With the E-Active Body Control (E-ABC) suspension, Mercedes-Benz now offers SUVs that can handle corners just as well as cars.
It’s easy enough to understand why SUVs, as a rule, aren’t as nimble as regular sedans. SUVS are heavier and taller. So, when you make a sharp turn, you’ll feel like your body is hurling to the opposite side of the turn. You may even worry about turning over when you make a deep turn when you’re going too fast.
It’s just physics. It’s normal, and most drivers have learned to live with it.
But then Mercedes-Benz likes to break the rules (in a good way, of course) every now and then. That’s why they came up with the E-Active Body Control (E-ABC) suspension.
This E-ABC system will now be available in the GLE and GLS cars in the MB 2020 lineup, and it’s a hoot. It’s as if you’re able to lean the vehicle into the turn. It’s much like how you would lean when you’re turning with your motorcycle.
To do this, you have hydraulic pumps powered by 48V motors in the E-ABC. These hydraulic pumps can then adjust the ride height and counteract the body roll during a turn. Under crosswinds, they also stabilize the vehicle. If your SUV has this system and then you’re going down a winding street, you can then control the suspension position so you tip into the corner instead tilting to the outside that causes the body roll.
To say that this isn’t normal for an SUV is understating the case. It seems literally unnatural—this isn’t how physics is supposed to work in the real world.
How E-ABC Works
It’s not magic, and you’re not in the Matrix either. If you look closely in the E-ABC, you’ll find the air springs and adaptive dampers that you can also find in other Mercedes-Benz cars. But what’s really special here is that you have an electrohydraulic pump for each damper, plus check valves and adjustable valves.
All these components work together so that they’re able to the control fluid flow into the chambers below and above the damper piston. While the air springs on the outside of the SUV compress in a corner, the lower chamber of each damper gets more pressure from the E-ABC. This lifts the body of the vehicle. The E-ABC increases the pressure on the top side of the damper pistons at both inside wheels during the turn, so this presses the body of the vehicle closer to the road.
Curve Mode and Comfort Mode
In Comfort Mode, everything’s normal. But you can get into the Curve Mode, and admittedly it feels a bit weird when you’re driving. As the driver, you normally expect a lit bit of body roll when you turn the wheel. So, it’s strange when you don’t get this feeling, since the SUV can lean into the inner side of the turn by as much as 3 degrees.
It does feel better for the rest of the passengers, since this lean-in feature minimizes the feeling of the lateral forces. There’s less need for bracing when taking a turn, and passengers generally feel more comfortable.
The E-ABC doesn’t use the engine to drive the hydraulic pumps. For greater efficiency, Mercedes-Benz now uses 48V electric motors for the job. Even on rougher road surfaces, these hydraulic assemblies can recover energy. Compared to the last-gen system, the current E-ABC setup reduces the overall energy consumption by almost 50%.
Bouncing Up and Down
Okay, so now your GLE or GLS can lean left or right when making a turn, but that’s not all the E-ABC can do. There’s also a “Rocking Mode” and this mode lifts and lowers the SUV body very quickly. Basically, this oscillates the loading of the tire on the ground. That means with the E-ABC, you can get the extra grip you need for your tires if you’re trying to get out of a muddy patch or deep sand. For lots of unpaved suburban parking areas, this will be a welcome feature indeed.
The E-ABC is a very clever solution to an age-old problem with tall and heavy cars. By creating a pressure differential between the chambers on either side of the damper piston, the E-ABC can raise or lower the body of the SUV at each corner.
This allows the E-ABC system to alleviate the expected body roll, and you’re even able to lean the SUV into your turns. It’s not as extreme as almost scraping your knee into the ground when you’re making a turn, but it’s a great help with drivers and passengers.
Hopefully we’ll see the system in other cars, and not just in the GLS and GLE models. It makes a lot more fun, and safer besides.
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