Conclusion after correcting the parameters in my test procedure:
v4.10 - good
v4.11 - bad
v4.15 - bad

I'm performing a bisect between v4.10 and v4.11.

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  mount.cifs stopped working with protocol version != 1.0

Status in linux package in Ubuntu:

Bug description:
  On a Xenial installation after upgrading to the HWE 4.13.0-32-generic
  kernel it is not possible to use mount.cifs with -o vers=x.y different
  than 1.0.

  Steps to reproduce:
  1. Setup a local Samba share with ntlm auth = yes.
  2. Run:
  mount.cifs -o user=<myuser>,sec=ntlm,vers=2.0 //localhost/theshare/ 
  3. This may be repeated for the following versions: 2.0, 2.1, 3.0.

  Expected result:
  The share gets mounted at /mnt/theshare.

  Actual result:
  The share is not mounted, this gets printed in the console:
  mount error(22): Invalid argument
  Refer to the mount.cifs(8) manual page (e.g. man mount.cifs)

  and in dmesg:
  [   61.935687] CIFS VFS: Unable to select appropriate authentication method!
  [   61.935689] CIFS VFS: Send error in SessSetup = -22
  [   61.935744] CIFS VFS: cifs_mount failed w/return code = -22

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