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Testing, Testing: 1, 2, 3-Series
Test examples of the next marvellous machine from Munich have been spending time in locations spanning Death Valley, Sweden, and Germany
The BMW 3-Series, long known in enthusiast circles as one of the best performing cars in its segment, is almost due for a refresh. Test examples of the next marvellous machine from Munich have been spending time in locations spanning Death Valley, Sweden, and Germany as developers fine tune details for the next BMW 3-Series.
A full range of stresses and strains that a car will encounter in everyday driving are reproduced by the company in concentrated form. From extended periods driving flat out to endless stop-start traffic, sub-zero temperatures to searing heat, high-speed highway to pothole-infested tracks (sounds like the average commute on the Don Valley Parkway to us), the prototypes sent through the test program have experienced just about everything their production equivalents will come across in everyday life.
Starting in the crippling heat of the American southwest, the next 3-Series is subjected to multi-day heat tests in which cars are left out to fry in the desert sun for hours at a time before being rapidly cooled off and thoroughly checked over. This not only stresses the climate control systems but also induces wear that could produce unacceptable squeaks or rattles down the road.
Electric towers near Lake Mead and the mighty Hoover Dam are said to heave off increased amounts of electric interference, enough to reportedly play havoc with sensitive electronics found in some cars. BMW exposes the test mules to this interference, checking for problems. Heavy driving in these dusty conditions also lets engineers know how good the seals and filters are at keeping out irritants (and we’re not talking about your Uncle Buck; you’re on your own with that one).
The autocorrect-vexing town of Arjeplog in northern Sweden provides the setting for opposite but equally important tests. Not only does it give prototypes a chance to demonstrate their imperviousness to extreme cold, it also provides a stage for the new model’s chassis controls systems to show off their full range of abilities.
This controlled hoonery allows for a link-up between DSC and the xDrive all-wheel-drive system, interplaying with the new BMW 3-Series M Sport differential. Given that some corners of the internet have been carping about the current 3-Series’ lack of playfulness, engineers can refine this system down to the last detail under constant conditions.
BMW is also tuning the next 3-Series at their Aschheim proving grounds, in addition to laps of the fabled Nürburgring and its network of nearby roads. The German performance giant also deploys its test facility in southern France, a setting with everything from a paved oval to handling courses and circuits with surfaces of every sort. We’re sure BMW officials absolutely hate spending a spell in the south of France’s sunny climate as well. Hey, if a dose of Vitamin D is what it takes to make the 3-Series playful again, who are we to argue?
All of this testing occurs outside, where prying eyes bent on getting a peek at the Next Big Thing could ruin BMW’s party. To thwart the cameras, the company drapes its test mules in camouflage before heading out in public places. In the basement of BMW’s Research and Innovation Centre in Munich, pre-production vehicles are kitted out with a made-to-measure and confusingly patterned cloak of camouflage.
Codenamed the G20, the next 3-Series will ride on a new longitudinal-engine platform, said to help make the car lighter than the outgoing model by about 150 pounds. Expect to see a production version at the Paris Motor Show in October.
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