General Motors Tire-Wheel Systems Lab abuses tires for 2011 Buick Enclave

The tires on the 2011 Buick Enclave luxury crossover may look nice on the road, but General Motors (NYSE: GM) went through a lot of abuse by 50 engineers to prove their performance, durability and safety before being chosen.

At the General Motors Tire-Wheel Systems Lab on GM’s Milford Proving Ground, staff from a range of major tire manufacturers joined in the tire abuse, giving new meaning to the old adage, "where the rubber meets the road."

According the latest GM news release, each tire vying to be chosen for the Enclave went through 25 different lab tests to gauge how well they hold up against simulated real-world abuse.

Some tests mimicked hitting a curb at low speed or smashing into a pothole. Lab dynamometers with specially grained sandpaper were used to replicate tens of thousands of miles of road wear.

“Tires are the only contact point you have with the road,” said Tire Engineering Group Manager Dave Cowger. “Your tires influence everything from fuel economy to steering and handling, road noise, and braking. So we beat the heck out of these tires in the lab to make sure they have the right traction, fuel economy, durability and other characteristics.”

Having tires that reduce road noise is especially important to Enclave’s library quiet interior, which allows passengers seated in the third row to hear a conversation between first-row occupants without interference. Enclave is the only crossover in its segment equipped with QuietTuning, Buick’s exclusive engineering process to reduce, block and absorb unwanted noise from entering Enclave’s cabin.

Tires that survive the lab tests graduate to the test track are put through further punishment. Of the scores of tires considered for the Enclave, only the 19-inch Michelin P255/60R19 and 20-inch Bridgestone P255/55R20 all-season tires made the cut.

Since the Tire-Wheel Systems team was formed in 1968, the group has tested more than 20,000 tire constructions. Buick, as well as Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac, use Tire Performance Criteria (TPC) markings, which serve as a “seal of approval” for tires that meet or exceed GM’s stringent tire standards. To earn the TPC marking, tires must deliver exceptional results covering traction, handling, noise, endurance, tread wear and other factors.

Tire Performance Criteria also lets customers know what tires to look for when shopping for replacements. “I always tell people when shopping for replacements to look for the same tire that came with the vehicle, with the same TPC marking,” Cowger said. “We’ve engineered those tires to be the best they can possibly be.”

In addition to tire durability testing, Enclave’s recent recognition as a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and five-star overall vehicle safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demonstrates Buick’s commitment to protecting customers and their families.

[Photo Source: media.gm.com]

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About the Reporter: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks and futures, and writes articles, books and ebooks via authorfrank.com, but may be contacted here by email: FrankS@TorqueNews.com

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