MC&T recently spent time with a 2021 Corvette Stingray of a very particular spec: a hardtop convertible with the FE2 suspension package. This Elkhart Lake Blue drop-top did not feature the Z51 package, and as such came with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S three-season tires, and a magnetic ride control suspension tune that made it optimal for grand touring. Those long, comfortable road trips at high speed. Not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about a mid-engined sports car, if we’re honest. However, our time with this C8 Corvette was exactly that, so we decided to take a closer look at the suspension system, highlighted by the latest magnetic ride control dampers, dubbed MR 4.0.
Talking us through the C8 Corvette suspension system was Michael Hurley, a General Motors vehicle dynamics engineer that specializes in controlled suspension development. The MagnaRide Master.
2021 Corvette Stingray FE2 Suspension Package: The Background
“The FE2 package benefited from the learnings of the FE4 package,” said Hurley. “We took the FE1 package – the most relaxed suspension with the all season tire – and added MR to it… these cars also benefited from MR 4.0.”
Compared to previous magnetic ride control dampers, MR 4.0 is a revolution, and completely changes how the Corvette and other General Motors vehicles utilize the adaptive suspension technology.
“There are two main things that happened,” Hurley begins to explain. “One is that we went away from position sensors at each corner calculating roll and pitch, to an actual accelerometer at each corner.”
The result is more accuracy, and therefore more exact control for suspension calibration.
“There’s a lot more fidelity there, a lot more precision,” said Hurley. “You’re getting rid of the linkage and the mechanical bits that are involved in a position sensor. You’ve got a much better signal to work with at each corner to start with.”
Another layer to the precision of MR 4.0 found in the 2021 Corvette Stingray is what’s described as an IMU – or an inertial motion unit – that measures true heave/roll/pitch signals, versus calculated ones.
“The calculations were fine but there’s definitely times where the better the signal is coming in, the better you can tune (the suspension),” explained Hurley. “This all happens within the MR controller itself. It has all sorts of inputs from everything else going on in the vehicle. But the actual computing power of MR has its own controller that runs it.”
MR 4.0 Suspension: Incredible Precision And Versatility
The benefit to this approach is a greater bandwidth for suspension tuning as well, and not only improved precision.
“Having true accelerometers, having true heave/roll/pitch signals rather than a calculation… you could tune more straightforward,” the GM suspension engineer said. “Especially really low velocity things. When you’re relying on a position system and it has a little lash in the system, and you couldn’t really trust the signal at a tight tolerance. Now the signals are real, and you can trust them, and tune them to a fidelity that you just couldn’t before.”
The 2020 Corvette Stingray was the first vehicle from General Motors with fourth-generation Magnetic Ride Control, but the Cadillac CT4 and CT5 also have MR 4.0 – highlighted by the Blackwing performance cars. Hurley also noted that any new GM application here on out will have MR 4.0, as well. Which will only mean better handling cars, trucks and SUVs from here on out.
However, suspension isn’t the only subcomponent of the 2021 Corvette Stingray that makes it handle so well. It’s the tires, too.
“(The tire) is part of the reason the FE2 package is as good of a GT car as it is,” mentioned Hurley. “The all-season tire brings with it a level of rolling isolation that you’re just not going to get out of a summer only tire. You start from there, and tune with that.”
From the tire, next comes what damper setup that engineers think would have the best application.
Magnetic Ride Control Part Of A “Library” Of Suspension Solutions
First step for us was to pick the damper. There’s a library of what we call ‘gaps and bypass.’ And that brings with it a family of damping curves… so you end up with this window of available curves through a velocity range.
Though, at some point, physics will take over.
The trick is that if you go less damping than what you get with FE2, that’s about as relaxed as I can make the car before it just gets shaky and unintegrated. So in order to keep things clean and integrated, there’s a minimum amount of damping that has to be there… you can do it and make it shake like a 70s Buick, but nobody wants that.
Magnetic Ride Control, unlike other fixed solutions such as the Multimatic DSSV dampers, also deliver incredible control at high speeds and cornering forces, and that’s what makes it a perfect solution for the C8 Corvette and the variety of uses seen from customers.
“There’s so much tuning availability with MR. All of the rebound/compression ratios through all of these velocity ranges are all tunable… that’s where you get the rolling plushness that really jumps out in the FE2 Corvette,” said Hurley. “I think that’s why there are so many variants of Corvettes, because people come in with a different set of priorities and desires.”
2022 Corvette And Beyond
The 2022 Corvette Stingray, launching this fall, will continue to offer the FE2 and FE4 magnetic ride suspension systems, as the Chevrolet Performance family readies for the arrival of the 2023 Corvette Z06. The flat-plane crank V8-powered supercar is expected to be the most track-capable C8 Corvette yet, and is likely to rely in part on MR 4.0 to get make it all possible.