LUTON, England – Vauxhall’s (Opel in South Africa) all-new and British-built Astra Sports Tourer has been to the very extremes of climate testing, so it can defy the coldest of winters and the warmest of summers.
The brands’ International Technical Development Centre in Rüsselsheim, Germany (that’s it in the images), reproduces conditions comparable to the Namib desert – the temperture is 60C (nearly four degrees higher than the highest recorded temperature on the surface of Earth) and the sweat is pouring. Parked in it us a new seventh-generation Opel Astra Sports Tourer , defying the heat.
One day later (same place, same time) and the same car is wrapped in a white outfit – a thin layer of ice. The car’s windows are frozen over and the temperature is -40C, to cold for a human to survice without serious winter clothing.
Otto Hemmelmann, his job lead engineer for test methods, told The Corner through a media release: “We want to see how the materials in the Sports Tourer react to extreme conditions. We also check for appearance changes – if extreme heat or cold will, for example, affect gap widths.”
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The heat and cold test bench, also called thermal cycling testing, is part of the compulsory programme at Vauxhall’s English vehicle development, just like the acoustic and electronic lab tests. “After all,” Hemmelmann explained, “our customers around the world will drive the Astra in all different climate zones.”
Temperatures change daily during the two-week phase. Hemmelmann again: “Sealing, bonding, plastic parts and materials, rubber… all this has to work properly, meaning constant elastic constricting and stretching like a rubber band, without bearing any trace of it.”
Even direct sunlight can be simulated in the climate chamber, Hemmelmann added. “If the Sports Tourer is parked outside in summer the cabin temperature can reach 90C. ‘Sun simulation’ tests the heat tolerance of cabin materials but we also test how long the aircan takes until the temperature
is bearable by a human..
A ‘four-post’ test bench under its wheels moves the Sports Tourer up and down to make sure passengers’ comfort is not compromised – even under extreme conditions – and that interior materials are silent despite high strain and stress.
The Astra Sports Tourer does not need to be specially prepared for the heat/cold test bench. It is fitted with commercial tyres and belts secure the car on the four-post test bench. Nevertheless, each is thoroughly checked before the test because, after the hot/cold treatment, engineers look at the Sports Tourer through the customer’s eyes and identify differences.
“We look at what impression the car makes on us and take measurements to determine if anything distorted or become misaligned,” says Hemmelmann.
COLD MUSTN’T AFFECT ‘THE KICK’
The team’s systematic examination puts a special focus on plastic parts such as bumpers and sills. “The gap width is extremely important in these cases,” Hemmelmann added. “Employees from the respective specialist areas also check all cabin functions… for instance, does the glove compartment open smoothly? Can the FlexFold rear seat-back be seamlessly adjusted in all situations?
“And above all, does the sensor-controlled tail door open and close at -40 degrees with a simple kick motion under the rear bumper?”
Only when all components, body and add-on parts are tested and cleared will the Astra Sports Tourer pass the thermal-cycling test to be ready for is daily job as a comfortable business or multi-function family car.
The cars were to have gone into production towards the end of 2015 – The Corner has been informed that there are now no plans to bring the car to South Africa.