August 29, 2007 Ford is set to make a major production milestone with the launch of an active suspension system on the new Ford Mondeo. Available as a UKP650 option in the UK, that not only provides a comfortable ride but combines this with sportiness and safety. Ironically, sound pioneer Amar Bose was the first to devise a suspension system designed to do exactly what it should do rather than approximating it with springs and dampers, but Ford looks set to be the first to offer it on a regular production car. Called Interactive Vehicle Dynamic Control (IVDC), the system offers near constant suspension adjustment to match desired ride with road conditions and driving style
The IVDC system offers sports, comfort and regular suspension settings and effectively eliminates the trade off engineers have to make between ride and handling with conventional suspension set ups.
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Once selected, the settings determine how the suspension reacts, providing rapid, imperceptible adjustments in line with the car's behaviour and prevailing road conditions.
Broadly, the firmer sports setting will optimise the car's responses on twisty B-roads while the comfort setting would be for a relaxing long distance motorway journey. Driver selection provides an extra element of sophistication to the new Mondeo, which is acknowledged as the best-handling car in its class.
Once the choice is made, the active suspension technology adjusts the car's dampers more than 10 times a second to provide the best possible handling characteristics, by matching the driver's selection with road conditions and the demands being made by the driver in terms of acceleration, braking, cornering speed etc. This provides more precise responses than the fixed settings of a conventional suspension system.
The responses of IVDC are based on inputs from seven sensors: one acting on each wheel and three others positioned to measure acceleration, pitch and roll. Information from the sensors is fed into a control unit that triggers electronic valves in the dampers, adjusting them at a rapid rate that matches the information being fed into the system. The system has been tuned to match precisely the specific weights and tracking of the new Mondeo. Ford vehicle dynamics manager Norbert Kessing explains: “New Mondeo's ability to monitor its handling interactively with the driver improves safety and comfort. An active suspension system makes particular sense in larger cars like the new Mondeo. It enhances dynamic stability, particularly under critical driving conditions, and works with the car's other safety systems to reduce braking distances by up to 10 per cent on rough roads.”
The new Ford Mondeo already benefits from a high level of safety equipment as standard, including seven airbags, Anti-Lock Braking (ABS) and Electronic Stability Programme (ESP).
By being able to react within one tenth of a second the system can avoid the need for ESP to be activated. In more serious driving situations the system will operate together with ESP and ABS systems to help the driver retain control of the car.