Objectively, it is not easy to evaluate a tyre’s efficiency in a segment as competitive as high performance sports tyres. The magazine Motorsport, together with Rezulteo, has conducted a thorough survey directly comparing high performance tyres which are considered as a reference on the market. Sometimes surprising, the results are very instructive.
Rezulteo’s big tyre comparison of high performance tyres
How can you accurately determine the quality of a high performance tyre? This is a hard question to answer without taking an in-depth look at all market competitors. Recent regulation changes making labelling mandatory for all tyres sold in the European Union, can only reassure consumers on one sole criterion: wet grip. Objectively, fuel efficiency and external noise (the two other technical characteristics that appear on the label) remain less important for a sports tyre which is mainly bought for its dynamic driving performance, regardless of whether the track is wet or dry. Other important criteria such as wear resistance, steering responsiveness or even price also need to be taken into account for this type of product, points which are not covered by this labelling standard.
We had to find a way to directly compare the main competitors in the high performance tyre market, tyres which can be found on most sports cars whether powerful compact cars, large saloons or even ultra-sporty cars. Apart from a few super-sports cars which require specially designed and exclusive tyres, most of these cars fit the same kind of tyres but may require different diameters and widths depending on the vehicle’s needs. A sports tyre market with many competitors, where certain brand names are better known than others (Pirelli, Michelin …). We brought these competitors together with the intention of obtaining comparative figures through a rigorous methodology.
An ideal test car
To test the ten main market competitors, we chose the most natural setting possible for a high performance tyre: A motor racing circuit, and in this case the Club track of the famous Magny-Cours complex which, only a few years ago, hosted the French Formula 1 Grand Prix. This circuit has the advantage of being independent of any tyre manufacturer, and therefore no risk of producing misleading results. A car still had to be found for these tyres for us to obtain measurements through a series of tests.
We opted for the Ford Focus ST, a sporty compact car, perfectly compatible with the tyres to be tested. Armed with a supercharged 4 cylinder engine producing 250 hp, it is a front-line model in the reasonably priced sports car category. Able to remain sufficiently versatile in everyday life, this car excels when driven fast on the road or track. This front wheel drive car, like the Renault Megane RS, the Volkswagen Scirocco Rand theVauxhall Astra OPC, which are its direct competitors, even if the Focus ST has a slightly less radical philosophy and is slightly less powerful. Four Ford Focus ST’s were brought to the track with four drivers taking turns behind the wheel of the three main cars, to optimise the tests. Logistics included the Rezulteo team, together with journalists from the Motorsport magazine, supported by two fitters with all the equipment required.
Tyre manufacturers often communicate on their new products and regularly offer to compare their tyres with competitor’s products in tyre tests they organise and where automotive journalists are invited. It seems difficult to obtain a completely objective opinion for this type of event since the tyre manufacturer is obviously interested in highlighting its own products to the detriment of competitor’s tyres. In these conditions, it is not possible to stand back to objectively evaluate the qualities of one tyre when compared with another.
By buying tyres directly from a dealer, just like a normal consumer, we were sure to have the same tyres as the consumer. To equip the Focus ST cars, we selected the tyre size 235/40 R18 95Y, the ideal size for the car with the advantage of being available from all tyre manufacturers with the same speed rating: The perfect setup to be sure to only oppose directly competitive products. If the speed rating differed from one tyre to another, the comparison would be flawed since this would imply that tyres were designed to satisfy different requirements.
At all prices
Out of the ten tyres pitted against each other, there is already a significant difference in terms of price which may be as much as double between the cheapest tyre (the Nexen N8000 at 99 Euros) and the Continental ContiSportContact 5 at 174 Euros. On average, tyres from Continental, Michelin and Pirelli are the most expensive. No doubt there is a link with the reputation these brands have acquired over the last decades. Next are Yokohama and Goodyear, then Hankook, Toyo, Bridgestone and Vredestein and finally the Chinese tyre Nexen which remains the most affordable.
...And all weights!
On the price side, there may be large differences and curiously, the same is true for the weight of tyres. Time was taken to weigh each tyre and there again, the results are somewhat surprising. Between the lightest tyre (Continental) and the heaviest tyre (Vredestein), there is a difference of 2.15 kg for a single tyre, i.e. 8.5 kg for the four wheels, a substantial weight that undoubtedly affects the car's dynamic behaviour. Variability is another interesting criterion we have studied: From one tyre to another from the same brand, the weight distribution is more or less uniform depending on the brands. For a Michelin tyre, which is the reference in this field, the average variability is only 10 g for the 4 tyres. For a Pirelli tyre, variability reaches 132g. No doubt this is due to the difference in how brands use production tools...
At the end of our test to compare 10 high performance tyres, performance differences were observed from one tyre to another based on the driver’s feeling and the conditions in which tests were conducted. On the Focus ST, the favourite tyre was not necessarily what we thought.
Over and above the difference in figures, the tyres' performance on the track allowed us to highlight unexpected differences in terms of steering responsiveness. Measured and observed results were sometimes enlightening.
Braking is a key criteria when choosing a tyre whether it is a sports tyre or not. The braking performance of our ten competitors was tested from 100 to 0 km/h which gave some interesting results and a few surprises.