires in that same size and got excellent results. For the rest of the year, I got a set of AMG wheels and now run Bridgestone RE960AS Pole Positions (chosen with lots of help from Luke at Tire Rack) in size 245/45-18 on the front (780 revs per mile) and 275/40-18 on the rear (780 revs per mile, a perfect match).

Apart from getting a delightful combination of stick, crisp steering response, quiet, and smooth ride, along with a nicely hungus appearance, I have no problems with the 4Matic. The Bridgestones replaced the Dunlop SP Sport 9000 tires in the same sizes (and speced at 780 and 779 revs per mile f and r) that came on my wheels when I bought them. The Dunlops were hard and noisy, but also caused no problem with the 4Matic.

I got to these tire sizes over the inital objection of the tire makers and M-B, who put 265/40-18s on the rears in the sport package for the S500. That size can run smaller in rolling radius than the 275/40-18, but matches up well with the 245/40-18 in the summer-only "max performance" tires such as the Bridgestone RE050.
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post #35 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-06-2008, 11:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kong9999 View Post
If you're going to use different sizes of tire front and rear on any AWD car, and this includes 4Matic, it is absolutely necessary that all four tires make the same number of revs per mile.

This number can be found, for example, in Tire Rack's "Spec" section for each model of tire. Different tire models of the same nominal size can have different revs per mile, so you must shop carefully.

My car came with 225/55-17 Conti CH95 tires, which make 769 revs per mile. For the winter, I replaced these tires on the OE rims with Nokian Hakkapeliitta RSi tires in that same size and got excellent results. For the rest of the year, I got a set of AMG wheels and now run Bridgestone RE960AS Pole Positions (chosen with lots of help from Luke at Tire Rack) in size 245/45-18 on the front (780 revs per mile) and 275/40-18 on the rear (780 revs per mile, a perfect match).

Apart from getting a delightful combination of stick, crisp steering response, quiet, and smooth ride, along with a nicely hungus appearance, I have no problems with the 4Matic. The Bridgestones replaced the Dunlop SP Sport 9000 tires in the same sizes (and speced at 780 and 779 revs per mile f and r) that came on my wheels when I bought them. The Dunlops were hard and noisy, but also caused no problem with the 4Matic.

I got to these tire sizes over the inital objection of the tire makers and M-B, who put 265/40-18s on the rears in the sport package for the S500. That size can run smaller in rolling radius than the 275/40-18, but matches up well with the 245/40-18 in the summer-only "max performance" tires such as the Bridgestone RE050.
Thanks for the info. I had a lot of help from Luke too when I got my recent wheels and tires.
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post #36 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-06-2008, 12:17 PM
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Kong9999,

You are correct about keeping the number of revolutions per mile the same, front and rear, with a 4-Matic. If one considers "staggered" wheels to be simply wheels with different widths, then the advice would hold.

However, most of the folks I have seen inquire about "staggered" wheels are also talking about different wheel diameters, which of course would have different revs per mile.

And others would place the exact same tires on wheels of different widths - which can result in different revs per mile.

Your examples carefully considered wheels with the same diameters, and tires matched to the wheel widths so that the revolutions per mile are the same - which would work fine with the 4-Matic.

Warren

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Formerly:
2010 S550
2005 S500 4-Matic
2000 S500
1978 450SL
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post #37 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-06-2008, 01:47 PM
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You're welcome. Jayhawk.

Thanks, Skylaw, for pointing out the effect of rim width on revs/mile. Tire Rack's "Spec" listings (and the detailed spec sheets downloadable from most tire manufacturer's Web sites) will show, for each size of a given model of tire, both the range of permissible rim widths and the rim width at which they measured the other numbers shown.

Putting fat tires on skinny rims (or skinny tires on wide rims, as used to be popular in certain urban cultures) is a no-no for all sorts of safety and performance reasons apart from changing revs per mile. The fat-on-skinny approach invites excessive wear of the center of the tread, as well as the bead pulling off the rim.

I think M-B usually uses "staggered" to refer to different rim widths of the same diameter, though having different rim diameters (as well as the ambulatory path of certain folks after a heavy Saturday night) might also be covered by this versatile adjective.

At least in theory, you can mix rim diameters and still, by careful choice of tires, keep the revs per mile matched. Trick is finding extremely low aspect ratio tires for the larger-diameter wheels.
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post #38 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-06-2008, 02:50 PM
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Another consideration

Apart from all the other niceties, it's important to consider tire pressure. Even though the belts of radial tires are hard to stretch, putting more air pressure into the tire will increase its rolling radius a little, thus dropping its revs per mile in the same proportion.

Note that the tire pressure placard inside the gas door does not call for the same pressures f and r, even in a 4Matic car. The principle of giving the rears a bit more pressure to make them a bit less likely to slide out and cause the car to start coming around during, for example, heavy braking, applies no matter which wheels drive the car.

I spoke with a tech rep at MBUSA who told me that they recommend exactly the same pressures f and r for the Sport Package cars (with the staggered and wide wheels and tires) as for the standard OE wheels and tires. He explained that the car weighs the same either way, and he confirmed my assumption that the wide tires' contact patches would sort themselves out until they were the same areas (though not the same shapes) as those of the OE tires.
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post #39 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-06-2008, 03:05 PM
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^^^I always assumed that the less psi the greater the traction and the more psi the less traction--not the opposite as you suggest. In fact, I believe that Luke told me to run my Goodyear Eagle F1's at 36 front and 33 rear. Is that wrong?
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post #40 of 107 (permalink) Old 04-06-2008, 03:05 PM
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Rear brakes

While we're at it, the priority of not having the rear end come around in heavy braking is so strong in the minds of car makers that they tend to reduce the capabilities of the rear brakes, usually by adjusting the proportion of brake fluid pressure (or the maximum pressure to the rears) to put more on the fronts.

The result is that the fronts will break loose first, causing the car to plow nose first into whatever you didn't stop soone enough to avoid, rather than all four tires doing as much they can, with a consequent reduction in stopping distance.

On another car, I took advantage of the availability of different front-rear proportioning valves for the brake system to get closer to this performance ideal, and the feel of braking is delightfully improved. The car feels much less like it's standing on its nose, and steering is more responsive under heavy braking because the fronts aren't doing so much of the stopping.
I did not use the most extreme alternative, which asks the rears to do more than the fronts; that is useful only in racing conditions, where you don't mind provoking a bit of oversteer as you brake for a corner.

One relatively safe way to experiment with all of this is on a bicycle with separate levers for front and rear brakes.
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