Vauxhall's all-new Brit-built Astra Sports Tourer has undergone extreme climate testing to enable it to cope with the coldest of winters or the warmest of summers.
A stock production model was subjected to conditions comparable to the Sahara desert at Vauxhall/Opel's International Technical Development Centre (ITDC) in Russelsheim, Germany. In the middle of winter, the mercury was at 60 degrees Celsius and the sweat was pouring.
One day later, same place, same time: the Astra Sports Tourer was wrapped up in a white outfit covered with a thin layer of ice. The vehicle's interior was not visible from the outside, as the windows were completely frozen over as the temperature dropped to -40 degrees.
"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, "After all, our customers around the world drive the Astra in all different climate zones."
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.
During the two-week phase, temperatures changed daily. "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 traces of it," explains the Chief Engineer.
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 to test whether comfort in the car is compromised under extreme conditions and to ensure the interior materials don't squeak or rattle during driving despite high strain and stress.
After the hot/cold treatment, Vauxhall engineers look at the Sports Tourer through the customer's eyes and analyse any differences. "We look at what impression the car makes on us and take measurements to determine if anything has become distorted or misaligned," says Hemmelmann.
Only once all components, body and add-on parts are tested and cleared is the Astra Sports Tourer deemed to be fit for purpose and ready for sale.