Adaptive suspension is a computer-controlled suspension system that varies shock absorber firmness to match changing road or dynamic conditions.

Adaptive suspensions rely on a network of sensors and a computer that optimizes the firmness of its shock absorbers or struts based on the road surface or the vehicle’s dynamics as it turns, brakes and accelerates. The key to these systems is the variable-rate shock or strut, the firmness of which can be changed in fractions of a second. In these devices, an electric signal from the computer varies the size of a valve through which hydraulic fluid flows. (The movement of this fluid, or oil, through valves is the basis of a shock absorber’s operation.)

While some cars connect variable-rate shocks to a switch that allows the driver to select ride firmness, true adaptive suspensions — with names like Adaptive Damping and Road-Sensing Suspension — automatically vary the firmness independently at each wheel. One of the main objectives is to keep the body as flat as possible in order to minimize body roll, front-end dive during braking and rear-end squat during acceleration. More sophisticated systems monitor wheel motion and match the suspension’s firmness to the road surface.

Though they achieve similar ends, don’t confuse adaptive suspensions with active suspensions, the latter of which uses some type of actuator to literally raise and lower the chassis independently at each wheel.

Information for this was taken from the’s glossary, written by Joe Wiesenfelder.

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Answered by Joe Bruzek on October 30, 2008 in Glossary | Permalink

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