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I don't know a thing about suspensions, and I'm wondering how to characterize the different ride styles of some cars I've driven. For example, I've driven a contemparary American cars have a pleasing, comfortable ride over bumps that feels like what I can only describe as a tight but satisfying soft rubbery feel. The cars feel responsive but also feel well insulated from cracks, bumps, etc. A 2015 XC60, on the other hand, has a harsher ride as if there is less insulation between the road and the chassis of car. That supple rubbery feeling is missing -- cracks and bumps in the road are more immediate and jarring.

Is this difference in ride quality a function of a car's suspension? Is there a technical way to describe the characteristics so that I could look for a car that has one or the other?

Thanks in advance for any insight.

Matt
 

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Never have I ever heard someone describe Volvo characteristics as harsch :o Even less so a an XC-model which generally are deemed, compared to their V-/S-siblings, spongier in comparison. Though I think I know what you're talking about. I've pretty much only ever dealt with Volvos my entire life and I recently took a road trip in a friends car that's a bit more racing bred. Very stiff suspension and low profile tires to name two things. Coming from Volvos I hated it as it was just plain unconfortably harsch. When I took it up to 90 MPH on the highway though it felt like 60 yet still. Kept pushing it and up at 110 MPH it was starting to feel like I was going somewhere.

If you're used to very smooth suspensions cars then anything stiffer's probably gonna feel bad (though based on what you're describing I wouldn't call the former car "tight" in terms of handling) and anything softer's going to feel wobbly.

The short answer is: the suspension is there to keep your wheels in contact with the surface. Stiffer suspension is designed to keep the wheels in contact with the surface as much as possible at the cost of comfort. Soft suspension will absorb bumps and provide a better ride comfort but throw it into a hard corner and it wont cope as well. If you're interested in the details I'd recommend looking up a youtube channel called EngineeringExplained which is what it sounds like. He does go in to the physical aspects on what's going on as well but I think it should make for an interesting watch either way.

Edit: While there are far many more factors than just suspension stiffness playing a part, a simple test would be to take a car up to something like 100-110 MPH on an empty highway with some minor twists and turns (not just any three lane dead straight road). A car with softer suspension should feel a lot less willing to enter turns and less agile while the stiffer car give more of a sensation that it could go even faster (though with a lot of common sense of course, start off in the softer car and see what it feels like in bends, at what speed it starts to feel a bit unwilling to corner and drive the same speed in the stiffer car).
 

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A car that provides real feedback to the driver on road conditions is inherently safer than a car that insulates the driver from these conditions and we all know how Volvo feels about safety. :)

You might try dropping several pounds of air pressure from the tires, as the factory settings are apparently set for maximum mpg. Even my dealer doesn't use as much air at the plate says.

Good luck.
 

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Never have I ever heard someone describe Volvo characteristics as harsch :o Even less so a an XC-model which generally are deemed, compared to their V-/S-siblings, spongier in comparison.
Same. To me, XC's are almost undriveable due to suspension softness. But I haven't driven a new XC60 though, only a new XC70 a few years back, I think in 2008 or 2009.
 
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