In a bid to demonstrate the performance differences between Continental-made ‘premium’ tyres and cheap ‘budget’ tyres we simulate a variety of scenarios on a race track in identical conditions with identical cars. Here’s how we got on…
The hard bit done from part 1 of our special feature, it’s time to visit Aldo Scribante for the all-important tyre testing component of trip. To demonstrate the performance differences between Continental-made ‘premium’ tyres and cheap ‘budget’ tyres (from a brand that shall remain nameless for legal reasons you understand), we had a smorgasbord of vehicles to play. These included: a Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoosts fitted with 16-inch ContiPremiumContact 5s and others wearing budget tyres. Likewise, BMW 320is fitted with 18-inch ContiSportContact 5s and others wearing budget tyres of the same size.
‘The purpose of this event is to test the capabilities of different types of tyres, including the tread design, compound and construction to see what the differences are in terms of performance and safety,’ says Ryan Visagie, Product Communications Manager, CTSA. ‘When people buy a new car, it is usually equipped with a tyre specifically designed for that vehicle, and is optimised to perform under all driving conditions.’
‘However, when they come to replacing the tyres, owners will often make an uninformed decision and buy a tyre that is significantly cheaper than the car’s original tyres. As a result, they will not benefit from the same levels of performance or safety. Unfortunately, they only get to experience this in an emergency situation where the cheaper tyre is simply not able to perform at the same level as the original equipment tyre,’ adds Visagie.
We started our test in the Continental-shod Ford Fiesta, which displayed sure-footed handling in a wet slalom and emergency braking test. Thanks to the tyre’s macro-block tread design, optimised shoulder flexibility and rigid sidewall, it handled the wet impressively with no fuss at all almost as if the track was dry. The same circuit in the budget-shod car provided some eye-widening moments, the low-grade tyres were even squealing in the wet, a sign of their poor compound and construction.
The wet slalom was like playing a game of Twister, only with baby oil on your palms. I use the example of Twister because the amount of steering input required to complete the slalom felt like its own little micro-twister. Worse still, the Fiesta’s electronic driver aids were intervening throughout to try save the out-of-control situation. But this made little impression with such poor performance from the budget tyres. Check out the short video we made —>
It was the same deal with the BMW, although arguably even worse because of the higher performance demands put on the budget tyre by the rear-wheel-drive layout. Through the wet slalom we couldn’t maintain 80 km/h because the steering response from the front end was so poor, and in a wet hairpin bend the understeer and oversteer – happening at the same time virtually – bordered on catastrophic.
Most spun or understeered off the circuit completely. Our conclusion is a simple one. Sure, a tough economic climate often results in consumers buying cheaper tyres than were originally fitted to their car when new, and, perhaps, that’s acceptable on an older and/or budget car, but from what we experienced on the track, fitting a high performance car like the BMW with budget tyres is simply unacceptable. The drop in performance on budget rubber is startling.
While your average cash-strapped motorist doesn’t give a second thought to tyres, you mustn’t forget that those four small patches of rubber less than the size of your hand are your vehicle’s only point of contact with the road. CTSA advises against purchasing tyres purely on price. ‘If you can’t afford the very best tyres for your vehicle, there are more affordable options that are still of suitable quality but won’t compromise your safety.
The General Tire brand, owned and manufactured by Continental, is the ideal alternative for price-conscious buyers. In the passenger car segment, the General Altimax One and Altimax One S are popular choices in the replacement tyre market,’ concludes Visagie. Upon reflection of our time at the factory and race track with CTSA, our belief that ‘tyres maketh the car’ is more steadfast than ever.