What is adaptive suspension?

  • 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.

Found on

Usually an option on premium or performance vehicles, adaptive suspension can be found on cars such as the Audi A3, BMW 3 Series and Range Rover Evoque.

Similar to

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).

Looking for more jargon-busting motoring meanings? Head over to our Parkers Car Glossary page and take a look at our other definitions