Magic Body Control vs Citroën DS

Written by Kurt Schleier | Sunday, 29 September 2013 15:13

If you've been onto a contemporary car blog this week chances are you might have bumped into Mercedes-Benz' ad propagating its new Magic Body Control system through the medium of a chicken (made by ad agency Jung von Matt). A chicken? Yes, several chicken in fact. It illustrates Mercedes-Benz' intelligent suspension system which makes sure that the body stays level whatever surface might be thrown at the car. Or as Mercedes-Benz put it: "MAGIC BODY CONTROL combines the advantages of the active suspension system Active Body Control (ABC) with the globally innovative ROAD SURFACE SCAN function – a stereo camera that scans the road ahead and registers the road surface and its condition." Indeed, very much so, fortunately they made an ad illustrating the concept in a way that even the most out of touch with car technology can understand (see above). It actually made me think of another car, a car famed for its ability to cross even rough terrain smoothly. If we go back into time a little, well quite a bit actually, and stop in the 1950s, the French produced a certain car called the Citroën DS (that sculpture car we exalted not long ago in another post). You know, that car with the hydropneumatic suspension system, arguably enabling the smoothest ride of the time. Remember the videos (if you speak German then look here)?


Truth is of course, that while the DS was very impressive going straight ahead, it suffered from significant body roll; it wasn't as effective at keeping the body level over both roll axis. Comparing a video of the DS tackling a speed hump to a similar video Mercedes-Benz made to illustrate Magic Body Control, it's nonetheless impressive to see what Citroën managed to do 50 years ago. In fact, Citroën's system is well-regarded as being the precursor to just about any novel hydraulic suspension. And indeed, it should be seen as a precursor to Mercedes-Benz's Active Body Control system; Mercedes-Benz has been using a variable hydraulic system for a number of years, but has now taken another step with Magic Body Control. What Mercedes-Benz has done is in essence simplify Citroën's concept, it has eradicated the issues that plagued earlier hydraulic systems. It is probably how the DS' engineers would have envisaged their system, had they had the technological opportunities of the twenty-first century. With the Magic Body Control system, moreover, each Mercedes-Benz is literally one step ahead of conventional suspension systems and indeed conventional hydropneumatic suspension. So, soon to appear on the average Mercedes-Benz, for now only available on the S-Class. Lucky diplomats, CEOs and dictators.

Going back to the ad, it brilliantly demonstrates the essential point of the suspension system, just like the chicken's ability to keep its head still (it does so to help keep a clear field of vision and detect movement) whilst its lower body parts can move in whichever direction, the S-Class detects terrain ahead and levels accordingly to keep its body still and, more importantly, its passengers in a state of absolute comfort. It wafts over roads, just like the DS wafts over rough surfaces. One thing though, I doubt if an S-Class can do this: