The magic behind the new Evoque’s suspension – an insight

That the Range Rover Evoque is one of the most daring attempts of Jaguar Land Rover at making a compact SUV is well known and this compact thing is coming to India is for sure. However, the relatively unknown fact is that this car has got one of the most complex suspension systems that can be found in any modern car. It is said that both Audi and Ferrari were eager to get this technology into their cars, however it is Range Rover which piqued them to this race. The entire suspension system is called as MagneRide and it is owned by a Chinese company named as BWI Group. BWI has top say that while the other two manufacturers were sort of hesitant enough about the costs and stuff, Land Rover were all the more keen to acquire this technology and use it in their cars. These dampers are by the way of the third generation. BWI said that they would complete this work on the dampers by early 2012, however, Land Rover wanted them by 2011 and if BWI wasn’t ready to get this done, then Land Rover would have commissioned some other company. Naturally, BWI had to say yes.

In the early 1990s, GM had started work on the MagneRide and their Cadillac Seville from the 2002 batch was the first one to use this technology. The main factor here is the “magnetorheological” fluid which is present inside the damper. This allows for the suspension settings to be controlled variably. There are iron particles inside the fluid and if and when a magnetic charge passes through a coil in the piston, the particles are converted to fibers that thicken the oil, albeit temporarily. Rapidly turning the coil on and off thickens and thins the fluid, which in turn alters the damping force. This fluid is controlled by a computer and so stability of the vehicle, body, wheel, adaptive controls and also the handling can match to that of the road conditions prevailing. The advantage of MagneRide to the Range Rover Evoque is that it has a damping characteristic which is not similar to what a conventional damper can do. Normal dampers can only signify for a comfort setting which is there for normal driving while Magneride would allow for a rapid and auto switch to sports, off-road and normal conditions.

BWI Auto first used their second generation MagneRide as the base for this 3rd generation system. They earlier had complaints about the second generation system and hence all the hard work percolated into the new one. A faster and more transient damping system response was the need of the hour from Range Rover and BWI fulfilled it accordingly. The entire electrical system was systematically redesigned and the eddy currents were eradicated. Eddy currents interfere with the control of the damper and thus prevent them from getting shut off completely. It is said that only 5-10 milliseconds are required to put on the force, however, due to the eddy currents, 25ms is required to remove it. A period of wheel hop is about 80ms, so an improvement here is definitely going to be significant. To nullify the eddy currents, BWI added a second electrical coil to the entire damper unit. With a damper ECU using new control algorithms, Gen3 MagneRide switches between settings in less than 10ms,m the damping in the Evoque can be modified to 50 times in a second. This was the major reason why Land Rover chose to have BWI instead of Delphi.

Ian Hulme, the principal damper engineer says that MagneRide explores every capability in its area of operation. This new 3rd gen dampers work twice as fast as the second gen ones used in the Audi R8. The 3rd generation ones are the first to offer an automatic terrain sensing system and within every 2 seconds, these detect new surfaces. A wider range of minimum as also maximum forces is what the additional benefits of the same are. Lower damper speed and also better dynamic control are also part of the package. For off-roading, these things are very useful. During development stages, a MagneRide damper is also easy to hone. Some settings via a computer can make upto 150 changes in a damper. In a series production, the development cut-off is also much closer. Even on the production line, damping changes can be made. This is what BWI had said when they were recently asked about the various developments which this thing can undergo.

While Audi may not be aware of this, however, Land Rover actually used one of Audi’s vehicles, the Q5, to be the test mule for its generation 3 dampers. BWI says that due to their long association with the company, it was very easy to procure an Audi vehicle, since they have done most of the development work with this car only. Moreover the deadline which Land Rover had given for, could only be met by checking the development on an already tested vehicle.

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