Recent EU legislation means that new tyres sold in Europe must now display a label to inform buyers of the tyre's characteristics.
Some tyre types are exempted from the new regulations. The new tyre label is similar to those found on big ticket electrical goods like fridges and uses a lettering system to show consumers how efficient it is. The tyre label goes beyond just showing one letter e.g. the letter ‘A’ for the most efficient Fridge or ‘D’ for a less energy efficient one. There are three criteria on the new Tyre label.
The prime symbol features a tyre and fuel pump and concerns fuel efficiency. The rating goes from A to G. An ‘A’ rated tyre will deliver the best possible fuel consumption whereas a ‘G’ will be a relative guzzler of fuel. The fuel saving can be up to 9% between an A and G tyre. The potential saving on CO2 is huge with more efficient tyres.
The most important measurement on the label for Ireland is beside the fuel rating and it concerns wet weather grip. The tyre and rain symbol uses the same A - G rating and as per fuel efficiency ‘A’ offers the most grip and the scale slides down to ‘G’, which would be offer poor wet weather performance.
There is always a trade off between low rolling resistance (economical tyres) and grip but the gap is coming down and if you are prepared to pay for a quality tyre you can get good fuel consumption and grip from the same tyre.
The third and least important label information concerns tyre noise. It is measured in decibels – the higher the decibel the noisier the tyre is. The symbol is a speaker with three sound increments. The sound measurement isn’t taken inside the car but outside as the car passes a microphone at a set height and distance from the vehicle on a specific surface. The thinking here is that the EU realises it can save millions on traffic noise reduction by getting tyre makers to develop quieter tyres. Quieter traffic means having to spend less on sound baffling motorway and road fencing plus there is a massive saving to be made not having to insulate buildings from noisy roads – saving a fortune. In theory a quieter tyre should be quieter inside the car but a lot depends on the car’s own wheel arch sound insulation.
Goodyear tyres brought Motors to the Mira proving ground to test out some of its and competitors tyres. The tests were varied and the results in some cases alarming.
We did a practical demonstration in two identical VW Golfs. One was fitted with 'A' rated (the best) wet weather tyres and the other with 'E' rated tyres. At an indicated 50mph (80kph) on a wet surface we braked as hard as possible. The result was a brisk stop in the A fitted car and over a cars length further in the E fitted Golf.
Lesson learned - This distance could be the difference between a collision being fatal or even avoided completely.
Winter tyres versus standard
The most startling test we did concerned wet braking on a low grip surface using Goodyear tyres and a budget make from Asia with a European sounding name. In identical Q5s we travelled at a constant 40mph (60kph) before applying the brakes fully at a cone marker. Both vehicles fitted with type approved Goodyear standard and winter tyres stopped with confidence. The winter tyre stopped, as expected, in a slightly shorter distance due to its rain dispersing compound and construction. But the budget tyre that was branded as a ‘Winter’ tyre took almost twice as far to stop as the standard Goodyear. This was a shocking revelation as winter tyres are designed to perform at their best in wet and cold weather conditions and yet it was much worse in the rain than a standard tyre from a well know manufacturer. We ended up nicknaming the budget tyres West-life because they never stopped, went on forever and were slick!
Lesson learned - Just because the tyre says ‘winter’ doesn’t mean the tyre is better than a normal tyre from a mainstream manufacturer at stopping in the wet.
We did a higher speed-cornering test in two identical Porsche Cayenne diesels. One was fitted with Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric SUV tyres - rated B, B and 69db. The other Cayenne was on a well-known premium rival rated B, E and 74db. There were lots of cones and again the conditions were very Irish to say the least. The Goodyear rolled less when changing direction and was more precise. The rival tyre felt under inflated in comparison. More steering input was needed with the rival under more extreme cornering. The impressive thing with the Goodyear shod Porsche was the consistent and predictable amount of roll experienced. The tyre sidewalls felt stiffer and inspired more confidence while delivering precise, accurate cornering.
Lesson learned – At the higher end of the market there are still significant differences among tyres, so do your research.
Off road progress
Goodyear makes one of the most capable off road tyres the Wrangler. But it has been improved and we got to test it. In a Landrover Defender on a typical off road course that included water hazards, hill ascents and descents and off camber banking the famous Wrangler tyre gripped like a limpet. The tyre thread has been reworked to make it quieter and on-road friendly too. This is mainly due to the rubber blocks being at different levels to the road surface. An all-round off-road tyre the new DuraTrac Wrangler is the best out there. On a recent trip from the UK to China Land Rover fitted this very tyre to the 1 millionth Defender built and it completed the 8,000-kilometre event on just one set!
Lesson learned – Off-roaders that actually go off road need a great all round tyre.
Goodyear stressed to us that it goes beyond the self-regulating labeling requirement by making sure its tyres meet 50 individual criteria to go on sale.
The tests we undertook with Goodyear tyres at Mira proved that you should never, ever buy a budget tyre if at all possible. The handling and stopping performance loss with budget tyres is not worth it.
The new labeling initiative is a great aid to consumers and a step forward in road safety.