When the Lincoln Aviator goes on sale later this year, it will be one of the first-ever vehicles to have predictive adaptive suspension. [credit:
When Lincoln’s new three-row Aviator SUV goes on sale later this summer, its engineers hope it’ll be one of the smoothest-riding vehicles in its class. The key to that is a clever new adaptive suspension system with a feature called Road Preview. As you may have just gathered from the name, it looks at the road ahead and uses that information along with the more normal sensor input to constantly adjust the stiffness of the dampers in anticipation of big bumps or potholes.
A vehicle’s suspension is often required to please more than one master. On the one hand, its job is to keep the contact patch of each tire as close to optimum as possible to ensure good handling and road-holding. But it also has to soak up all the bumps and filter out all the jolts of the road in the name of ride comfort. For decades, that meant plenty of compromise when setting up springs, dampers, and the rest of the bits that attach the wheels to the car. Enthusiasts could buy adjustable dampers, although the adjustment usually meant parking up, popping the hood, and breaking out a wrench.
The idea of a suspension system that could react to different driving conditions while driving dates back at least as far as the hydropneumatic Citroens of the 1950s, but it was really the advent of electronic control that made the technology possible. Toyota started playing with the idea in the early 1980s with the Soarer, a domestic-market coupé. More will know it from its use in Formula 1, where it was introduced by Lotus’ Colin Chapman, who was looking for a new unfair advantage. By 1992, the Williams F1 team refined the concept to such good effect that its FW14B was nigh unbeatable, causing the sport to ban the technology thereafter.