Vauxhall’s all-new Brit-built Astra Sports Tourer has been to the very extremes of climate testing, so it can defy the coldest of winters or the warmest of summers.
Using Vauxhall/Opel‘s International Technical Development Centre (ITDC) in Rüsselsheim, the car can subjected to conditions akin to the Sahara desert or the Arctic.
“We want to see how the materials in the Sports Tourer react to extreme conditions. We also check if its appearance changes and if extreme heat or cold have an effect on, for example, gap width,” explains Otto Hemmelmann, Lead Engineer Test Methods. The heat and cold test bench, also called thermal cycling testing, is part of the compulsory program in Vauxhall vehicle development, just like the acoustic and electronic lab tests. “After all, our customers around the world drive the Astra in all different climate zones,” says Hemmelmann. A complete production series Astra Sports Tourer is tested. This ensures that the exact materials used in customer vehicles are put to the test.
Even direct sunlight can be simulated in the climatic chamber. “If the Sports Tourer is parked outside in the summer, interior temperatures can reach 90 degrees,” says Hemmelmann. With the help of the sun simulation, the team tests the interior materials’ stress tolerance. “But we also test how long the air conditioner has to be on until the temperature is bearable again.” In addition, the so-called four-post test bench moves the Sports Tourer up and down under its wheels. This enables testers to ensure that comfort in the car is not compromised even under extreme conditions and that the interior materials make no irritating noises during driving despite high strain and stress.
The team’s systematic examination puts a special focus on the installed plastic parts such as bumpers and side sills. Employees from the respective specialist areas also check all functions in the interior. For instance, does the glove compartment open smoothly and easily? Can the FlexFold rear seat back be seamlessly adjusted in all situations? And above all, does the sensor-controlled tailgate also open and close at -40 degrees with a simple kicking motion under the bumper? Only when all components, body and add-on parts are tested and cleared has the Astra Sports Tourer passed the thermal cycling test – and then it is ready for its daily job as a comfortable business or multi-functional family car.