Martorell, 19/03/2018.– Forests of snow-covered birch and pine trees, temperatures that can reach 35 degrees below zero and a frozen lake used as a track, with a 60 centimetre thick ice sheet that makes it the ideal driving surface during the winter months. At a location near the Arctic Circle, SEAT engineers push up to 90 cars to the limit every year. The following are the most extreme winter tests that the SEAT Ateca FR was put through.
-Stability control: This test is performed on a circular track on the frozen surface of a 6 square kilometre lake. The exterior portion is less polished than the interior, for better drifting. The car’s traction control is disabled in different stages, and on some models it is even switched off completely for sportier driving. If the vehicle veers off course, the ESC system (electronic stability control) controls the wheels to correct the vehicle’s direction of travel.
-Braking test: 200 metres of tracks with two different surfaces – high and low grip. One of the lanes is heated to 10 degrees to prevent the asphalt from freezing, while the other is cooled to -16 degrees to preserve the ice. This test helps engineers calibrate the ABS system, a driver aid that controls vehicle stability in the most extreme conditions.
-Air intake test: The purpose of this test is to check that the engine’s air filter does not get blocked when driving in a cloud of snow behind another vehicle. To simulate this condition, two cars are needed that reach a speed of 80 km/h. The first one causes the snow to swirl and the one behind, which performs the analysis, gathers it in a measuring cylinder installed at the front of the car. Depending on the amount accumulated, the results are either validated or corrected. The distance between the two cars remains a constant 40 metres during the 50 km route.
-Contact noise analysis: The driver, and usually a second technician, try to detect any noise that can be annoying to the passengers and where it comes from. Due to the cold, some of the three thousand parts of a car contract and can be the cause of these noises when they come into contact. In order to analyse them, the cars are driven over several kinds of surfaces at different speeds. One of the variations of this test consists in driving the car several times on a 30 metre track lined with rumble strips at a speed of between 20 and 30 km/h.
-30,000 km of intensive use: This is the distance covered by vehicles in the durability test, which is used to analyse the wear they have to endure over the years. In this case, cars are driven on actual roads that are usually covered with snow and ice. Over the course of the test the drivers record the car’s performance, and the information is analysed by engineers at a later time.
These are just five of the nearly sixty different types of extreme tests that a car is put through. All this testing is more necessary than ever due to the integration of increasingly complex electronic systems, thanks to which drivers can be sure of being able to drive safely and reliably on any road and in all kinds of conditions.