- Back-to-back tests between premium Continental tyres and cheap budget tyres reveal significant differences in performance and safety
- Motorists benefit from cutting-edge design, top quality compounds and advanced research and development when purchasing premium tyres
- Premium tyres also offer significant benefits when fitted to older cars without modern driving aids
Continental Tyre South Africa (CTSA) has provided members of South African automotive and business media with a unique insight into the comparative performance and safety benefits of premium tyres versus budget offerings.
An innovative series of back-to-back tyre testing was conducted at Aldo Scribante Raceway in Port Elizabeth, using two popular vehicles: the rear-wheel drive BMW 3-Series and front-wheel drive Ford Fiesta.
In the case of the BMW, Continental fitted its ContiSportContact 5 - a high-performance tyre that provides outstanding performance, handling and control. It relies on Continental's advanced Black Chili compound and macro-block tread pattern which are designed to deliver short braking distances and excellent grip in both wet and dry conditions.
The ContiPremiumContact 5 was fitted to the Ford Fiesta, providing impressive all-round performance and safety thanks to is macro-block tread design, optimised shoulder flexibility and rigid sidewall. This results in sure-footed handling, reduced rolling resistance and higher mileage.
Although Continental now offers the latest-generation SportContact 6 and PremiumContact 6 respectively, the tyres fitted for this test are still highly rated, continue to be used in original equipment applications and remain popular choices in the replacement market.
An identical set of cars was fitted with budget tyres to provide real-world, direct comparisons to the premium Continental offerings.
"The purpose of this event was 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, Continental Tyre SA.
"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 really 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," Visagie adds.
"Accordingly, what we set out to achieve with this event is to create a better understanding of the differences in performance and overall safety between premium and budget tyres. The tests conducted today have demonstrated how markedly different the tyres are, especially in the wet."
A variety of tests were conducted in both wet and dry conditions, including emergency braking on the circuit's main straight, along with a slalom test that evaluated the tyres' ability to retain traction under extreme loads during rapid changes of direction.
This was followed by laps of the Aldo Scribante circuit on each tyre, with the challenging hairpin corner at the far end of the circuit being tackled in the wet to test the level of grip under harsh braking and cornering.
"Although the modern safety systems in both cars are able to assist the driver up to a point, the tyre is still the most important safety feature on any vehicle, as it is the only point of contact with the road surface," Visagie explains. "In the cars with budget tyres these systems had to intervene much earlier and a lot more frequently than was required with the Continental tyres, making it difficult to slow the vehicle in time or stay on the road," Visagie explains.
The situation was even worse when the driving aids such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC) were switched off for demonstration purposes. The cars shod with Continental tyres were still very predictable and controllable with sure-footed handling and stopping performance. In contrast, the cars with budget tyres were much more difficult to control - particularly in the wet, where the loss of grip happened much earlier, was far more dramatic and a lot less predictable.
"The last thing you want is for your car to be out of control in an emergency, where even the safety systems of the car can't save you. These tests show that not all tyres are the same, and simply put, you are placing your safety at risk when purchasing a cheap budget tyre," he adds.
"On face value even a budget tyre can look quite good, but what you don't see are the compromises made in developing the tread pattern, the construction of the tyre and the compounds used, all of which play a critical role in the tyre's performance."
Continental spends hundreds of millions of Euros, and tests around 140 000 tyres over the equivalent of 200-million kilometres each year in all types of conditions to ensure that its products provide the optimal balance between wet and dry grip, reduced risk of aquaplaning, lower noise levels, improved rolling resistance and higher mileage.
The result of this intensive research and development by Continental is a range of tyres that deliver consistent and safe performance in every situation. This certainly isn't the case with budget tyres, which may seem acceptable in normal driving in the dry, but when pushed to their limits or encountering wet conditions, they deliver far from acceptable results.
"These tests revealed in stark detail why budget tyres are so much cheaper, as they aren't designed to the same level, nor do they have the best compounds or undergo the intensive research and development that Continental invests in all of its products," Visagie points out. "Although premium tyres are more expensive, you are buying into safety where you need it most."
A tough economic climate often results in consumers buying cheaper alternatives, but Continental advises against purchasing tyres purely on price.
"If you can't afford the very best tyres for your vehicle, then there are more affordable, established options that are still of suitable quality and performance, but won't compromise your safety," adds Visagie.
The General Tire brand, which is 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, offering exceptional value for money while maintaining a high degree of capability, safety and performance.
Addressing the perception that older or cheaper vehicles don't need modern premium tyres, Continental reveals that the opposite is actually true. "Continental has done various tests which prove that older cars without the latest safety systems will benefit most from the latest and most advanced tyres," Visagie states.
Engineers at Contidrom used 2000 model year BMWs fitted with tyres from the same era, and tested these against the ContiPremiumContact 5 tyres. Evaluated back-to-back on the facility's wet handling course, the nearly two-decade old BMW equipped with the modern tyres showed a marked improvement in performance as the greatly enhanced grip enabled much better braking and steering control. This made up, at least in part, for the absence of electronic stability control.
"In summary, our advice is simple. Buy the best tyres you can afford, because your safety depends on it," Visagie concludes.