No mercy for the Mercedes-AMG GT.
A Mercedes-AMG GT makes its way through Barcelona. Although it is camouflaged, the stylish green/black adhesive film causes heads to turn. The sports car’s breathtaking proportions and the distinctive V8 sound causes jaws to drop. This is “business as usual” for AMG employees taking part in test drives.
“This is our final check to ensure that everything is perfect. Because, if a problem were to show up once the car has reached the customer –no, that can’t be allowed”, says Christian Wolff, AMG’s Head of Quality and Member of the Board.
The AMG GT in everyday operation.
The target is zero fault tolerance. Mercedes-AMG has developed a test programme for this, whereby staff members closely examine the new GT in everyday operation. They can be IT specialists, HR people or marketing experts – it doesn’t matter. How is the gearshift? Are the leather seams nice and straight? The testing programme runs for several weeks. Christian Wolff’s team evaluates these and determines the measures necessary to address any possible weaknesses prior to series production. “In the end”, says Wolff, “we achieve the ‘clean point’, which means that all faults have been addressed”.
They all come here, to northern Sweden.
First, the snow crunches beneath your feet, then beneath the tyres. They all come here, to northern Sweden. Prototypes from all manufacturers cross paths. Always in search of the cold. Tyres, engine, transmission and control systems, bodyshell, interior, climate control and the vehicle as a whole – no vehicle manufacturer could possibly forego testing on snow and ice in freezing temperatures. Newly developed vehicle components react differently to cold and heat, be they rubber door and window seals, front and rear skirts made from plastic or interior trim elements in carbon fibre.
The cold makes things brittle, the cold causes different noises. The human ear can often localise the source of acoustic problems considerably more accurately than highly sensitive measurement devices on the test bed.
Transmission oil is as thick as honey.
How does the V8 engine start at minus 30 degrees Celsius? How smoothly does the dual-clutch transmission shift when the transmission oil is as thick as honey? The AMG team barely has eyes for the peace and tranquillity of the landscape. The work around Arjeplog commands their full attention. It gets dark very early and people tire faster. Nobody wants to end up in a snowdrift in a ditch or come into unwanted contact with a herd of reindeer. “Safety first” is the guiding principle.
From Sweden to Colorado.
During the summer, AMG development engineers go on a grand tour of the USA. More than 25 GT and GT S models spend several weeks travelling through the land of unlimited possibilities. The teams from the Engine, Transmission and Total Vehicle departments put their new baby through a final test of maturity under searing heat, subjecting both man and materials to extreme loads. But it’s not the high outside temperatures alone that bring the engineers to the USA, as Christian Enderle, Head of Engine and Drivetrain explains: “There are driving conditions in Colorado that we simply can’t simulate, even on our high-tech test stands. Here in the Rocky Mountains, you can reach 3,500 metres above sea level in no time at all”.
Engine and transmission control are just as busy dealing with the rapidly changing air pressure and temperature as the air conditioning and heating systems.
Shakedown on the salt flats.
The crowning glory is the salt flats. The salt lakes west of Salt Lake City provide the annual stage for speed record attempts. They offer more than enough space for rocket-powered missiles like the legendary “Blue Flame”, which reached 1,001.66 km/h on the salt flats near Bonneville in 1970.
But the AMG engineers aren’t seeking to break any records today. The testing on the salt lake is more about checking whether all pressures, temperatures and other values stay within their approved limits. And whether the underbody panelling, door and bonnet seals fulfil the requirements for production sign-off.
South Africa: red wine and potholes.
For a European, there are plenty of good reasons for spending winter in South Africa. Warm temperatures, cheerful people, excellent red wine. For the AMG development engineers, however, it is the first two aspects that take priority. First and foremost, their trip to the southern hemisphere saves time. As the cold, wet time of year begins in Europe, South Africa beckons with spring and summer. When you have just 2.5 years of development time, this is an unbeatable argument. Plus, the South African summer is hotter and wetter than Germany’s. At the Cape, the focus is on the GT’s drivetrain – the engine, gearbox and other transmission components. The teams from Affalterbach are travelling in two different parts of South Africa – around the eastern town of Nelspruit, the capital of Mpumalanga province, and in the western area around Upington, not far from the Namibian border. The benefits of these locations are the low levels of traffic, the relative absence of prototype hunters and wide roads. It’s only the deep potholes that present something of a hindrance.
Fine-tuning in Papenburg.
Papenburg in Emsland, a town of 35,000 known for ATP, the 780-hectare facility “Automotive Testing Papenburg”. It is on this unique proving ground that the Mercedes-AMG GT covered umpteen thousand kilometres during its 2.5 year development period. The high safety precautions mean that nobody need fear the vehicle being “shot” by a prototype hunter way before its world premiere. The big dynamic testing area can accommodate special exercises like slaloming or avoidance manoeuvres at a variety of speeds. A separate piece of track incorporates all common types of road surface, and the handling track can be sprayed with water. A five-lane oval circuit more than twelve kilometres long easily permits speeds of more than 300 km/h.
Intensive discussion is the very foundation of vehicle development. The complex, multi-year task of conception, development, testing and production sign-off is based on real teamwork. A focused approach to the issues, structured management of challenges, staying motivated during difficulties – this is standard practice for the AMG employees involved in the development of the GT. Frank Müller, GT model technician in Total Vehicle Testing elaborates: “The dialogue and exchanges with our boss Tobias Moers are really important. He himself drives the cars at the limits and provides us with enormously valuable feedback for further development.”
Tobias Moers returns the compliment: “Part of the AMG spirit is, never give up! We are only satisfied once we have achieved our ambitious targets. And I have a great team at my side that brought this car to fruition. That’s something I can be proud of!”