As Chevy‘s Malibu Turbo makes its way to dealerships this month, owners and potential buyers alike should be pleased to know that one of the tests performed by GM development engineers on the car involves subjecting the turbo-charged sedan to extreme heat and cold weather conditions.
As you may have already known, GM conducts its extreme weather testing at its Climatic Wind Tunnel (CWT) in Warren, Michigan. Engineers take vehicle development and validation testing to the extremes in the CWT, with the Malibu Turbo having withstood blizzard and hurricane conditions to test the car’s powertrain cooling, cabin heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to the harshest weather conditions found from Death Valley, California to Denali, Alaska. The boosted ‘Bu suffered through temperatures as low as negative 40 degrees and as high as 140, with the coldest environment ensuring that the air cleaning system — which contains multiple barriers that block water molecules (snow, ice, water) while allowing air to flow freely for engine combustion — works as it should.
The CWT also contains a dynamometer that can simulate driving at high speeds while subjecting the car to extreme weather conditions. The facility is capable of simulating real-world driving by placing weight burdens, such as hauling a fully-loaded trailer up a steep incline, by applying resistance through the wheels of the dyno. Perhaps more exciting to some is the fact that the dynamometer is capable of simulating driving speeds of up to 155 mph.
All in all, the lab puts the vehicle under 39 different procedures, including rain, snow, ice, high wind, high speeds, electrical systems test, interior, exterior, and fuel economy tests, among others.
The Advantage Of The Tunnel
By performing the development and validation tests in the tunnel instead of outside, engineers reduce safety risks and traffic interactions that are commonly associated with conducting tests on public roads. In addition, the tests are repeatable and don’t put the development crew at the mercy of Mother Nature. We also imagine that using the Climatic Wind Tunnel rather than traveling to remote locations to find extreme temperatures and weather conditions accelerates development and keeps costs down at the same time.
The Beneficial Outcome
We don’t know of any other manufacturer that subjects its vehicles to the same kinds of torture testing, which ultimately assists GM in delivering vehicles with improved quality and durability. Unsurprisingly, the Malibu Turbo has performed well in all of the tests, a quality that some of Malibu’s competitors may not possess. The car’s engine cooling system, for instance, was developed in the tunnel and tuned to the car’s specific powertrain heat outputs and airflow characteristics to deliver optimal performance even in extreme weather and temperature conditions. In fact, the system is designed to allow wide open throttle acceleration at scorching temperatures found in the Death Valley — with the turbocharged powertrain being validated at the location.
Priced from $26,950, the Malibu Turbo cradles GM’s new 2.0 liter turbo-charged Ecotec (LTG) engine making 259 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque while delivering 21 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway.
In this video, GM Engineering Group Manager for thermal testing at the Climatic Wind Tunnel, Ben Cruz, explains more about the CWT: