DETROIT – Neither snow nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night kept product development engineers from swift completion of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Turbo, arriving this month. The location for all of this torture testing? General Motors’ Climatic Wind Tunnel in Warren, Mich., where all Chevrolet vehicles take on the elements.
On the hottest days of summer, Malibu Turbo, which starts at $27,710, withstood blizzard and hurricane conditions inside the wind tunnel, where the temperature can replicate 40 below zero and the wind can blow 150 mph. Even on the coldest nights of winter, the tunnel’s temperature can easily climb to 140 degrees under 1,155 watts per square meter of simulated sunshine.
At this state-of-the-art facility, engineers take vehicle development and validation testing to the extremes, subjecting powertrain cooling, cabin heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to the harshest weather conditions found from Death Valley, Calif., and Denali, Alaska.
The wind tunnel also simulates driving actual roads with real-world weight burdens, such as hauling a fully loaded trailer up a steep incline by applying resistance through the wheels of the tunnel’s dynamometer, a tool that also allows simulated driving speeds of up to 155 mph.
“Testing in the Climatic Wind Tunnel reduces the need to travel to remote locations, which helps save time and money,” said Ben Cruz, GM engineering group manager for thermal testing at the Climatic Wind Tunnel. “Tunnel testing also minimizes the safety risks and traffic interactions associated with testing on public roads, and because the conditions are repeatable, we’re not limited by the whims of Mother Nature.”
Engineers used the tunnel’s blizzard-making capability to test Malibu Turbo’s air induction system, which is designed to prevent snow from clogging the vehicle’s air cleaning system. The system’s torturous path of multiple barriers blocks water molecules while allowing air to flow freely for engine combustion.
Malibu Turbo’s powertrain cooling system was developed in the tunnel and attuned to the car’s specific powertrain heat outputs and airflow characteristics to provide optimal performance even in extreme heat and cold. The system is designed to allow wide open throttle acceleration at egg-frying Death Valley temperatures, and has been validated in that desert location.
Malibu Turbo’s occupant comfort is just as important when the going gets hot. The car’s air conditioning system was tested against tunnel simulations of the high heat and humidity found along the Gulf Coast. This torture test helps ensure that Malibu Turbo’s all-new 2.0L engine delivers the rapid cool-down performance expected of a turbocharged power plant.
Climatic torture testing helps Chevrolet deliver improved quality and durability. Malibu topped the midsize sedan category in a recent third-party quality study, due in part to development work done at the Climatic Wind Tunnel.
“The new Malibu turbo was designed with the things that matter to our customers in mind, like starting on cold mornings and not overheating on hot summer days,” said Jeremy Loveday, Malibu turbo’s program engineering manager. “The Climatic Wind Tunnel helped us place the Malibu turbo in extreme conditions – if the car survives there, then it’ll perform extremely well when customers have them.”
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design, and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.