Extreme weather testing is an essential part of the development of a new car. Manufacturers like Aston Martin, Bugatti and Porsche take their cars to remote locations in northern Norway, South Africa and the Sierra Nevada in search of extreme temperatures, open roads and high altitude. These locations are revered as the ultimate proving grounds.
If the heating systems, rubber seals and air induction systems of a car can withstand an arctic blizzard, then it can survive a Northeast winter. If the cooling systems and air conditioning can survive high speed testing in South Africa, then bumper to bumper traffic in Los Angeles should be no sweat. If the brakes and engine can handle the torture of Sierra Nevada mountain roads, then a family vacation to Death Valley should be a walk in the park.
However, with prices reaching well into seven figures, shipping the latest Aston Martin One-77 or Bugatti Veyron to the ends of the earth is rarely an issue for either manufacturer. The average car, with a sub $30,000 price tag doesn’t have that luxury, yet it still has to meet the same challenges of modern driving. Since Chevrolet couldn’t bring the Malibu Turbo to the most torturous environments on earth, they built their very own torture chamber instead- the Climatic Wind Tunnel.
In Chevrolet’s Climatic Wind Tunnel, engineers are able to simulate temperatures of an Alaskan winter of 40 degrees below zero to the roasting sun of a 140 degree Arizona summer, and everything in between. Since Chevrolet couldn’t bring the Malibu Turbo to the arctic, they brought the arctic to the Malibu Turbo. It’s the ultimate test.
In addition to mimicking weather the wind tunnel also features a dyno capable of simulating various loads, and speeds up to 155 mph. It’s like a treadmill for cars where varying degrees of resistance illustrate the effects of hills, trailers, and passengers on a car’s drive-train This ensures that all of the Malibu’s 259 turbocharged horses are present, and continue to perform, even in the most extreme driving scenarios.
Unlike testing on public roads, engineers at the Climatic Wind Tunnel can test the same conditions and countless variations time and time again without waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate. The Climactic Wind Tunnel is a merciless place where cooling systems, drive-train components, tires and suspension are all pushed to their limits. The benefits are clear, if the Malibu’s 2.0 liter turbo motor can survive here it can handle the most abusive driving situations demanded by future owners.
However, the extreme dry heat or the ice cold isn’t always the toughest challenge for the Malibu Turbo. It’s the combination of heat and humidity often found in the Gulf Coast region that poses the greatest threat to the Malibu’s 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder power plant. With the air conditioning cranked to the maximum, and varying loads on the dyno, the Malibu Turbo has no problem maintaining a comfortable environment for would be passengers.
As much emphasis is placed on exotic and extreme weather testing by the likes of Porsche, it’s good to know that GM has found a solution to providing the same benefits to buyers of it’s more affordable cars. While the Corvette may have the benefit of LeMans for testing, the Malibu Turbo has the Climatic Wind Tunnel. It’s just as sadistic and unforgiving.
Source: GM Press