Acura does some nasty stuff to its cars here. In one test, engineers repeatedly drive a vehicle through a slush bath, out onto the autocross course, then back through the slush. Do it enough times on a really cold day, and a car can pick up more than 800 pounds of ice in its undercarriage and wheelwells. The result looks like a frozen wooly mammoth stuck in a Siberian glacier, but, says principal vehicle-reliability engineer Jeff Ertz, "Everything still has to work." To that end, Acura tweaks include extra talc in its plastics (which helps keep them pliable at low temps), glycol-filled engine mounts, and special temperature-compensating software for its variable-rate magneto-rheological shocks.
AET also operates several cold cells capable of maintaining an internal temperature of -45 degrees F. Gazing through a cell window, I see a hapless inmate -- a new ZDX -- looking about as mobile as a fire hydrant. I open the heavy fridge door, step inside, and...the cold hits me like a snowball to the face. Today it's "only" 35 below zero in here, but within seconds it's difficult to talk clearly. I'd mug for the onlookers on the other side of the window, but I can't risk pulling a "Christmas Story" by flash-freezing my tongue onto something nearby-like, say, the air. In another few hours, the poor ZDX is going to have to start up and drive away without complaint. Wear gloves before departure, please: A bare hand will bond with the door's metal on contact.
Naturally, I can't leave a winter playground like AET without performing a bunch of exacting scientific examinations like power drifts, handbrake turns, and full-throttle donuts. Then it's time for lunch. That's the great thing about Baudette, though: Even when it's 30 below, the walleye is never frozen.