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Audi’s latest suspension system can help protect you during a crash

Audi is launching a more sophisticated suspension system for its A8 flagship sedan in Europe. Adaptive suspension systems, which can automatically adjust settings based on road conditions or the driver’s preferences, are nothing new, but the new “predictive” system launching in the A8 is one of the smartest ever. It can lift or lower the body up to 3.3 inches in response to road conditions, according to Audi.

The suspension system relies on the A8’s 48-volt electrical system, which powers an electric motor mounted at each corner of the body. Each motor twists a steel tube, which is connected to an element of the suspension. The motors can react within five-tenths of a second, according to Audi. The all-electric system also consumes less power — between 10 and 200 watts — than previous hydraulic adaptive suspension systems, according to Audi.

Why do you need electric motors to raise and lower your car like a lowrider? Audi claims this allows the A8 to maintain the stately, comfortable ride of a luxury car while delivering the handling of a sports car. Under hard cornering in “dynamic” mode, the suspension system can counteract body roll more effectively than conventional systems, Audi claims, allowing the A8 to take corners faster. The system also acts against the dive and squat that occur under braking and acceleration, respectively, according to Audi.

At a more sedate pace in “comfort plus” mode, the system helps deliver a smoother ride, Audi claims. A front-facing camera scans the road surface for imperfections, allowing the suspension to pre-emptively adjust for them. This is what Audi means by “predictive.” The camera generates new data on the road surface every 18 seconds, and the suspension can adjust in milliseconds, according to Audi.

“Comfort plus” mode also changes the way the A8 corners. Instead of reducing body roll in pursuit of higher cornering speeds, this mode allows the car to lean into corners up to 3.0 degrees. Similar to tilting trains, this reduces the amount of force imparted on vehicle occupants, making for a more comfortable ride, and less chance of spilled drinks. When the car is stopped and the door is opened, the suspension also raises the body 2.0 inches to make entry and exit easier.

The adaptive suspension system can even help improve safety, according to Audi. If the system detects an impending side impact at speeds above 15.5 mph, it will automatically raise the body on the side of the impact by up to 3.1 inches. This brings the crash structure into a better position to protect vehicle occupants, Audi claims.

The trick suspension system will be available to order on the A8 beginning in August 2019, at a price in euros equivalent to $6,113. Audi hasn’t discussed U.S. availability, however. It wouldn’t be the first technology reserved for European buyers only. The A8 is also available with a sophisticated driver-assist system that isn’t available in the U.S. due to regulatory issues.

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