While the testing facilities at General Motors’ multiple proving grounds around the world are state of the art, getting a test vehicle out into the real world is just as important as navigating simulated challenges. Three engineers assigned to Chevrolet products recently took that to the extreme.
When testing for the effects of cold weather on the fuel economy of the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, energy and powertrain integration engineer Tessa Baughman booked a room at Hôtel de Glace, an ice hotel outside of Quebec City, apart from a testing regime at GM’s Kapuskasing cold weather testing facility. Along the way, she experienced whiteout conditions, large snow drifts and frigid Canadian January weather – all before sleeping on a block of ice.
Nothing Baughman put the Cruze Diesel through seemed to phase the car, whether cold weather or snowy roads. And despite needing to use more energy – and therefore fuel – to get the 2.0L turbocharged clean diesel engine warm, Baughman still averaged 42.4 mpg over the course of the frigid trip.
“The trip gave me the chance to see what it’s like to drive a Cruze Diesel in everyday cold weather situations,” said Baughman. “It’s hard to replicate in a controlled testing environment.”
Nate Sumner, a vehicle dynamics-ride and handling engineer, was tasked with running up the odometer on a development model of the Spark small city car. Instead of around town commuting and errands, Sumner loaded the Spark with his 20-year-old sister and 14-year-old brother, and enough ski equipment for all three, taking full advantage of the Spark’s 31.2 cu. ft. of cargo room. The three headed to Boyne Mountain, a ski resort in northern Michigan, nearly four hours from Detroit. Not content with a mere 500-mile round trip, Sumner and his siblings then settled in for a 730-mile one-way trip south on I-75 to see their parents in Atlanta.
Over the course of the 10½-hour trip, the Spark’s MyLink system allowed the siblings to simultaneously sync their phones – both iOS and Android devices – to MyLink. During the course of the trip, the Spark’s built-in USB ports kept the passengers’ phones charged, no matter how much Pandora® streaming they put them through.
Then there was Tahoe and Suburban ride-and-handling engineer Greg Stamm. To assure the full-size SUV’s suspension could handle more than just potholed pavement, Stamm took a 2015 Tahoe test vehicle to McPherson Pass outside Yuma, Ariz. McPherson is 16-18 miles of two-track off-roading intended for specialty vehicles and includes a ramp made of piled stones that must be scaled to complete the course.
Stamm took the course at speed once, then repeated it two more times. The Tahoe’s independent coil-over-shock with twin-tube shock absorbers in the front and solid axle with five-link location and coil springs in the rear proved greater than the task.
“While our proving grounds have off-road sections, they’re not as rugged as true two-track trails,” said Stamm. “Running the trucks on a course with real off-road conditions allowed me to test to the extreme conditions I wanted to make sure the trucks could handle.”