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Jun 10, 2011

Cars Pushed To The Limit - The Industry Tests That Are Designed To Kill!

Since the 1960s, we’ve seen cars’ reliability go from non-existent to bulletproof. The introduction of Japanese cars helped push the envelope of how reliable a car can be, but how have the modern manufacturers ensured the cars can put up with the most extreme circumstances? Here’s a look into the tests carried out on cars that push them to the limit.

Lightning test

So, you’re driving down the road and you see a storm coming straight for you – what do you do? The instinct is to get out your car and run for the hills because we’ve been told since the dawn of time that metal conducts electricity – and cars are, typically, made from metal.

Well, apparently staying inside your car would be a safer bet. You see, car manufacturers now put their latest models through lightning tests to ensure that the occupants, electrics and shell remain perfectly intact if the car was to be struck.

Take the Top Gear lads, for example, who decided Richard Hammond would be a great volunteer to test out the theory. He was sent to the Siemens facility in Germany and was struck with a continually bolt of lightning for well over 30 seconds, and he survived. Not only did he remain but the car did, too.

Winter test

Cars that are sold across the globe need to be weather proof; whether it’s boiling hot or freezing cold, the cars have to be adaptable and work in almost any conditions. So when manufacturers do their testing for freezing weather, they usually just use very a clever technology in a lab. They can replicate temperatures below -40C and push the car past its working ability.
Some companies, however, take the winter testing so seriously they take the car to the North Pole. McLaren, for example, did this with the SLR supercar – and reports state it didn’t miss a beat.

Euro NCAP

Those clever folk at Euro NCAP may seem like harmless, scientists, but they’re not; they’re in fact brutal serial killers. Every day they kill some of the most beautiful – and, admittedly, awful – cars on the planet just to try and improve safety.

Manufacturers sacrifice a few of their brand new models to secure a Euro NCAP rating that they hope will help sell the model to safety-concerned family drivers across the globe. It’s a brutal business, though, as Euro NCAP drive the cars into deformable concrete blocks at 40mph to determine just how ‘safe’ the cars are. Wonder if they’ve ever tested the £250,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom?

Mira

The famous Mira testing facility has become well known thanks to its role in several Top Gear and Fifth Gear episodes, but the plant is so much more than just motor journalists’ playground. This industry standard facility is where car manufacturers bring their latest models to test them to destruction.

There’s an alpine handling circuit, a cobbled road designed to destroy suspension set-ups and a wet-roundabout that will show up any poor chassis design. It’s a place that cars dread to go, but it’s a vital part of ensuring future models are up to the mark in the reliability section.


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