MagneRide is not a name most drivers will be familiar with, but it’s a technology many will use daily.
It's a semi-active suspension damping system that was first introduced in 2002 on the Cadillac Seville STS. These days it’s fitted to a wide range of cars, from the Lamborghini Huracánto the Audi S3, and the Ferrari F12 to the Vauxhall VXR8 GTS.
Its use is growing in the premium car sector and the system’s manufacturer, BWI Group, says 300,000 cars will be equipped with MagneRide next year.
Now in its third generation, MagneRide is fiendishly clever but also simple and reliable, adapting the damping effort in response to signals from a control unit which in turn is given commands from the car’s electronic systems.
In a nutshell, MagneRide technology can alter the damping effort on the fly to suit the conditions and the style of driving. It can make the change in a linear fashion from soft to hard or any stage in between and it can do it in a few thousandths of a second.
Dampers, also known as shock absorbers, literally damp the action of the road springs. Without dampers, the springs would do what springs do best and bounce. Like tennis balls, the wheels would bounce on the road and the body would flounder and wallow on the suspension, making the car unstable. It would roll and pitch, too, reducing grip in corners and making the car unstable under braking, not to mention making life uncomfortable for the driver and passengers.
The basics of a conventional damper are fairly straightforward. A piston fitted with tiny valves moves up and down a tube filled with fluid. The fluid just about squeezes through the valves, but it takes a substantial force to push it through the small passageways in the valves.