No test too tough for new models
Four testing centres go to the extremes to ensure FCA vehicles are safe and sound
Ensuring every new FCA model can stand up to the harshest climates, challenging road conditions and extreme use scenarios – while still performing faultlessly – requires a global effort by engineers and technicians.
FCA puts its new models through extensive testing, from the glaciers of Arjeplog to the deserts of South Africa, and at its Balocco Proving Ground and Orbassano Safety Centre, to ensure they perform to the most exacting standards in driving pleasure, aerodynamics, emissions and fuel consumption.
The Balocco Proving Ground is one of the largest testing centres in the world. It contains 26 different test tracks totalling almost 50 miles.
Located halfway between Turin and Milan in the countryside near Vercelli, the facility was opened in 1962 by Alfa Romeo.
The main test track, which is named the Alfa Romeo Track, was inspired by the tracks used in the Formula 1 World Championship.
In the past, testing of production vehicles took place along with the activities of Autodelta, the Alfa Romeo Racing department. Numerous Alfa Romeo race cars were developed at Balocco.
Today, the Balocco Proving Ground provides all the tracks necessary to complete vehicle development, from high-speed to off-road testing.
The fully-equipped facilities and personnel are operational 24- hours a day conducting some 200,000 hours of tests every year. Balocco has the ability to condense the equivalent of 10 years of wear and tear on brakes, suspensions and mechanical parts, into just five months of measured tests and simulations.
In Arjeplog, FCA engineers have the ideal conditions and facilities for testing cars in extreme low temperature conditions with temperatures reaching -40 degrees
The presence of numerous frozen lakes offers many miles of isolated test tracks. The low temperatures are unrelenting and this makes it possible for specialised technicians to repeatedly carry out tests to fine-tune air conditioning, defrosting and demisting systems, as well as checking the performance of all materials, and the reaction times of the vehicles’ many active systems.
In addition, the area’s low-grip surfaces can be used to set-up a vehicle’s suspension without the issue of elasticity caused by heat.
While Arjeplog’s polar temperatures offer FCA perfect cold testing conditions, Upington is ideal for brutal heat testing.
Upington lies on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, next to the huge Kgalagadi Park, a name which translates as ‘the waterless place’.
It is one of the hottest areas in South Africa and provides optimal conditions for evaluating the effect of maximum temperature extremes, dust and dryness on correct vehicle performance.
To ensure reliability in all conditions, the components and systems of the vehicle are subjected to relentless testing. Engines, climate control, safety systems and materials must withstand all weather and landscape conditions.
To ensure the safety of its vehicles, FCA utilises a fourth testing site. The FCA Safety Centre in Orbassano has been in operation since 1977.
More than 20,000 crash tests have been performed by FCA brands since 1961. The latest vehicles to emerge from development achieve the highest scores in the Euro NCAP assessment.
In 40 years of activity in Orbassano, FCA has capitalised on the skills of technicians and the precision of the test methods of the safety centre to develop all models to achieve safety levels which were once unthinkable.
Having undergone full renovation in 2010, the Safety Centre crash test facility can today carry out any kind of crash test at speeds of up to 60mph.
A sophisticated new crash simulator, which can reproduce accelerations up to 60 times the force of gravity typical of those developed in a real crash without actually deforming the body, is the latest installation at the facility.
It enables the fine-tuning of components such as occupant retention systems, airbags, seatbelts dashboards and seats, and is further evidence of how FCA is working to ensure its cars remain at the leading edge of safety.