The Gute Fahrt magazine conducts its next big spring test of summer tires, pushing the competitors to the limit, finding each tire’s strengths and weaknesses, and showing what modern sports tires are capable of.
For the new season’s first summer tire test, the Gute Fahrt experts selected eight sports tire models in size 235/35 R19:
- Bridgestone Potenza Sport;
- Continental SportContact 7;
- Falken Azenis FK 520;
- Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2;
- Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport;
- Maxxis Victra Sport 5;
- Pirelli P Zero;
- Pirelli Trofeo R.
All the right participants of the test belong to the segment of UUHP tires, and it would have been naive to assume that anyone of them would fail the braking performance test, but this time around, for comparison purposes, the experts included in the tests a sports semi-slick Pirelli Trofeo R, certified to be used on public roads.
Let’s get the facts straight first: the benchmark tire of this test, which was the Bridgestone, stops the Golf GTI from 100 km/h on dry pavement in 34.25 meters, which is quite a result by any standards. This result puts it in the same league with Maxxis (34.29 m), Goodyear (34.33 m), and Dunlop (34.65 m). Pirelli (33.39 m) and Falken (33.95 m) surpass their rivals by yet another meter. Just as was expected, the Pirelli Trofeo R with a shallower tread depth and stiffer sidewalls demonstrated a much better result of 32.70 m. Did the Italian athlete steal the show? No way! The victory was scored by the incomparable Continental SportContact 7, whose braking distance amounted to the record-breaking 32.54 meters!
Let’s, however, switch to the 100 km/h braking distance. The Continental model is again victorious with a result of 34.39 m, and, this, mind, is a wet braking distance! The SportContact 7 vividly demonstrates what the modern tire technologies are capable of, yet its rivals are breathing down the leader’s neck, the Bridgestone tire stopping in a little less than 36 meters. Then come four tires with almost identical results of 36 and a half meters. Last-placed is Dunlop with an almost 38-meter-long braking distance, which is 3.4 meters worse than Contie’s record. This may seem like an insignificant difference, but a simple calculation shows that when Continental has already stopped, Dunlop’s remaining speed amounts to the impressive 30 km/h. The exotic Pirelli Trofeo R with its considerably shallower tread depth and a smaller number of grooves predictably failed the wet braking test — its stopping distance was 44.04 meters with a remaining speed of about 47 km/h.
Then the GTI hour struck: a wide track, precisely tuned chassis with active suspension control system, front differential lock — the perfect kit for active driving. This time we will check the behavior of tires on wet pavement — can they resist hydroplaning, or will they confirm the common cliché that wide tires on wet roads are a plain evil?
Until recently, the formula was as simple as it could be: narrow tires start floating later, wire ones earlier. However, not long ago this statement was disproved. As we know today, the key factors for success are even distribution of ground load in the contact patch and minimum possible surface pressure, as well as efficient tread pattern with circumferential and traversal grooves that evacuate water from the contact area. This way, a wide sports tire in size 235/35R19 is quite capable of tackling water obstacles: in the straight hydroplaning resistance test, the scatter of results turned out to be surprisingly narrow — from the loss of grip at 75.1 km/h demonstrated by the victorious Maxxis to 76.4 km/h demonstrated by Continental. The «loser with an alib», that being the Pirelli Trofeo R, is also not that bad — it floats at 71.6 km/h.
More indicative are the results of the lateral hydroplaning test, which simulates the situation of driving in a turn on a wet road. With a «takeoff» speed of 106.2 km/h, the test is won by the Dunlop Sport Maxx, followed by Pirelli P Zero, Goodyear, Maxxis and Bridgestone. The «braking expert» Continental gives way and loses grip at 89.7 km/h, the Falken tire closing the tournament bracket with a result of 86.6 km/h. The Trofeo R is incapable of tackling the water in corners and starts drifting already at 70.1 km/h.
Wet pavement and rainy weather is not the forte of the Trofeo R, but dry pavement is quite a different matter. The wide shoulder areas and the special tread compound that starts to work best after a few warm-up laps make this tire an unparalleled conqueror of the dry racing track. The tire provides lightning-fast steering response, it is precise at the grip limit, does not suffer from either understeer or oversteer, and reliably and predictably describes all kinds of curves.
Talking figures, Trofeo R scored 9 points out of possible 10 for dry handling. This is a very good result, especially in view of the fact that 10 points is the highest possible ranking «as good as it gets» that is virtually impossible to achieve. To make things perfectly clear: 8 points is a great tire, 7 points good, and everything that’s below is not worth your time, let alone money. In this particular test, none of the competitors scored less than 7.5 points for dry handling. The differences in the tire’s behavior were in the details, each of them demonstrating sporty inclinations. The final ratings by the experts look as follows: Bridgestone (8), Maxxis (8), Pirelli P Zero (8), Goodyear (8), as well as Dunlop (7.5) and Falken (7,5). The Continental model also scored 8 points but it was close to become the only passenger tire with a 9 ranking. Summing up: on dry pavement, all the tested tires demonstrated excellent performance, brought lots of driving pleasure, and ensured a high level of driving safety.
It is the wet pavement that brings out the best and the worst in a tire, because, unlike the way it happens on dry pavement, the loss of grip occurs more spontaneously, it is harder to predict, and you need better driving skills to correct it. Yes, the Continental tire again was head and shoulders above the competition. Possibly, this was one of the best combination of tread pattern and compound for the wet track — the test pilots said the tire was a joy to drive: fast and crisp. Cornering, braking, acceleration, feedback through the steering wheel and underneath your «bottom» — everything was perfect. The Continental scored 8.5 points with an upward trend. The other competitors — Goodyear, Maxxis, Dunlop, Bridgestone, and Pirelli P Zero — also showed good results with a combined score from 7.5 to 8 points. It was only the Falken model that fell to 7 points due to temperamental behavior in corners and toggling between understeer and oversteer.
Noise and Ride Comfort
The most comfortable tire turned out to be the Pirelli P Zero, and, surprisingly, its more «high-performance» relative, Trofeo R. This tire is very good at absorbing all kinds of road inequalities — tarmac texture, cobblestones, and traversal joints on the road. At the same time, it does not create annoying noise but just respond to the next inequality with a slight «slapping» sound.
The other six tires did not please the testers with equal comfort — sometimes they relay too roughly the impact from the road inequalities into the cabin, or cause unwanted vibrations. The Bridgestone tire lets in loud impacts on the rear axle, and Goodyear produces an annoying whining noise. Still, all of this is secondary because the main task of Ultra-High-Performance tires is drive and handling performance, which all the tested tires do not seem to lack at all.
1st place: Continental / SportContact 7
A really impressive tire, particularly in terms of wet grip. Even its rolling resistance is low enough; there are only slight issues with hydroplaning resistance in corners.
2nd place: Pirelli / P Zero PZ4
This is a tire with a well-balanced performance that does not have any prominent issues and successfully combined good handling response and efficient braking with a decent ride comfort and low rolling resistance. An excellent sports tire for everyday life.
3rd place: Bridgestone / Potenza Sport
A sports tire with packed with safety features. It is slightly inferior to its rivals in terms of straight and lateral hydroplaning resistance, environment performance, and noise/ride comfort, but there are no obvious issues that you cannot put up with.
4th place: Dunlop / Sport Maxx RT2
This tire has long since been present on the market but it is constantly upgraded, and even today it can be considered to be a good choice, even though there are tires with an even better balanced performance out there. For example, while this tire’s wet handling response and hydroplaning resistance are still outstanding, its braking distance is relatively long, i.e. this tire is inferior to the new top-league models.
4th place: Goodyear / Eagle F1 SuperSport
This Goodyear model ensures excellent dry handling response, and on the whole it has no issues that would directly affect driving safety. At the same time, this is definitely not the most comfortable tire around, and its rolling resistance is indecently high by modern standards.
4th place: Maxxis / Victra Sport 5 VS5
Taiwan’s tire giant Maxxis has become an indispensable part of the mountain bike industry but the company is also winning new positions in the automotive sector, and, if its tires are able to compete with Goodyear and Bridgestone in the same test, this company must be doing something right.
The Maxxis Victra Sport 5 ensures good handling response and fast braking on wet pavement, and has a well-balanced overall performance, although the ride comfort could be better.
7th place: Falken / Azenis FK520
This Falken tire can ensure optimum handling performance on dry pavement, and it has a smooth ride combined with high hydroplaning resistance. At the same time, there are issues with its wet handling response and lateral hydroplaning resistance.
Out of competition: Pirelli / P Zero Trofeo R
Just like any semi-slick tire, the Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R is not cut out for rainy weather, and can only work to its full potential on dry pavement. It will not be a good choice for a novice driver, and, in addition, it is very expensive.