Designing, engineering, implementing, and testing mid-cycle upgrades to a an existing vehicle may seem like a simple and rudimentary task to those who don’t do it professionally. In face, the unofficial term “facelift” often comes to mind, implying that the changes are minor and insignificant. But that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy task for the men and women who are responsible for making an already great vehicle — such as the 2013 Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave — even better.
GM’s three Lambda-based full-size crossovers have received many an updates for respective their midcycle updates — but one of the minor improvements includes the vehicles’ armrests, which can accommodate as many as 16 elbow bones (when the vehicles are fully loaded with eight passengers). To ensure that the elbow rests are comfortable for the vehicles’ occupants, GM global human factors engineer Joan Hertely and her team spent numerous hours examining as well as testing vehicle dimensions and materials to achieve the highest level of comfort.
“The process begins with benchmarking,” said Hertely, who has 12 years of armrest engineering experience. “We look at what works, what doesn’t, and start compiling criteria for width, length, angle, height, adjustment options, comfort, reach and overall design. And those factors consider door handles, cupholders and switch locations.”
Lest you think all armrests are the same — they’re not. The driver’s armrest has more controls while the front center armrest — which needs to both slide and open to provide access to storage — must be level with the armrests on the two front doors. In addition, the four rear outboard armrests now feature cupholders that are situated in a way so as to avoid spills, while the armrests found on the optional captain’s chairs found in the second row move with the seatbacks. It’s these little things that drivers or owners may not always consider… but for Hertely and her team, it’s priority number one.
Following hundreds of hours of testing and analysis in a stationary prototype, the initial layout is decided upon, and road testing begins. Hertley and her team take countless drives in the Lambda crossovers, during which they pay particular attention to the way in which each armrest feels on the elbows and forearms. What’s more, the addition of the rear cupholders calls for testing comfort levels with the holders in use.
Couple the attention to ergonomic detail by GM’s human factors engineering team with the dedication to preventing and/or eliminating squeaks and rattles by GM’s Squeak and Rattle lab, and this is yet another reason that we love GM products. Perhaps GM isn’t unique in engineering vehicles this way, but The General sure as heck does it right.