Which are the best tyres for your car? Our experts test the biggest-selling 17-inch size to the limit to give you the answer
Which are the safest, most fuel efficient and quietest tyres for your car? That’s what our annual tyre test aims to find out – and it’s more comprehensive than ever! The pace at of tyre development is frenetic as drivers and car makers demand ever more performance.
That shorter development cycle can be seen in this year’s tyre test, where not one of the 10 contenders took part last time we tested the big-selling 225/45R17 size. To find out which of the current crop is best for your car, we returned to Continental’s proving ground at Uvalde, Texas, with 10 top brands.
Tyre labelling is driving this rapid development. It lets owners compare key performance factors – wet grip, fuel economy and pass-by noise – at a click of a mouse. And all makers are chasing the tyre labelling holy grail: top A ratings in fuel economy and wet grip.
But our test covers nine criteria, including a more driver-relevant cabin noise rating, dry grip and a range of wet road tests. Auto Express drivers carried out all tests apart from aquaplaning, which requires special training. Rolling resistance was rated at Continental’s Hanover R&D centre in Germany.
Once again, makers were asked to nominate a tyre, including speed and weight ratings, and we purchased it to ensure we test the tyres you can buy.
Picking the tyre that will work best for you
Our tyres are tested in nine disciplines, covering wet and dry assessments, as well as cabin noise and rolling resistance. In each test, the results are converted into percentages to provide an accurate reflection of the performance differences. These percentages are then added together, with the wet tests forming half of the results and the rest making up the remaining 50 per cent.
Image 2 of 28
Image 2 of 28
The only weighting we do is for price (which has a small role to play in our safety-focused test) and to ensure that assessments where the differences between the best and worst performers are large, such as aquaplaning, count the same to the overall result as those where the gap in performance is small; in dry handling and cabin noise, for example, there can be less than three per cent separating the top and bottom of our tables.
How we tested themWet tests
Tyre labelling just measures braking in the wet. We do, too, but we also assess cornering, handling and how a tyre copes with deep water at speed. You’d never know it at first glance as the surroundings are radically different, but the 1.8km Uvalde wet handling track is a recreation of the one at Continental’s Contidrom facility near Hanover, Germany, where we’ve completed hundreds of laps in previous tests.
Even the tarmac was shipped from Europe to ensure comparable results. So there’s the familiar mix of fast direction changes, hairpins that test traction and longer sweeps that reveal a tyre’s balance. An average of lap times provides the result.
Alongside is the 55-metre wet circle which measures a tyre’s pure lateral grip without aquaplaning coming into play. You don’t want a big breakfast before tackling this as you tuck the nose of the car close to the inner kerb, fix the lock then accelerate until the line can’t be held, repeating up to 10 times. Again, average lap times give the result.
Image 5 of 28
Image 5 of 28
Wet braking is measured from 50mph to a stop using a rail system. A hefty bar is bolted across the front of the car, with a shoe clamping to the rail. The car is accelerated – no need to steer – until just over 50mph before braking. The distance is measured and an average of up to 10 runs taken to get the result.
We use the same rail for straight aquaplaning. The car is accelerated with one wheel in the water. Electronics measure the difference between the driven wheels until one is spinning more than 15 per cent faster than the other and the speed recorded. Again, an average is used. For the curved aquaplaning test, the car is driven through a flooded section of a 200-metre circular track at ever higher speeds. Lateral grip is measured until all grip is lost.
Since our last test in Texas, Continental has opened its new dry handling track, and it’s a massive improvement on its predecessor. Out of flat scrubland the designers have created a 2km track with elevation change, off-camber turns and a challenging series of high-speed direction changes.
Image 8 of 28
Image 8 of 28
There’s also a long, high-speed curve which tells you all you want to know about a tyre’s balance. We took an average of lap times to decide the winner. The three-mile oval is used for the brake test because it provides plenty of time for brakes to cool between stops. We performed a series of stops from 62mph and measured the distance taken.
There’s no direct link between pass-by and cabin noise, so if you’re after the quietest tyres when you’re behind the wheel this is the test you need. We coasted down from 50mph over three surfaces on the three-mile oval, using a sound meter to rate cabin noise. This was done twice and an average taken from each surface – rough tarmac, smooth asphalt and concrete – to get our final verdict.
This is key to fuel economy and the reason why it’s part of the tyre labelling legislation. Rolling resistance measures the force needed to turn a loaded tyre. We used an average of results from two tyres, with all tests carried out to industry standards. Roughly speaking, a difference of around five per cent in rolling resistance will mean a one per cent change in fuel consumption.
Image 9 of 28
Image 9 of 28
Our test-winning online tyre retailer BlackCircles.com supplied our figures, which are fully fitted prices. They are what it charges or what it would do if the tyre is not currently part of its range.
What we tested
All of our 225/45R17 tyres had weight ratings of 94, as well as speed ratings of Y (up to 186mph). We’ve also included our test contenders’ tyre label ratings below. These are graded A-G (A is best) for wet grip (WG) and rolling resistance (RR). Pass-by noise (N) is measured in decibels; the lower the better.
Avon ZV7 RR: C WG: A Noise: 70Bridgestone Turanza T005 RR: B WG: A Noise: 72Continental PremiumContact 6 RR: A WG: C Noise: 72Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2 RR: C WG: A Noise: 68Falken Azenis FK510 RR: C WG: A Noise: 69Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 RR: C WG: A Noise: 68Hankook S1 evo2 RR: E WG: A Noise: 71Michelin Pilot Sport 4 RR: C WG: A Noise: 71Nokian zLine RR: C WG: A Noise: 72Pirelli P Zero RR: F WG: A Noise: 72
Click on the menu to the left or below for our detailed review on each tyre we tested…
Next: 1. Continental PremiumContact 6