MONTEREY, Calif. — The term "active suspension" has now and again turned up on vehicles over the past 30 years, but it was always a bit of a misnomer.
It referred to systems that largely smooth out the ride over bumps in the road — thus more a "reactive" suspension than active.
But that begins to change this year with U.S. introduction of the redesigned Audi A8 sedan. Thanks to a circle of active sensors, an on-board 48-volt electrical system and lightning-quick electromechanical actuators, the big German luxury sedan's predictive active air suspension can do more cool tricks than a well-trained service dog.
One example: When equipped with the optional top-end suspension system, the A8 can sense an impending side impact and raise the side of the vehicle by 3.1 inches, allowing the heavily reinforced sill to absorb a larger portion of the collision energy.
Audi demonstrated the features to journalists this month at a former airfield here, though the predictive active suspension won't be available as an option until next summer on 2020 models.