Testing: 12 million test kilometres on four continents
After more than four years of meticulous development work and testing, the new A-Class completed its last, extended test drives as the winter came to an end. As well as putting the vehicle as a whole to the test, these challenging testing cycles focus particularly on the new engines. Testing in the climate tunnel is also a key aspect of the winter testing. At the same time, in Nardo, Italy, special endurance runs made the vehicles undergo accelerated ageing over approx. 100,000 km as part of a sophisticated endurance programme.
A few hundred prototypes and pre-production vehicles in the new compact class were tested in ten countries (Germany, Finland, France, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Dubai, South Africa, USA, China) on four continents (Europe, North America, Asia and Africa), covering around 12 million kilometres during two winters and two summers. In the process the test experts were able to build upon the extensive findings from their digital testing work, used to ensure both the buildability of the vehicle and for the simulation of e.g. crash behaviour, aerodynamics and NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). Intensive testing on a range of test rigs rounded off the process.
These include, for example, those of the Powertrain Integration Centre (IAZ), inaugurated in the summer of 2016 - one of the most sophisticated testing facilities in the whole automotive industry. A total of ten vehicle test rigs are used here for fine-tuning of the engine and transmission, amongst other things. The highlights include test rigs with high-precision torque measurement directly at the wheels of the vehicle as well as a test rig with a climatic altitude chamber. The Technology Centre for Vehicle Safety (TFS), inaugurated in November 2016 as the most state-of-the-art crash test centre in the world, also featured in the indoor testing process. The TFS opens up completely new opportunities, for example for vehicle-to-vehicle tests or for the configuration of assistance systems and PRE-SAFE®. In its direct vicinity at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre in Sindelfingen are the recently opened wind tunnels in which the A-Class received its superb aerodynamic fine-tuning.
After every development phase the new A-Class was required to pass a maturity test. Every digital development phase (components, prototypes, pre-production vehicles) was subject to approval by the project manager. The functional validation of the components in real-life testing must be provided both by the team responsible for each specific assembly module and by the complete vehicle test team.
Test runs with the Board of Management are used to allow top management to examine and assess the level of maturity reached by the overall vehicle. Any necessary decisions can be taken directly at the scene. The way is thus cleared to bring the new vehicle across the finishing line (production start-up) as a mature Mercedes-Benz product with all the hallmark characteristics.
Release by Development and the start-up of series production are followed by the final approval for release to customers from Quality Assurance.