Ridealong in Impala 2014 on General Motors speed track

Ridealong in Impala 2014 on General Motors speed track

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YUMA, Ariz. -

Security is something the U.S. military doesn't take lightly. So FOX 10 had to tread carefully when we decided to investigate a secret desert base.

While it's no Area 51, this facility near Yuma has its secrets as well. And prying eyes are not welcome.

It is north of Yuma, along Highway 95. The U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds. It's been there since World War II.

Testing how military vehicles hold up against the heat, and the enemy. But there's something else here too. And sometimes the only view is by satellite.

On this satellite imagery, a strange series of patterns emerge. Including a perfect circle 3.5 miles in diameter. From the ground, a cluster of buildings over a hill flying a U.S. flag.

We drive up to the main gate and we're quickly turned away. But this isn't a secret military installation.

It's the General Motors Desert Proving Grounds. GM leases the land from the army, which has no problem turning away unwanted intruders.

"The joke that we say here, we have air and ground cover provided by the US Army so we don't need to worry about product security," says general manager Frank West.

Thankfully, we are here by invitation. Our cameras are approved by security and eventually we get inside.

"We perform hot weather testing on any vehicle that GM sells in any part of the world in a hot environment."

Frank West is in charge of this GM facility, which moved from Mesa to the Yuma Proving Grounds in 2009. The hot weather and the protection afforded by the U.S. Army makes for a perfect partnership.

"We share each other's facilities, their mission is quite similar to ours -- hot weather testing."

"I have heard that Yuma has its own special blend of dust," says Jason Burke, GM engineer.

Jason Burke is a General Motors engineer who has spent a lot of time on the various tracks here -- including this three and a half mile circle track, the one we showed you in the satellite image. It's a high banked track perfect for speed testing.

"We will test performance cars as fast as they go, it's all part of the game."

Burke took us for a ride in Chevrolet's new Impala -- a compete re-design that consumer reports said was one of the best cars it has ever tested. A rating they are very proud of in Yuma.

"To have this car sitting here in the garage the last couple of days some of the guys getting to see a production version of the car its attracted a lot of attention," says West.

"Overall the car is just a better handling vehicle," says Burke.

The Impala and every other GM vehicle are tested on this so-called "ride road" track as well.

"We will hit a bump here -- nothing wildly unexpected there, nice smooth ride."

The road was built with all kinds of hazards a test car must negotiate safely, and quietly.

"We call those chatter bumps I will hit them again for you here -- it's just one of our many inputs into the vehicle."

But in Yuma, especially this time of year, it's still all about heat and dust. And for dust testing, GM says this dirt oval works best.

"Anybody who has seen the haboobs or dust storms lately know that it gets very dusty in Phoenix so we have to test to all the different extremes that our customers are going to experience with the vehicles."

A lot of car makers test their vehicles in Arizona. GM isn't alone. It's just the only one with military security on the ground and in the air.

"It's a controlled air space here," says West.

But GM strongly believes if any of their cars can take the heat and dust here, in the same environment where military vehicles are tested, it's good enough for them.

"At the end of the day it has to feel good it has to perform well," says Burke.

Despite its high praise from Consumer Reports, the 2014 Impala did not earn the magazine's coveted "recommended" rating because it doesn't have enough reliability data. The car is just too new.

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