The dampers on your car are probably made out of springs and gas struts, the most common type out there.
But there is another, more advanced type of damper: magnetorheological dampers.
Magnetorheological (MR) dampers, called MagneRide, first appeared in 2002 on the Cadillac Seville luxury car.
These systems can vary the suspension to make for a stiffer or smoother ride.
The first generation was manufactured by automotive parts group Delphi Corporation and contained a single electromagnetic coil.
Since then, the system has been made available on a wide range of cars.
The MagneRide system was bought by Chinese automotive company BeijingWest Industries (BWI) and is now in its third generation.
What are magnetorheological dampers?
As you might be able to guess from the name, it involves a magnet – in this case an electromagnet – to alter the characteristics of the damper.
At its most basic, a magnetorheological fluid – hence the dampers’ name – fills a reservoir in the shock absorber.
It is a type of smart fluid that contains magnetic particles suspended in a type of synthetic oil.
When the electromagnet is off, the fluid is free to move, softening the ride.
When the electromagnet is energised, the viscosity of the magnetorheological fluid changes.
As the intensity of the electromagnet intensifies, so does the viscosity of the magnetorheological fluid.
This lets drivers vary the stiffness of the car’s ride quality at the push of a button, and the effects are immediate.
Its computer-controlled nature also means the car can use its sensors to automatically vary the suspension’s stiffness in a fraction of a second, leading to better ride quality.
What are the benefits of MR dampers?
Adaptive dampers are de rigeur on nearly all modern luxury cars.
They allow the driver to change the character of the car from supple and luxurious one moment to firm and sporty the next.
Magnetorheological dampers respond in a split second, just by turning on or shutting off the electromagnet.
The latest generation of MagneRide, created by the BWI Group, now uses two electromagnetic coils inside each damper, which improves the system’s responsiveness.
Which cars have this system?
Plenty of General Motors models like the Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac CTS and Chevrolet Corvette have these adaptive dampers as standard.
In addition, MR dampers can be found on models from Audi, Ford, Ferrari and Lamborghini.