As we admire the shiny structure, a McKinley engineer explains that the lab's advanced air conditioning can cool the building to minus 65 degrees Fahrenheit, or heat it up to an astounding 165 degrees. Then there are the weather simulations: Snow, ice, winds, blowing sand/dust, and extreme humidity can be created for ideal, super-harsh conditions.
Goodyear uses the lab when specific weather conditions are required, as testing in cold weather in New Zealand, Minnesota, and Michigan (among many other places) is largely unpredictable. A week prior to our arrival, McKinley scientists and engineers dialed down the A/C to prepare for today's tire demonstration. Zambonis and snowplows ensure the powder and ice are as realistic as possible.
At 15 degrees, most of our electronics-and our appendages-are immediately rendered useless. It's the type of cold that truly tests that weatherproof claim of R.E.I. clothing, not to mention rubber tires. It is the chilliest climate-manufactured or natural-I've experienced. And after walking through the 18-inch-thick Sub-Zero-esque door leading into the massive hangar, I feel like a shivering, awestruck Jamaican bobsledder.
In between shivers, we take back-to-back rides in two new Ford F-250 Super Duties. One truck is equipped with Ultra Grip Ice WRTs, and the other rides on Bridgestone Blizzak W965 tires. The Ultra Grip Ice WRT (short for Winter Reactive Technology) is Goodyear's first dedicated winter tire for SUVs and light trucks and range in size from 225/70-16 to 275/70-18.