We take a look at the Mercedes Adaptive Damping System or ADS. What it is and how to tell if your Mercedes-Benz has it. Many Mercedes-Benz vehicles are equipped with Airmatic suspension, including E, S, ML, GL, R, and SL classes.

There is a lot of confusion about the Mercedes Adaptive Damping System or ADS. Sometimes Mercedes ADS is even confused with Active Body Control (ABC) hydraulic suspension.

A few Mercedes vehicles are equipped with (ADS) and Airmatic. Think of ADS as an add-on to the Airmatic. Even though ML, GL, and R classes sold in the US have air suspension as standard, not all have ADS.

What do ADS mean on a Mercedes-Benz?

On vehicles equipped with an Adaptive Damping System in addition to Airmatic (automatic vehicle height adjustment), the driver can select the suspension stiffness (ride quality) at a push of a button. Mercedes with ADS has a button on the center console that allows them to select the stiffness of the suspension. Typically you have three settings.

  1. Sport – Suspension becomes very stiff.
  2. Normal –
  3. Comfort – Very soft suspension; you feel like driving a Lexus.

If your Mercedes does not have ADS, you can not adjust the stiffness of the suspension. The vehicle adjusts the ride height automatically, or you can raise the vehicle. But that does not change the stiffness of the suspension.

Having used an R500 with ADS, my preferred setting is NORMAL. Sport makes you feel every little bump on the road. Simultaneously, the COMFORT setting feels as the car needs new struts and there is too much bouncing. The soft setting is good if you drive in a city with bad roads, but the downside is that it can shorten the life of the airbags. In Comfort ADS settings, the suspension airbags move up and down the most.

How can I determine if my Mercedes has ADS?

There are two straightforward ways to determine if your Mercedes-Benz has ADS.

First, you have a button on the dashboard to adjust the ride quality. The button shows a shock and has the words “SPORT” and “COMF” written.

mercedes ads button

A car without ADS will not have this button. Cars with airmatic, but no ADS, still have a button to raise the vehicle.

mercedes with no ads

Second, the airmatic structs in vehicles with ADS have a solenoid installed next to the airmatic strut that is not installed on cars without ADS.

Mercedes Airmatic Strut with ADS


Airmatic strut from GL/R Class with ADS. 

Mercedes Airmatic Strut without ADS


Airmatic strut from GL/R Class without ADS. 

Struts from vehicles with ADS are not interchangeable with struts from vehicles without ADS.

We hope you find the Mercedes Adaptive Damping System ADS Suspension guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your Mercedes-Benz.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *