Adaptive suspension, or as some brands call it, “active suspension” – what exactly does it do?
Can it make your car go faster?
Here’s a simple explanation of its functions.
Reacting to the road
As you may have guessed, adaptive suspension can better adapt to various road and driving conditions.
Whereas “regular” suspensions have fixed dampers and set damping rates, adaptive suspensions are far more variable.
Some systems, such as the one in the DS 7 Crossback, are more advanced.
They have cameras that can scan the road ahead.
This information is relayed to an electronic control unit, which adjusts the dampers based on the type of road surface anticipated.
Pleasing the pilot
Adaptive suspension can also be tweaked on the fly to suit a driver’s personal preferences.
For instance, if the roads ahead are clear and there’s a series of corners coming up, the driver might choose Sport mode (sometimes called Dynamic by other brands) to stiffen the dampers.
Similarly, if a bad stretch of road is anticipated, the driver can opt for a cushier ride by choosing “Comfort” or “Normal” mode.
In some vehicles, the suspensions are tied to the drivetrain modes.
A Comfort setting, for instance, makes the engine and gearbox less responsive, and the dampers are at their most pliant.
Conversely, the Sport setting maximises throttle sensitivity and drivetrain responsiveness.
To complement this, the suspension (dampers) becomes stiffer.
In air suspension systems, the vehicle’s ride height might even be lowered.
So, can my car go faster with it?
In a way, yes.
Stiffer dampers and less body roll mean you have the potential to blast through a series of corners faster than you would in a normal car with fixed dampers.
As long as the car with fixed dampers isn’t a well-tuned sports car, of course.
Adaptive suspension is more complicated than fixed-rate suspensions. faults could develop from its electrical systems.
Also, despite air suspension being cushy, you’re left wondering which side would develop a problem.
Replacement dampers will also cost a lot more than fixed-rate ones.