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Smart Air Suspension: what does it mean and is it installable later?

Discussion in 'Model S: Ordering, Production, Delivery' started by bwa, Jan 16, 2016.

  1. bwa

    bwa Member

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    Checking price on TeslaMotors.Com of buying new 70D. I'm looking very closely at the options and what I can put off til later.

    I was under the impression that the base model comes with air suspension. Is that wrong? Obviously, with my understanding, the "Smart Air Suspension" option would mean that it just behaves differently but that either way whether I hit the option it would be with air. I'm starting to wonder if actually if I don't hit the option I would get springs.

    Now, if it comes standard with air, then is the option upgradable in the future, like a software option? Obviously if springs are standard than I wouldn't look for a hardware upgrade as likely, and this air (with a silly long name) would become a must-have, which is worse for me financially. My back is not the best for bumps.

    By the way, I want Magic Body Control from Mercedes, so I kind of look down at Tesla's "Smart Air Suspension" as not smart, so in addition to it not being that smart, if it is also the name for their standard air, then that makes the option being named "Smart" even more silly AND confusing.
     
  2. dirkhh

    dirkhh Middle-aged Member

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    Model S comes with coil suspension. The "smart air suspension" (Tesla's terminology) is a $2500 "upgrade" which provides you a) ability to lower and raise the car manually or by location (geo fencing), b) the ability to have the car auto-lower itself at higher speed, and c) (IMHO, and others disagree vehemently) a mushy ride and a less direct feeling when driving. Full disclosure, both of my Model S have/had coil suspension. Both times I test-drove air suspension as well and I have had several loaners with air suspension while my car was in service.

    While it may be theoretically possible to add this after delivery, I have not heard of people do this (I vaguely remember one person talking about the opposite direction but am not 100% sure if I'm making this up).
     
  3. green1

    green1 Active Member

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    Having never drove the coils, I'm curious, were any of your loaners "plus" cars?

    I don't have a basis for comparison, but "mushy" is about the furthest possible description I can come up with for how it feels, this is the stiffest suspension I've ever driven.

    Not criticizing your description at all, just wondering if I have a very different mindset on this one, or if the Plus cars fix the problem you're talking about.
     
  4. dirkhh

    dirkhh Middle-aged Member

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    I have learned that different people perceive the different suspensions extremely differently. I have had a P85, two different S85, and a P85D as loaners. All of them with smart air. It's hard to describe. To me it feels like there is a delayed, weirdly faded movement when going over bumps, especially over the bigger 25mph speed bumps common around here. I find the way the car takes those unpleasant. With the coils both my 60 and now my P85D behave very predictably, firm, direct, immediate. Not rough, not soft, not of that... I don't know, I can't come up with better words to describe it.

    Maybe just ignore it and write it off as "the weird guy don't like no smart air". My only recommendation is to insist on driving both coils and smart air WITH THE WHEELS YOU WANT TO BUY. Because that could be the other part. I really dislike the 21" wheels. So in a way I should disqualify three of the smart air suspension cars that I remember driving. That still leaves the one S85 with 19" and smart air that I had for four days while they tried to fix the TACC on my P85D the second time. Anyway, I think the OP's question is answered - and my commentary on the smart air was just a distraction. Sorry.
     
  5. green1

    green1 Active Member

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    Sounds like you haven't driven a plus, if you ever get the chance is be really curious if you find it the same as the other ones or not.
     
  6. BertL

    BertL Active Member

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    OP, you make the comment you don't see Tesla Air Suspension being so smart, yet I guess you see MBZ being magic in some way? AH HA HA.

    dirkhh describes the major functions well. I have MS Air Suspension and would order it again without question. I find the ride is great, far less mushy than some other luxury vehicles, handling is just fine for me, and I appreciate and use of some of the "smart" things MS Air Suspension does you may not realize:
    • It will automatically level out your cabin based on load. If you drive with just yourself, then a bunch of people, or perhaps load lots of stuff in the back, MS will remain level.
    • MS will automatically lower itself at highway speeds (you set the speed) to improve air resistance (and therefore range)
    • You can set locations where you want MS to automatically raise itself. It remembers all of those places within a few feet and does it the next time you approach, so e.g. if you have steep driveways, big dips or bumps in places you frequent, you tell MS once to raise, and it will do it from then on. No more scraped lips and undercarriage like other luxury brands in those situations. MS then raises again to normal height as you gain speed.
    ...With all that, I consider MS Air Suspension pretty smart ...at least more so than my previous Lexus and MBZ ever made available as options on models I considered. ;)

    A couple last thoughts:
    • I wouldn't assume Air Suspension could be added later. If it can, it's not a standard "after sale upgrade", and would IMHO be prohibitively expensive to do so. Instead, I suggest if the benefits are something you desire, order with your MS, else live with your decision to not have it as you would with most other brands and their factory-installed options.
    • Beyond perhaps a handling difference between coils and air suspension you may or may not perceive, the disadvantage with Air Suspension perhaps is initial cost, something else that could go wrong one day, and alignments will cost more if you don't go with the prepaid service approach -- but then, those were the same disadvantages I had with BMW and MBZ as well.
    Good luck with your decision.
     
  7. chriSharek

    chriSharek Member

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    Agree with Bert's comments above. I ordered the air after driving both. I think the technology that accompanies the SMS puts it on another level above Mercedes and other luxury air suspensions. Plus, I felt this might be hardware I wanted in case Tesla comes up with something else as nifty as the geofencing.

    Finally, lowering itself at highway speeds is just plain smart. I may even look at getting the lowering kit to put it back as low as it was originally (before the famous fire).
     
  8. MsElectric

    MsElectric Active Member

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    I wish Tesla allowed adjustable dampening for the suspension so you can select Comfort or Firm.

    I realize you can adjust the height but I'm not aware of a setting for the actual resistance level like available in other cars. Is that possible?
     
  9. BertL

    BertL Active Member

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    Not available today, but it would seem like perhaps a capability that Tesla could provide via software some day.
     
  10. tomas

    tomas Traded in 9 rep bars for M3, used to be somebody!

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    To give OP a crystal clear response: it CANNOT be retrofitted. You will be stuck with your decision either way.
     
  11. green1

    green1 Active Member

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    I doubt it, it would likely require different hardware to add this capability. I suspect all they can do right now is add more, or less, air to the system, which in turn adjusts height. To adjust ride quality you have to be able to allow air to move to somewhere else and back at a fairly high rate of speed, we all know from using the current implementation how long it takes to adjust height, I doubt it can do anything quickly enough to adjust ride comfort that way, and I doubt it has the necessary valves and such built in to adjust it any other way.
     
  12. tga

    tga Active Member

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    Some other arguments against air suspension, from the last time I researched this:

    • Lowering the car slightly reduces your wind resistance, and has a slight improvement at highway speeds (not at slow speeds). IIRC, we're talking 2%-3%. If range is a concern, I'd spend the money on a bigger battery (which helps range at all speeds, not just highway).
    • Ride height with standard suspension is essentially the same air on high. You can get a little more clearance on very high, but not much more than coils. People who talk about raising the car for speed bumps or steep driveways are, by definition, driving cars with air suspension, and probably have it set low.
    • I'm sure someone will disagree, but air suspensions are probably one of the most fragile components of modern cars. Every single person I know (including myself) who has had an air suspension has had an expensive failure (>$1000) late in the car's life (ie, post-warranty). While the cars are too new to know for sure, I highly doubt Tesla has found a magic potion for making air suspensions reliable. If you plan to keep the car after the warranty is up, I'd think twice about it.

    If it's a concern, test drive both. Try to get an extended test drive with the one your leaning towards, and make sure you don't have ground clearance issues.
     
  13. bryand

    bryand Member

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    When I told my sales advisor that I was intending to keep the car for 8 years, he told me "go for coils".
     
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  14. dirkhh

    dirkhh Middle-aged Member

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    Ouch. Clearly Tesla employees are daring to speak their mind a bit more lately. By now three different Tesla employees told me in exactly these words "you made the right decision" when I mention the fact that I canceled my Model X reservation and ordered a Model S instead... happy to report that I ordered it with coil suspension, of course.
     
  15. pdq

    pdq Member

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    Someone made reference to the Mercedes "Magic" air suspension. It is very different -- much smarter -- that the Tesla air suspension. It involves forward looking sensors that map the texture of the road surface and if it encounters ridges, potholes, etc. it will actively manage each wheel actively as it gets to that so that you don't feel them. People I know who have driven one say that potholes disappear, as do other things that would normally jolt you. The anology they gave was that the car felt firmly on the road but the road always felt like smooth, like newly paved asphalt.

    I've been driving S class Benzes for over 20 years and for many years was with MBCA as their technical director for our region. MB typically shares its technology with whoever wants it, but when they brought out their active air suspension they said they weren't going to do so for 3 years. that was about 2 years ago. Given that the Tesla air suspension components have MB parts numbers on them, when I ordered my P90D in July I got the air suspension in the hope that when the 3 year period os up I'll be able to upgrade to the MB version. Roads around here are terrible -- I'd love to have the MB version. Time will tell.
     
  16. Ulmo

    Ulmo Active Member

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    Yes, that would be awesome. Someone on the forums stated that the Tesla air suspension doesn't have the reactive time. That might be true today and/or it might be partially true today.

    As it happens, I test drove both a Spring (Standard Suspension) Tesla (an S85) and a Smart Air Suspension Tesla (a 70D), on the same bumpy roads, back to back, and found that the springs were less bumpy and more comfortable! I was absolutely floored; I was not expecting that result at all. To me, if I do not need Smart Air Suspension (and they never upgrade it to Magical properties known to a few in the Mercedes universe), I would absolutely prefer the springs as more comfortable, and that would validate saving $2,500 if savings were my goal. If I'm trying to go cheap, this has now become a very easy choice.

    For comparison, I called Mercedes, and the dealer was physically walking through their lot trying to find an S550 with MBC on it and couldn't find it, and never got back to me. I delayed my purchase until March for my new vehicle(s), so at that time I will probably just go test-drive their S65 or Maybach (both had MBC when I last visited) and be done with the comparison if that's what it takes. Also, in March, I'll know my exact finances. In a way, more money would make this a harder choice, now, since I found out I don't like Tesla Smart Air Suspension as much as I thought I would. Even if Mercedes has the Magic and it really is Magic, I would still want to buy electric. This could get really exciting comparing the two in a few months!

    By the way, both Tesla cars drove very well in wet roads of all types. I snaked a 0.25" flooded roadway with the 70D and it just stuck to the road. I did real tests of corners and stops in the S85 and it held perfectly. I didn't over push either car, but found many cases where "not over pushing the Tesla" would have positively made my current car squirm. And, the things rode pretty comfortably. I have to say this: electric has so many clear advantages over ICE that it just makes it easier for Tesla to come up with a winner, and I like what they've done overall. I could pick it to death, but at the end of the day, both cars were much nicer cars than my current one, and that's what made me the happiest. If I ever got one, I'd stop picking it apart and just enjoy it.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Also, I look forward to the day I don't even have to drive it. As I age, my driving capabilities mature as well.
     
  17. DougH

    DougH Active Member

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    I was told the same thing by multiple Tesla employees. However I never keep a car more than a year so it's never been a concern.
     
  18. jeffro01

    jeffro01 Active Member

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    It's always amazing to me how two people could come away with very different opinions of the same thing. For instance, my car has the air suspension (for our driveway) and I just had a loaner with coils and HATED the coils. I found I felt every little thing in the road, going over speed bumps was much rougher, the entire suspension just felt "off"...

    To each their own... :) I would love MBs system on my Tesla some day... :)

    Jeff
     
  19. Ulmo

    Ulmo Active Member

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    #19 Ulmo, Jan 27, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
    I just got back from a test drive of Mercedes with Magic Body Control. My considered summary? Gets rid of 75% of the toughness and bumps, and totally worth the $4,450 option if already getting a new MB S-class. The car I drove was stickered at $125K, less $15K trying to clear 2015 inventory, so $110K before tax.

    Compared to both Tesla's, I'd say it was a 50% improvement over the spring Tesla and a 75% improvement over the air Tesla. Also, the lane keeping assist, fatigue warning, adaptive cruise control (distronic) were very mature and more confidence inspiring than the Tesla versions which would randomly turn off or direct me into a crash. I especially liked the blind spot assist, missing in both Tesla's I tried.

    The seat was far better than the Tesla's: I fit, it didn't hit and hurt my bones, and of course it had built in air conditioning, heat and massage in the seats.

    The interior ride was a little quieter than Tesla, already a very quiet ride.

    Much nicer than my E class.

    I honestly wish Tesla tried to push up the higher end of their market at the same time they're pushing down on the lower end. But I get the need to spend their development investments wisely. But couldn't they outsource some luxury? I guess not...

    To me the decision between a Model X with air filter to save the world and the S550 with Magic Body Control will be a health assessment: do I need better air or a better back?

    Once a week, I go far enough that the back thing becomes a big issue. But then, I'm traveling to an area with awful air quality. It's not an easy decision.
     
  20. jeffro01

    jeffro01 Active Member

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    Eh, while all of that sounds nice, I'm not interested in purchasing another car with an ICE. Also, and I'm not trying to offend you, but I have a very hard time believing anything MB is doing is better than autopilot in my Tesla.

    Also, and this is obviously highly subjective, but I have been to two different MB dealers in my life and NEITHER of them had a single sales person willing to lift a finger to help me. I guess I didn't look wealthy enough... It's a shame too because I really wanted an S Class before I got addicted to an electric drive train... Yet another reason why I have grown to loath the traditional dealership model and can't wait to see the day, hopefully in my lifetime naturally, when they all to belly up...

    Jeff
     

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