by Dan Prosser, 24 Sep 2016
Find out our verdict on the best tyre for this year so far
Eighteen inches barely fill an arch these days. Hot hatches and high-performance coupes have all graduated to 19-inch wheels in recent times, and now evo’s annual tyre test is doing the same. For the first time we’re looking at tyres in the size 235/35 R19, tyres that slot into the ‘ultra high performance’ category.
That phrase can be a little misleading. You might expect ‘ultra high performance’ to refer to the most aggressive track-focused tyres, the kind that have just enough grooves to make them road legal, but it’s actually the industry term for the sort of rubber a mainstream manufacturer would fit to a sporty road car – think Porsche Boxster or Ford Focus RS.
Given the nature of these tyres the test has been weighted to favour the dry-weather assessments, but nonetheless it has been structured so the best all-rounder wins overall. That means there are tyres here that stand out in wet conditions, and others that excel in the dry, that don’t necessarily come out terribly well in the final reckoning. It is worth considering the outcomes in the individual tests, therefore, and aligning those with your own priorities. We’ve also weighed each tyre and factored the data into the final results. The heaviest tyre, interestingly, weighed almost 2kg more than the lightest, which is an awful lot of unsprung weight.
To test high-performance tyres you need a high-performance car. With 247bhp the Ford Focus ST is plenty powerful enough, but crucially not so powerful that its output overpowers the chassis. it also steers and stops with enough precision and control that we can really get beneath the skin of each of the competitors.
Importantly, the ST also has a fairly neutral chassis balance, which will tease out any under- or oversteer characteristics from the individual sets of tyres. If the test car was prone to terminal understeer, for instance, we wouldn’t learn a great deal about the tyres themselves.
Aside from the tyres the ST was in completely standard specification. Incidentally, we removed fuse 86 to disable the stability control completely but leave the ABS active.
Continental’s Uvalde Proving Grounds in Texas is a vast facility with countless different tracks and routes, its origins dating back to the 1950s. It gave us all the tools we needed to comprehensively test the tyres in one location – albeit in the company of rattlesnakes, scorpions and lethal spiders, apparently.
Uvalde’s brand-new, state-of-the-art dry handling circuit is a fast and revealing track. Fascinating, too – its designers claim just as much engineering work went into its layout and construction as a typical high-performance tyre.
Nine manufacturers are represented in this year’s test. We sourced all the tyres from the wholesale market and used two sets for each competitor: one for the braking tests and the other for handling and subjective assessments, with the least destructive tests carried out first.
All tyres are 235/35 R19. Speed ratings, load ratings and weights are shown in brackets. Prices are from BlackCircles.com, including VAT and fitting.*
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