IT TAKES AS long as seven years to create a new car, from the first drawing to the clay model to the final product rolling off the assembly line. No small part of that process is making sure whatever ends up getting built doesn?t fall apart the moment a customer tries to drive up Pikes Peak or through a blizzard on the way to the mall.
That?s why big carmakers like Fiat Chrysler have giant labs dedicated to testing cars, where they shake down new designs and put them through literal torture tests?everything from the worst roads imaginable to seemingly-endless simulated hillclimbs. Cars are crashed?for real and on computers. They?re flogged at top speed around monstrous ovals.
A key part of the testing process is time on the dynamometer, or rolling road. It?s basically a machine that simulates miles and miles of driving, using rollers to allow the tires to spin without having the car actually go anywhere, along with a giant wind machine to simulate what a car feels at 60 mph. They?re handy for measuring horsepower and torque without burning any rubber.
With brands like Dodge and Jeep to its name, Chrysler builds cars with a lot of power and capability?which is why it just dropped $2.5 million on a revamped dynamometer, one that can properly test all-wheel drive and 4?4 vehicles packing up to 650 horsepower.
The new dyno is built into Chrysler?s climatic test cell. The Auburn Hills, Michigan lab is designed to test cars in extreme weather?engineers can adjust the temperature from -40 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, or make it extraordinarily dry or humid. They can make it rain, adjusting everything from the amount of precipitation to the size of the raindrops. They can make it snow, from a light dusting to a full-on blizzard.
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