- How does adaptive suspension work?
- Should I consider paying extra for it?
- Parkers explains the tech
Adaptive suspension allows a driver to quickly switch between a softer ride or a firmer set-up that is better around corners, meaning one car can satisfy the preference of multiple drivers.
How does adaptive suspension work?
Manufacturers have a variety of methods of controlling the firmness of a car's chassis. Conventional oil-filled dampers can have a valve system to alter the amount of oil in the damper, changing the force it takes to compress the damper and thus how comfortable or firm the ride is.
A technically similar (but generally more expensive) solution involves using "air springs" - force more air in and the ride will be firmer, whereas taking pressure out will improve comfort levels.
Another system some premium manufacturers use is magnetorheological damping. This is a fluid inside the dampers that contains tiny metal particles, meaning it changes its viscosity when a magnetic field is applied.
This allows for ultra-fast changes in the characteristics of the suspension. Ferrari is notable for using such a system in many of its cars.
Do I need it?
Cars fitted with adaptive suspension will usually ride better than their conventionally sprung equivalents, especially if they’re fitted with larger wheels. There’s also a benefit if you often drive on heavily rutted urban roads during your daily commute, yet like to hurtle down a smooth country A-road at the weekend.
In this scenario, adaptive suspension should in theory give you the best of both worlds, with a comfortable, pliant ride during the week and a firmer, sharper edge to the car at the weekend.
Each manufacturer will have its version and name for the technology, with examples being: Variable Damper Control (BMW), Adaptive Chassis Control (Volkswagen), Adaptive Dynamics (Land Rover), Active Suspension (Mercedes-Benz).