Select Page

Ever feel like you’re riding less of a car and something closer to a rocket ship? Us too. Thankfully, active automotive suspensions exist.

It’s not easy being an automotive suspension design engineer. Their job is to make a car or truck perform and handle well while also riding nicely and comfortably during ‘simple’ driving. Although they have a large palette of technology to play with, it isn’t easy to balance these two objectives. Frankly, every car is a compromise among hundreds of technical choices and ‘getting it right’ is by no means a clear-cut collection of choices. However, new techniques are being developed that can help. New “active” suspension technologies can do things that simply couldn’t be done years ago. Let’s look at a few.

Active Curve Tilting – Cars and trucks, unfortunately, cannot lean into corners like their cousin the motorcycle can (at least not with ordinary suspensions). There is one car that can though, so say hello to the 2015 Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG coupe. What the suspension engineers at Mercedes have done is paired up a side-acceleration sensor to a forward-looking camera and interfaced them with the car’s existing air suspension system. The goal isn’t higher performance but, increased comfort. If the road doesn’t have a banked corner, the car simulates one for passengers allowing for a more balanced and less jolty ride.

Active Roll Control – Conventional automobiles have “anti-roll” bars. These devices are simple metal rods that counteract body roll by applying opposite (but equal) forces to all four-wheel suspensions. The engineers at Audi, however, have mimicked the same function by using a hydraulic system to send fluid to the opposite side of a cornering car. It’s sort of like a hydraulic sway bar, and when you aren’t cornering, the system doesn’t do anything. It is only when needed that it fights a cars tendency to roll.

Magnetic Ride Dampers – GM has a system called Magnetic Ride Control that utilizes magneto-dampening technology. The way it works is that a spring-like damper is filled with a polymer liquid containing many small magnetic particles whose dampening characteristics can be changed by applying a magnetic field. A microprocessor continuously reads driving conditions and electrically adjusts the stiffness of the dampers hundreds of times per second. General Motors is actually on its third generation of Magnetic Ride Control. It is installed on cars such as the Corvette Stingray and certain Cadillac models but GM also licenses the system to other automotive manufacturers as well.

As you might imagine, there are plenty of other techniques being developed in addition to these three latest systems. Typically what we see is these advanced techniques being applied to a manufacturer’s flagship models and then a trickledown effect occurring when the technology moves into more affordable models.

Thanks to: Urse Honda

Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.