A look in to Maruti Suzuki’s 600-acre R&D facility and proving ground in Rohtak

From test tracks, to labs and even a crash test facility, this is one of the most comprehensive testing and validation facilities in the country
The NVH testing lab at Maruti Suzuki's latest testing facility at Rohtak
The NVH testing lab at Maruti Suzuki's latest testing facility at RohtakMaruti Suzuki

Visiting a manufacturer’s testing and validation facility is always interesting. It is tremendously insightful in to the work that goes on behind the scenes to make cars that we drive today safe, comfortable, efficient and fun. Maruti Suzuki recently took us to visit its massive testing and validation facility located in Rohtak, Haryana about 2 hours from Gurgaon and showed us the highlights of this facility. This facility is huge — situated on over 600 acres and includes a number of test tracks and labs. Maruti is awfully tight lipped about it. This is the first time the press has been allowed inside in over five years and we were given access only after having signed plenty of declarations and giving up our phones.

The facility and its journey

The facility was opened way back in 2014. Before this, Maruti Suzuki was entirely dependent on Suzuki’s facilities in Japan for development and new products. The whole idea with this facility was to make Maruti Suzuki self reliant and allow it to develop products specific to Indian needs, without having to go back-and-forth with Japan for testing.
This journey started way before the facility though. Way back between 2002 and 2005, 30 Indian engineers were made part of the global engineering team for the then-new Suzuki Swift. Fast forward to 2012, the Alto was developed in India but with Suzuki’s help. It was 2016 that was a landmark moment — when Maruti Suzuki unveiled the Brezza at Auto Expo, CV Raman, now CTO at Maruti Suzuki standing proudly next to his creation. That was the first car to be developed entirely in India and this facility was instrumental in making that happen.

Out of the 600 acres, 400 acres are just test tracks
Out of the 600 acres, 400 acres are just test tracksMaruti Suzuki

Of the 600 acres, 400 acres are just test tracks. There are 19 endurance tracks, 7 NVH tracks, 3 high speed tracks, 2 braking tracks and 2 ride and handling tracks. This includes a high-speed bowl that covers 5.3km, has three lanes and has a neutral speed of 190kmph in the top-most lane. These amount to a total of 31km of tracks within the property, and allow for up to 70 vehicles to be tested simultaneously. Add to this 250 labs and you have a comprehensive facility that can test and validate pretty much everything you need to in a car. This includes crash safety. Yes, Maruti Suzuki has come under a lot of flack for crash safety with dismal GNCAP ratings but they do have one of the most elaborate crash test facilities in the country. The Brezza has scored a 4-star rating at GNCAP, and it is very likely that the Grand Vitara could score 5 stars.

The Labs

The labs that we visited in the facility were state of the art. The NVH labs were super interesting — sealed rooms with foam walls that completely seal these chambers off from the outside. The one we visited was held at 20dB and you could hear the fans of a laptop whirring 20 feet away , like they were right next to you. These labs are used to test the noise levels made by a vehicle, identify unwanted noises and also test the noises made be specific components when in use. They can identify where sounds leak in to the cabin from, measure the sound made by rubber bushings, the acoustic performance of different parts. The BSR — Buzz, Squeak and Rattle — chamber puts the car on a rig that simulates a bad roads and allows teams to identify where plastics rattle and what noises the cars make. The whole idea is to ensure that no annoying and unwanted sounds remain on a car when it gets to production.

The powertrain test facilities are the heart of this place. There are 30 individual test labs built in a modular fashion to test different things in an engine including performance, NVH, reliability, catalytic converter performance, emissions and even an evaporative test facility. These labs allow engineers to fine tune combustion, emissions, fueling and critical areas that determine performance and efficiency of an engine. They also allow you to age the catalytic converter rapidly to test its performance, say, after 1 lakh km of usage in just a week or two. This would take months to actually do on-road. The reliability labs are the most in number, and these can be used as unmanned labs to test how engines run over long periods of time, and how fluids like the coolant and lube behave. They also have deep thermal chambers which go to sub-zero temperatures to see how this impacts performance. The emission test cells can test drivetrains including 2WD, 4WD and EVs, and these measure the particulate matter and articulate numbers just like regulatory agencies do. The evaporative facility checks how much fuel and other emissions evaporate from the car when placed in the heat and whether they comply with the regulations defined for this.

The drivetrain and transmission test labs test all sorts of things like the impact of shifting, durability, performance of transmissions and efficiency. This section also has a low temperature lab for checking transmission behaviour in these conditions, and it has a lab to check the effect of torsion on the transmission and axles.

The electromagnetic radiation lab measures how much radiation a car makes
The electromagnetic radiation lab measures how much radiation a car makesMaruti Suzuki

Very interesting was the xEV facility. This has an electromagnetic radiation test lab that measures how much radiation a car makes, and also how it responds to being bombarded with radiation. I’ve never seen a room like this before — it looked very similar to the NVH rooms, but the insulating material was completely different. It didn’t just keep sound out, it kept radiation out as well. A number of antennae inside the room either bombarded it, or received the radiation allowing engineers to understand whether some parts need to be shielded from radiation or not. This facility also tests batteries — either as cells, modules or the whole battery pack. Meanwhile, the durability lab tests the vehicle and even each individual part or system, insulating real world conditions to check whether they fail.

The safety lab

The Brezza has scored four stars at the GNCAP safety tests
The Brezza has scored four stars at the GNCAP safety testsMaruti Suzuki

The crash test facility was really intriguing. The first room we walked in to had a bunch of dummies sat in a row along the wall. If you’ve watched Westworld or the Terminator, it will definitely send chills up your spine. These dummies are very interesting — they have a skeleton made of steel, an exterior made of rubber that mimics flesh and are chock full of sensors. The have to be maintained at a specific temperature — around 21 degrees — to ensure the properties fo the rubber don’t change. They’re also very expensive — the most modern Thor dummy costing nearly USD 1 million!

The safety department is involved from the beginning of the designs. Right from the CAE stage, the airbags and seatbelts are designed and developed. And these aren’t one-size fits all components that go in to all cars. Each car has its own components designed to fit the car. Crashing is first simulated in the CAE stage and once prototypes are ready, crashes are done in the crash test lab. Maruti says they are now at about 75-85 per cent accuracy with predicting how a car will crash in CAE. Around 40-50 crashes take place in the development of a vehicle: everything from frontal offset, frontal, pole, rear side. And all of this can be simulated at the laboratory.

The Rohtak facility is massive. I haven’t seen a facility of this scale in a single property in India, and it shows the might of a manufacturer like Maruti Suzuki. Today, Suzuki global relies on Maruti Suzuki to develop products or certain parts of products, and it can do so only because of a facility like this. But as CV Raman so aptly said — you can have all the equipment, but it doesn’t matter without the talent to use it. Today, 1900 engineers work for Maruti Suzuki in product development and R&D, of which 500 are at Rohtak. This is a fully self sufficient facility — it has everything short of a wind tunnel and is truly a spectacle. It shows why products like the Grand Vitara are so polished, and will be the foundation of EV products set to follow from 2025.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Evo India