Perhaps one of the most ignored, yet surprisingly significant, aspects of a car is its suspension system. Most people focus on the exterior and interior looks and of course, the engine. At first sight, only these features come into your mind. But once you get behind the wheel, the role of the suspension comes into play (pun intended). It is only then that you realize that there are other things to consider aside from a car’s visual appeal and horsepower and torque figures.
A car’s suspension gives you the same sensory input like the engine does, and together they will tell you if you are behind the wheel of a good or bad car. The suspension system is not only designed to absorb impact from the imperfections of the road; it also keeps the car sticking to the tarmac, or terrain. Balance is a very important function of a suspension. The car must be stable in both low and high speeds, straight-aways and curves, and must not roll or pitch on twisty roads. Overall, a car’s suspension system is supposed to keep the ride comfortable and stable.
Automobile manufacturers design suspension systems specifically for the car’s purpose. A standard car has to be soft enough to absorb the bumps but firm enough to carry its recommended number of passengers and their luggage. On the other end of the spectrum is a racing suspension. This is a special type that is designed without compromise. Traction and stability are the primary objectives in its design. From a passenger car driver’s perspective, this suspension is hard and unforgiving. Driver comfort is not the priority; it is fast lap times. A race car must be able to handle straights and corners at maximum speed. Even braking behavior must be optimized to keep the car going as fast as possible.
Racing cars developed coilover suspensions to keep the system light and compact. The term is easy to understand as the designers put the coil spring and shock absorber into one component. Aside from being light, this type of suspension is easier to tune for fast laps. The average Joe may not like the idea but this concept has trickled down to standard cars. The research and development made in racing suspensions can also benefit an ordinary driver not only in the safety aspect but also in the ease of maintenance. You can have your coilover replaced in a short time.
A four wheel drive suspension system may be tuned differently from two wheel drive cars, as all four wheels handle driving duties but essentially, they are still designed to keep the ride comfortable and keep all wheels on the ground.