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I found a 2005 S55 AMG with about 150,000 miles that is within my budget, I've only really considered W220s with AIRMATIC and I know these have the ABC suspension. How much different is the ABC compared to AIRMATIC? How much more is the maintenance on ABC? Could ABC even be considered more reliable or should I just try to stick with AIRMATIC?
 

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You need to budget $2000-3000 in repairs with either one so if you can only afford the purchase price and no more , these aren’t the car for you . They all have needs at this age . Both airmatic and abc can fall a week or a month after you buy even if fine today
 

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Is one system more reliable than the other? I'm mostly concerned about feasibly of keeping the car since I plan on keeping it for 150K+. I'm also not as knowledgeable with the ABC as I am with the AIRMATIC so I'm not sure about how part pricing is and such.
 

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Yes. I have both types of cars (S600 TT came with ABC, my others came with AIRmatic).

ABC, I have found, is considerably higher maintenance than AIRmatic. Furthermore, AIRmatic's failure mode is pretty graceful, i. e. you get plenty of warning before the car becomes undriveable. ABC's failure modes, on the other hand, can be immediate, i. e. it goes from supporting the car straight to the ground in 5 seconds or so, and you're getting towed home.

If you like the S55 AMG's performance--and who wouldn't?--I would get it and enjoy it thoroughly. Then, once the failure happens, convert it to good coilovers + anti-sway bars from an AIRmatic car. If you drive like @Dave2302 , you'll want to push the car to its limits and so probably won't like that. :-D However, if you drive like me, i. e. you enjoy the car for the high-speed luxo-cruiser that it is, such a conversion could make sense. My S600 TT will just barely outrun the S55 AMG, and I love the reliability of my coil-overs. The car still handles pretty well, too.
 

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Yes. I have both types of cars (S600 TT came with ABC, my others came with AIRmatic).

ABC, I have found, is considerably higher maintenance than AIRmatic. Furthermore, AIRmatic's failure mode is pretty graceful, i. e. you get plenty of warning before the car becomes undriveable. ABC's failure modes, on the other hand, can be immediate, i. e. it goes from supporting the car straight to the ground in 5 seconds or so, and you're getting towed home.

If you like the S55 AMG's performance--and who wouldn't?--I would get it and enjoy it thoroughly. Then, once the failure happens, convert it to good coilovers + anti-sway bars from an AIRmatic car. If you drive like @Dave2302 , you'll want to push the car to its limits and so probably won't like that. :-D However, if you drive like me, i. e. you enjoy the car for the high-speed luxo-cruiser that it is, such a conversion could make sense. My S600 TT will just barely outrun the S55 AMG, and I love the reliability of my coil-overs. The car still handles pretty well, too.
How is the comfort with the coilovers? I'm the type of person that wants comfort and performance, hence why I want an S55 instead of just a sports car. I do plan on keeping the ABC as long as financially feasible, however I know at some point it won't be. What type of maintenance will I have to do for the ABC, anything routine?
 

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Well, in 2016, shortly after the coil-over conversion, I drove the S600 from northern Virginia to St. Augustine, Florida. Mind you, this is with 19" AMG wheels and thus lower-profile tires, so less cushion in the tires. The trip is about 11.5 hours of driving, and about 750 miles each way. I chose this car for this trip specifically to test the comfort of the new coil-springs. When we got there, I was not really tired, and I had done all of the driving with one stop for a late lunch. The car drove very nicely and was remarkably comfortable. Due to my not knowing about the ABC pump's need to always have fluid in it, the pump failed while we were down there, which was a big problem. Had I done the right thing and routed the pump's ABC output back to its input like it is now, I would not have had a single problem on that trip, so that's really my fault, not the car's.

Now, for driving around town, well, St. Augustine is one of the few places in the United States with cobblestone roads, and those cobblestone roads aren't the smoothest in the world. We could feel the road, of course, but not objectionably so. I expected it to be worse.

The next year, I took another road trip in the S600, not quite as far, but about 500 miles total. Again, it felt fine. I myself remain a bit surprised by how comfortable the car is.

It's also important to understand that tire make, model, and size plays just as big a part in the comfort of the ride as the suspension does. Let's talk about that.

Remember, I'm doing this with low-profile tires on a set of 19" AMG wheels (these wheels came from a W215 AMG car, probably a CL65). The tire sizes are 245-40/19 in front and 265-35/19 in back. Tire model is Michelin Pilot Sport AS3+. S600's, like S55 AMG's, actually come stock with 18" wheels, and why 19's are on there is a long story having to do with the previous owner.

I also have an AIRmatic-equipped 2003 S430 with the AMG Sport Package, which means the stock 18" AMG wheels, with the exact same model of tire as the S600 (Michelin Pilot Sport AS3+). Both are comfortable, and the 18's even more so than the 19's. Tire size on all four corners is 245-45/18. Previously, this car had Bridgestone Potenza RE970 A/S tires. They work well, too, with plenty of grip. Two years ago, I took this car, with those Bridgestone tires, on a 1,600-mile road trip to Georgia and back and wasn't really tired after in excess of 12 hours of driving, either way. Those Bridgestone Potenzas are good, and I would use them again on a car. The Michelin Pilot Sports are even more comfortable, though at the price of a bit of snow/ice traction, where the Bridgestones did somewhat better.

Now, I do have the front anti-sway bar and AIRmatic lower control arms installed on the S600, for better handling. You don't really need it, but you'll want it. So equipped, the S600 is quite fun to drive; I have no problems taking corners at speed. But what about the rear anti-sway bar? Well, the rear one isn't needed at all, because the car handles rather nicely with just the front one, while retaining ride comfort. That said, since I'm a masochist and a tinkerer, I'm going to try it probably next year, just as a fun experiment (requires lowering the rear subframe to do it).
 

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Now, let's talk maintenance.

For ABC, you'll need to check the lines every year and replace as needed, flush the fluid every couple of years (this includes a filter change, but the filter is really easy), replace the accumulators, and rebuild the occasional valve block. You will have to watch the fluid in the ABC tank in case a leak shows up. At a certain point, the ABC struts will also need replacing. Should you need to replace the ABC pump for any reason, the pump itself is about $1,400, plus about a day's labour to remove and replace (it took me two days to figure it out the first time). After any ABC maintenance, it's a really good idea to do the "Rodeo" test with SDS.

With AIRmatic, the same basic needs are there, just less often and easier. I can have an AIRmatic pump replaced in an hour. Same goes for the valve block, and the 2003 S430 did need both done in 2017 (yep, I did 'em both). AIRmatic pumps are a lot less expensive than ABC pumps; a new AIRmatic pump is $300 if you shop a little. The front AIRmatic struts are the ones that need replacing the most often, I'd say every 13-15 years. And again, the failure mode of AIRmatic tends to be much, much more gradual than ABC's failure mode, so you have time to fix it and not get stranded on the side of the road.

Coilovers, at least in the United States, are almost no-maintenance. Just replace the shocks inside of them when needed. Thta's about every 15-20 years, if my Hondas are any indication (they have McPherson struts).
 

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I agree about the importance of tyres.
I've had six s-classes with every wheel tyre combo imaginable - 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20".

16" wheels are like riding on air, and will give you the QUIETEST and most comfortable ride ever, but no grip.
20" wheels are the other extreme - harsh and noisy, but tremendous grip and precision.

Is there a best compromise? I found 245-45-18 or 265-40-18 all round to work very well

Nick
 

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"it goes from supporting the car straight to the ground in 5 seconds or so, and you're getting towed home "

Or you can be proactive - go to Harbor Freight and buy four of the very sturdy rubber wheel chocks that they sell, and make your own DIY version of the "tools" that Mercedes sells to support the suspension so you can continue the trip if/when the ABC fails. After failure, jack the car on one side, insert front and rear blocks, repeat on the other side. Reportedly, the car is very drivable with the rubber blocks wire-tied in place.
 

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Unless it has burst a Pipe, (which is the usual cause of sudden failure) and you want to destroy the £1500 ABC Pump I'd not advise that ;)
 

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I found 245-45-18 or 265-40-18 all round to work very well
That's almost what I use, except 275 Rears. Correct RIM offset is paramount too, but that's a whole "nuvver" discussion ;)
 

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Unless it has burst a Pipe, (which is the usual cause of sudden failure) and you want to destroy the £1500 ABC Pump I'd not advise that ;)
You said it, Dave. Another cause of that is an exploding accumulator. Fluid just dumps right out as you pour it in.
 

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"Unless it has burst a Pipe, (which is the usual cause of sudden failure) and you want to destroy the £1500 ABC Pump I'd not advise that ;) "

Good point - I was misled by the fact that MB sells support blocks. I suppose that they are for only the Airmatic failures. Thanks for the correction - I would hate to be responsible for someone ruining their pump.
 
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