The expert team of the British publication AutoExpress has tested eight sets of tires in the size of 235/50 R18 in order to define which of them would become the best choice for town SUVs.
The growing popularity of vehicles with high ground clearance is making tire makers to pay more attention to SUV tires. SUVs, as a rule, are heavier and taller than hatchbacks, and often come with a four-wheel drive, which imposes some certain requirements on the tires that they drive upon. Because of that, the tire manufacturers either develop special tire models for SUVs or modify the already existing ones. And in this test of SUV tires, the group of AutoExpress experts tried to find out who of them did a better job of it.
The tires to be tested were bought retail, while the tests were chiefly conducted at Continental’s test facility in UVALDE (Texas, USA). The tires’ rolling resistance was tested in the Continental R&D center in Hannover, Germany. All of the tests conducted at the test facility were conducted by the AutoExpress expert team, for the sole exception of hydroplaning resistance test that requires special skills from the driver. This test was conducted by the pilots of the test facility.
List of models tested:
- Continental PremiumContact 6
- Cooper Zeon 4XS Sport
- Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2 SUV
- Falken Azenis FK510 SUV
- Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 5
- Hankook Ventus S1 evo2 SUV
- Michelin Primacy 4
- Nokian Powerproof
Remarkable is the fact that this list misses Pirelli tires because these are manufactured in the size of 235/50 R18 only as original equipment, and not for the retail market. Vredestein also fell short of submitting a model that would qualify, while Bridgestone was late in delivering Firestone Roadhawk from its stock.
Ranking of tires tested
1st place — Nokian Powerproof
The victory won by Nokian Powerproof in the test was due to its well-balanced performance both on wet and dry pavements. The test experts noted that they were long-standing fans of winter and all-season tires of this brand, yet the summer line hitherto fell definitely short of meeting the requirements of the British motorists. The Powerproof model did a lot to improve the situation.
It came first in terms of braking performance, handling response, and lateral stability on wet pavement. However, in the noise emission and hydroplaning resistance tests, the tire did not do equally well. The great performance by Nokian Powerproof on wet pavement was still further enhanced by its fuel efficiency.
Verdict: The well-deserved victory by Nokian tires that demonstrate well-balanced performance on wet and dry pavements.
2nd place — Falken Azenis FK510 SUV
The AutoExpress test demonstrated a dramatic improvement in the quality of the Falken tires. While in 2018 Falken Azenis FK510 came only the fifth, in 2019, in its SUV version, it easily scored the second place, surpassing Michelin and Continental.
The Falken tire had it its own way on dry pavement; on wet pavement its rivals were able to come within a visibility range. Azenis FK510 SUV was one of the best on a wet track in terms of handling response, and on a circular track.
The poorest result that this model showed was in the lateral hydroplaning test — 85.5% out of 100%. The only result that left the test experts seriously unhappy was a relatively high rolling resistance.
Verdict: An impressive result for the Falken tires, which, more importantly, bring a real driving pleasure.
3rd place — Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2 SUV
Its decent all-season performance made the Dunlop Sport Maxx RT 2 tire a good choice for SUV owners. This tire prevailed in terms of fuel efficiency but on dry pavement it did not come close to the handling response delivered by Continental or even Goodyear.
It demonstrated a short braking distance on wet pavement, and a good hydroplaning resistance. The test group also noted the low noise emission of this model.
Verdict: Good tire with well-balanced performance.
4rd place — Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 5
The debut by Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 5 can be called successful, and it has directly to do with the great performance that this tire demonstrated on wet pavement. The test experts emphasized that the performance of Goodyear tires is not much different from Dunlop’s.
It traditionally prevailed on wet pavement, demonstrating an outstanding hydroplaning resistance, as well as great steering response and effective braking performance. On dry pavement, Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 5 was in the group of pursuers, and, generally speaking, the gap between this tire and the leaders was less than critical.
Verdict: Goodyear demonstrated great performance on wet pavement but its rolling resistance must be decreased. On the whole, a very promising debut.
The fuel efficiency was less impressive, but then again, the results demonstrated by most of tire’s the rivals, were approximately the same.
5th place — Continental PremiumContact 6
Considering the leadership of Continental PremiumContact 6 in the AutoExpress summer tire tests 2018, explaining the fact that it was only able to score the 5th place in the tournament bracket is next to impossible. Normally, these tires are wet track stars, especially when it comes to braking, while their fuel efficiency could hardly be considered to be their strong point. Nevertheless, in this specific instance, PremiumContact 6 turned out to be the most fuel-efficient model on test.
The best performance on dry pavement and the worst in both «deep water» hydroplaning tests. Generally speaking, such a reversal is hard to explain. It looks as if the company changed its whole design philosophy, laying its bets on the environment, and not on the wet traction performance. However, one must have serious doubts whether this should really be the case, and no doubts that Continental will shortly take a close look at this tire.
Verdict: Fuel efficiency is a factor, of course, but confident grip on wet pavement is even more important.
6th place — Hankook Ventus S1 evo2 SUV (K117A)
Essentially, Hankook Ventus S1 evo2 SUV is little different from the old PremiumContact 6. Its strong point is the «deep water», and therefore it scored the first and second places in the hydroplaning resistance tests.
As the depth of the water kept decreasing, so did the effectiveness of the Hankook tire. And, strange though it may seem, it showed the worst results on dry pavement. The doubtless advantage that this model has over its rivals is the lowest noise internal noise on test.
Verdict: Quiet tires with a great grip in the wet but the performance on dry pavement is yet to be improved.
7th place — Cooper Zeon 4XS Sport
Zeon 4XS Sport is the first Cooper model that was not adapted for SUVs but engineered specifically to be fitted on them. It was first presented in 2015, and its «senior citizen» age was clearly showing through because a lot of tire making technologies have been developed since that time.
Nevertheless, Cooper Zeon 4XS Sport was still able to score the second place in the test for lateral stability on wet pavement and came fourth in the dry handling test. Otherwise, it scored four eighth and three seventh places. The highest rolling resistance on test
Verdict: Cooper is clearly giving away its age with very high rolling resistance.
8th place — Michelin Primacy 4
Recently, Michelin embarked on a campaign for safe usage of tires worn down to a minimum legal tread depth of 1.6 mm. There are serious environmental reasons for that; the last stage will be adopting by the European Union the mandatory tests for the traction ensured by worn tires on wet pavement.
When Michelin Primacy 4 was launched in 2017, this French tire maker specifically emphasized that these tire ensure a high level of performance regardless of their degree of wear. But how do you account for the less than perfect results demonstrated by this modem in virtually all of the wet tests? It looks as though that the designers sacrificed the tire’s grip for the sake of its fuel efficiency.
Verdict: Unexpected results for Michelin that almost turned back the time when it was launching a fuel-efficient tire with average grip on wet pavement.
Focusing on SUV tires helped to define a new winner and shook the competitive brand hierarchy, habitual for AutoExpress readers.
The relatively poor results by Michelin became a complete and utter surprise because the tires of this brand always demonstrated better balanced performance. Michelin shared the last line of the tournament bracket with Cooper who submitted the «veteran» model for the tests.
Hankook did the usual good job, and Continental didn’t — people in the Hannover HQ are sure to be asking questions.
Goodyear and Dunlop were close to one another, just as the two best models on test were.
The test was won by the Nokian tires; at the same time, the Falken tires can also be considered the perfect choice for SUVs.