General Motors’ Milford Proving Ground is inconceivably large. It’s 140-miles worth of roadways cover two Michigan counties, and consist of an oval track, a road course, two huge, separate straightaways and much more.
Milford’s different tracks serve a variety of purposes. GM says these specially-designed roads “bring out the best in a vehicle,” by highlighting its weaknesses, allowing them to return to the drawing board and fix the issue.
One of the oldest tracks at Milford is the North South Straight Away. Built in 1955, the three-lane, 3-mile-long road is used for top-speed tests and features turnaround banks at either end. There’s also ‘Black Lake, a similarly old, 67-acre square of asphalt which is used to test traction control, stability control, braking and more. The surface can also be moistened and used as a skidpad or to replicate wet driving conditions.
The newest major addition to Milford is the Road Course, also known as the ‘Lutz Ring’. The former GM chairman wanted a racetrack which emulated specific sections of some of the world’s most challenging racetracks. He got his way, and in 2003, construction began on a 2.9-mile, 17-turn road course designed to test vehicle suspension and aerodynamics. There’s also a straight allowing fast cars to top 150 mph.
“I lobbied for it, all of a sudden it was approved,” said Lutz. “Look what’s happened to the ride, handling, steering, braking… everything of GM cars. We’re better than the best of competition and part of the reason is we have that facility (the road course). The lessons learned on steering, tire grip, braking, etc. that are learned on very high performance vehicles, some of that translates all across the line.”
Despite the obvious importance of these different tracks, GM says they only account for about 1 percent of performance testing. When engineers aren’t driving the cars at Milford, they are preparing the car for the tests to ensure all the gathered information will be used for future vehicle development. Engineers at its Lang Lang, Australia, Shanghai and Yuma, Ariz. Test facilities also follow similar steps, however none of these facilities match up the inconceivably vast Milford Proving Ground.