AUTOEXPRESS SUMMER TYRE TEST: THE GAP NARROWS BETWEEN THE TOP TYRES
Which are the best high performance tyres on the market today? This is the question that AutoExpress has attempted to answer in its latest edition. The magazine tested and compared 10 high performance summer tyres in size 225/45 R17.
The tests were carried out at Continental’s proving ground in Uvalde, Texas. They covered all of the European tyre label criteria, plus an additional 9 criteria, including cabin noise. The dry tests measured braking distances from 62 mph, as well as average lap times. The wet tests measured braking distances from 50 mph and lap times, as well as pure lateral grip and straight and curved aquaplaning.
Very little separating the tyres tested
The first point highlighted by AutoExpress is that the overall results are getting increasingly close. There was a difference of only 3.7% between the first place and last place tyres. It was even more difficult to choose between the 6 highest-ranked tyres, whose final scores were extremely close.
In last place was the Avon ZV7, which at £72.65 was also by far the cheapest tyre, costing almost £10 less than the next cheapest competitor. This tyre was also the quietest, winning the cabin noise test. However, AutoExpress was less impressed with the tyre’s braking. Despite the fact that the ZV7 comes with an A-grade on the EU tyre label, in the magazine’s braking tests it finished last, behind tyres with a lower rating. The Avon tyre needed 7 metres longer to stop in the wet than the best tyre on this surface. In the tyre’s defence, AutoExpress carried out its tests in rather hot conditions in Texas.
Respectable results for Nokian, Hankook and Bridgestone
Although better know for its winter tyres, Nokian also offers good summer tyres. The zLine, released in 2013 and nearing the end of its lifecycle, was not too far behind the summer specialists. It offered low rolling resistance, while maintaining reasonable performance in the wet, justifying its A-grade on the tyre label. In spite of this, the zLine lagged behind the market leaders in terms of dry performance.
The Hankook Ventus S1 evo2 was not far behind its top-ranked competitors but lost a few points compared to previous tests. This was largely due to a high rolling resistance (ranked 9th) which prevented the tyre from achieving a higher overall score. Otherwise, AutoExpress found that this tyre’s dry performance was up to standard with a dry braking distance only one metre longer than the highest-ranked tyre. The same applies to wet performance, where the Ventus S1 evo2’s good grip facilitated increased acceleration around corners.
AutoExpress had high expectations of the Bridgestone Turanza T005, the new version of the T001 EVO, which came third in the magazine’s last test. Although dropping down in the rankings due to higher competition and the closeness of the results, this new tyre proved itself to be quite well-balanced. Bridgestone put the focus on fuel economy with the T005, which had the lowest rolling resistance of the tyres tested. This means that the tyre consumes between 3 and 5% less fuel than its competitors. However, as is often the case, low rolling resistance led to weaker dry performance, with the tyre scoring lower for dry braking and handling.
Very close between the top 6
Pirelli and Falken finished with the same overall score. The P Zero offered the best braking performance on all surfaces with the Magazine noting its good dry grip and performance in the handling tests. However, it performed the best in the wet. According to the AutoExpress drivers, the P Zero allowed them to stay on the throttle longer and get back on it earlier, without the risk of oversteer. Where the Pirelli tyre fell down was in the aquaplaning and rolling resistance tests, receiving some of the lowest scores for these criteria.
The Falken Azensis, on the other hand, had no difficulty in these areas, coming close to the top in aquaplaning tests. In dry braking, the Azensis was just behind the Pirelli (+40cm), and in other tests as well, it put in a respectable performance with scores not far behind the test leaders. AutoExpress described it as a well-balanced tyre but noted a tendency to trigger the ABS more often than other tyres in the wet.
The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 was hot on the heels of the best tyres in every test but lacked the wet performance to rank in the top 3. The Goodyear tyre needed an extra 2 metres to stop in the wet compared to Pirelli’s P Zero. However, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 performed well in all the other tests, in particular rolling resistance and aquaplaning.
As with the Falken and Pirelli tyres, it was impossible to choose between the offerings from Michelin and Dunlop. Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4 was the best in the dry with the shortest lap times on this surface as well as reasonably short dry braking distances. The Pilot Sport 4 was among the best in the aquaplaning tests and was equally effective in the wet, despite AutoExpress noticing a drop in grip after the first few corners. As for rolling resistance, this is not a priority for Michelin with the Pilot Sport 4, as can be confirmed by a C-grade on the European tyre label.
The Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2 lagged a little behind the competition in the aquaplaning tests but that was more or less its only weakness. The Dunlop tyre proved to be very well-balanced with high performance on dry and wet surfaces. This tyre also had the best lap time in the wet, while also offering relatively low rolling resistance and cabin noise.
However, the best tyre according to AutoExpress was the Continental PremiumContact 6, which offers similar performance to its predecessor, the ContiPremiumContact 5. The magazine explained that the Continental tyre was the best to drive. It also recorded the best lap time in the dry, equal to that of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4, with the latter tyre feeling less “sharp”, according to AutoExpress drivers. The PremiumContact 6 was also the fastest tyre in the wet, with a half a second lead on its closest competitor. Again, fuel consumption was not a priority for this tyre, however it received a reasonable score for rolling resistance. Last but not least, the tyre was also one of the quietest in terms of cabin noise.