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S550: Mid-Life Maintenance

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Maintenance on these cars is expensive. You know that going in. And it's extra painful when you're not intending to keep the car long-term. But it's nevertheless necessary, and I like leaving them nicer than I found them.  So when the "check brake pads" light appeared, I decided to do more than just pads and rotors. It made sense to do a brake flush, as I don't have any receipts indicating that it was done in the past two years (and two year intervals is the Mercedes recommendation). I also don't have any receipts showing that the transmission oil had been changed (recommended every 60k miles) or spark plugs replaced (recommended every 50k miles). Since the car is at 69k miles now, it seemed sensible to do those "mid-life" items along with the brakes.  Thanks to a friend who has long Mercedes experience, I found a great independent shop ( European Sales and Service in Santa Rosa) to do the work. As any owner of an out-of-warranty Mercedes will t

S550: Nightlife Mood Activated!

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  Another of the ridiculous/amazing features offered on the S Class is the "interior cabin fragrance" system, which is part of the AIR-BALANCE (Benz words must be in all caps, apparently) system.  AIR-BALANCE has three features: an "enhanced" air filter, an "oxygen ionizer," and the fragrance system. While this had its debut in the S Class cars, it's now an option across the Mercedes line. If you want more about the fragrance design process, the perfume enthusiasts have  the full story for you. In typical Mercedes fashion, they've worked hard to make the scent subtle, ensuring that it doesn't cling to your clothes or the upholstery in the car (heaven forfend!).  My S550 came with an (empty) canister of the "Nightlife Mood" scent installed in the glovebox (right next to the  Grey Poupon ). So, to better have the full S Class experience, I replaced it with a new fragrance " flacon " (yeah, they ain't cheap ). I'm looki

S550: Burmester High End Stereo System

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  One major reason that I chose this  particular S550 was its having the Burmester High End 3D Surrounded Sound System. That option added $6,400 to the sticker price when this car was new in 2015.  I've always been curious what the very best modern OEM car audio systems sound like, and this system has a decent claim to being among that number. (Mercedes has further upgraded this system in the latest S class model years, adding in-seat "exciters" and naturally calling it the Burmester High End  4D  Surround Sound System . I am not joking.) What does that $6,400 get you? Well, you go from 13 speakers to 24, jump from 590 watts of combined amplifier power to 1540 watts, and gain a trunk-mounted subwoofer. Presumably, you also get a bunch of bespoke digital signal processing (DSP). The most obvious visible give-away of the upgraded High-End option is the extra tweeters mounted in the front doors. For extra bling factor, these tweeters rotate out of their housings  when the ca

S550: Third and Fourth Things Fixed

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More little things. When washing the car, I noticed that the rear edge of the roof rain drip rail was loose.  Pulling it up a little, I noticed that one of the clips holding the black trim rail to the roof had broken. The clips look surprisingly delicate, and I suppose failures are to be expected on a delicate part exposed directly to the outdoors. Here's the broken one, next to the replacement:  Total cost for the replacement clip, including shipping = $14.08. I also had to replace one of the switches in the driver's door window control unit. Looks like the thin plastic at the side of the switch broke, allowing the switch to come loose.  The entire window control module comes out easily and can be replaced for about $200. Fortunately, however, there is an eBay seller in China who sells just the plastic buttons themselves. They are cosmetically and functionally identical (even down to the privacy screen stencil).  The new button pops right in, problem solved. Total cost for th

S550: Second Thing Fixed - New Wheels

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  A slow leak in the front left tire revealed a cracked wheel. Actually, two cracks -- one in the barrel, and one on the inner rim. While the latter can sometimes be repaired with a weld, the former is fatal.  Further inspection revealed that all four wheels had cracks, although the other three were not yet bad enough to leak air. Sigh. It seems almost certain that this damage was there when I bought the car (there's no way I cracked all four wheels in less than 1,000 miles). And since the front left tire was showing low on air when I first test drove the car, it also seems almost certain that the dealer knew about at least that one and didn't tell me. Caveat emptor, anyone buying from Mercedes Benz of El Dorado Hills. I should have had all the wheels pulled and inspected before purchase.  So this brings us to the question of replacements. Since my S550 came with the "Sport Package" option (mostly appearance changes to the bumpers and side skirts), it came from the fa

S550: First Impressions

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S550 rear extending way beyond a Kia Sorrento. It's been about two months now with the luxo-barge, aka "White Whale", aka 2015 Mercedes-Benz S550. As good a time as any to gather some initial impressions.  It's so quiet! Perhaps more than anything else, it's the quiet in the cabin that makes this car different from anything else I've ever driven. It has the deeply quiet feeling that I associate with acoustically treated conference rooms. Clearly, Mercedes engineers put real effort into the interior acoustics (for example, the car is much quieter when the cloth screen is rolled into place to cover the sunroof). You have to pay attention to determine whether the engine is on or not (quite a departure from all the piped-in fake engine noise that is all the rage in sports cars).  It's so relaxing! The quiet, combined with all the leather and wood everywhere, defines the entire character of the car, delivering a relaxing vibe on every drive. This is not just

S550: RTFM

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  My car didn't come with the official paper Operator's Manual. A quick search on eBay, however, turned up a set (including case) that I picked up for $35.  This was a bit of an extravagance, since PDFs of the Operator's Manual and COMAND Manual are available online, and the car also has an extensive " digital operator's manual " built-into the infotainment system. In fact, the "digital operator's manual" contains a lot more information than the printed paper manual (which is stuffed with unnecessary safety warnings that the lawyer's probably put in there). Nevertheless, when you've got a new car packed with as many features as the S550, reading the printed manual is an easier way to get an overview than perusing any electronic version. (The electronic versions, however, are fantastic as word-searchable references.)