The 20km long Nürburgring 'Nordschleife' has a particular resonance with motoring enthusiasts, success at the challenging German track being synonymous with skilled driving, sharp handling and plenty of horsepower. But although Formula One deserted the track at the end of 1976, the Nurburgring has in recent times come to be used as a proving ground for the motor industry and is now renowned as much as a high speed test track as it is a classic motor sporting venue. The same classically titled corners, 'Karussell', 'Flugplatz' etc, that yesterday tested the world's top competition drivers, are used to push today's cars to the limit."Germany is an important export market for Jaguar, and our engineers have carried out high speed vehicle durability testing and evaluation on the Nürburgring circuit for the past four years," said Mike Cross, Jaguar Chief Engineer, Vehicle Integrity. "Every recent new Jaguar launch programme has been refined as a result of work in Germany. For example, the 400bhp Jaguar S-TYPE R and the new, all-aluminium Jaguar XJ had to prove their driveability and reliability in hundreds of laps through the 73 corners of the Nordschleife."
This programme not only ensures every Jaguar meets fully the expectations of German drivers, but also provides valuable data that can be applied to benefit Jaguar customers around the world.
The Nürburgring test centre is one of a network of Jaguar test facilities worldwide, including the UK, USA and other European countries.
For the last three years, Jaguar has leased a small workshop a couple of miles away from the circuit. The move to a larger, 6,000 sq m purpose-built facility closer to the track reflects the seriousness with which the company takes its commitment to developing further the characteristic sporting driving dynamics that ensure every Jaguar feels like a Jaguar.
The Test Centre Director is Wolfgang Schuhbauer, who is based full-time at the Nürburgring, working alongside a team of up to 20 engineers extensively testing new models and prototypes.
The Nürburgring is ideal for simulating a wide variety of driving conditions, and enables accurate assessment of vehicle behaviour lap after lap. The various dips and crests allow analysis of a car's performance under high levels of suspension compression, and the requirement to brake from high speeds gives the braking components a thorough work-out. All materials are subjected to much higher loads than in typical road use, providing a valuable means of testing performance levels and wear rates in extreme situations or under constant load in real-world conditions. Further aspects of study that can be conducted in safety on the track include stability control, vibration and wind noise, cooling and steering response.
But the Nürburgring was chosen by Jaguar for reasons that stretch beyond gruelling circuit-based development. The track, which is located in Eifel Mountains, is also the ideal starting point for test evaluation on excellent local roads. In view of the relatively low local population, the roads are quiet and safe. These include the winding mountain roads of the Eifel and Hunsrück regions, as well as autobahn which enables the car's handling at sustained high speeds to be studied.
The tests cover all parts of a new Jaguar, including wheels and tyres, dampers, steering, brakes, engines and transmissions and how they interact to deliver the unique Jaguar driving experience; dynamic performance combined with superior ride comfort. The test centre also focusses on the fine-tuning of the advanced electronic systems which are fitted to many new Jaguars, including Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), self-levelling air suspension, traction control and the CATS adaptive damper system – in each case, the programmes run from the Test Centre deliver valuable data and information.
The new Test Centre building houses several workshops with a total of eight lifting platforms and 20 computer terminals. The design of the entrance and the hall in the middle of the building allows a large truck to enter and unload its cargo behind closed gates. The Test Centre also incorporates a separate conference and training room, a restaurant and a presentation room. Facility Director, Wolfgang Schuhbauer, says of the qualities of the new facility: "The unique Nordschleife is the perfect place for preparing a dynamic and sporty car like a Jaguar for 'real life'. But while the track is undoubedly a special place, driving round and round would be of little benefit without the technical infrastructure to interpret what you learn. Jaguar already has a successful relationship with the Nürburgring and the new Test Centre will enable us to gain further advantage from our activities here."
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