Carmaker reveals the extreme testing regime for new cars
FROM Death Valley west of Las Vegas to the barren, isolated snowfields of Arjeplog in Sweden's north, BMW's 3-Series has been put through the wringer.
The multi-day heat tests in Death Valley, where temperatures exceed 50 degrees celsius, push the car to its limits.
The test include multiple runs at full tilt - with a full police escort - up and down the 4000-metre Mount Whitney to test the brakes, transmissions and engine performance to make sure nothing cracks or leaks.
Interior surfaces are baked in the desert heat and then cooled quickly to make sure they don't crack or warp, while the door seals and panels are tested for dust intrusion.
However, there is another, more unexpected, test conducted in the desert.
The maker attempts to fry the electronics via the electromagnetic rays emitted by the Hoover Dam hydroelectric plant. Placing the car in and around the electricity pylons spindling out from the station provides the perfect test environment to give the car a real buzz.
And from one extreme to another the cars are sent to Arjeplog in the Arctic Circle where winter temperatures rarely creep above -7 degrees but often drop well below -20 degrees.
But it isn't just the extreme cold that car makers head to the far north for. BMW tests out its stability control and all-wheel drive traction on slippery ice-covered lakes and snow trails. Each slip and slide is logged for future analysis.
Car are also put through more common high-speed racetrack tests and wind tunnel experiments to work on the car's driving dynamics and aerodynamics.
And Australian motorists benefit directly from this kind of extreme testing.
Hot weather desert tests are nothing new down under, several car makers, including Toyota and Hyundai, come to the Australian outback to push future vehicles to the limits.
Hyundai has convinced head office that the poor conditions of our roads require locally tuned suspension.
Jeep recently brought its new Wrangler to Australia to test it in some of the toughest off-road environments in the world.
The Jeep Wrangler program manager John Adams said at the time that Australia's unique conditions meant that local buyers expected a certain competence from the vehicle.
"Australia presents some incredibly unique driving environments," said Adams.
"Explicitly, we were looking at the effect of Australia's corrugated roads on long-range and high-speed drives which are common for much of the country's population outside of the cities - and how our suspension tuning processes these inputs, combined with the extreme heat effects on our engine, transmission and cooling system management temperatures.
"We understand there's an expectation from the Australian market that their vehicles are appropriately tuned to the country's unique driving conditions and it's for that reason we initiated the program to investigate if there's anything we could be doing differently when it comes to delivering the Wrangler for Australia," he said.