A typical UHP tire in size 235/35ZR19 Y can be safely fitted on family cars, such as the VW Passat or Subaru Legacy, which are as far from the racetracks and track days as you can possibly imagine. However, tires of this specification are more in demand on the «cranked-up» versions of golf-class cars, such as Audi S3, Cupra Leon or Hyundai i30 N. This is why, when it came to the choice of a test car, the Auto Zeitung experts opted for a car from this series — the Ford Focus ST, renewed in September 2022, powered by a 280 horsepower engine. Besides the Bridgestone Potenza Sport, which enjoys great popularity since the day of its market launch, and the Pirelli P Zero, which has long since gained a solid reputation in the sports segment, the test also involved new models from Continental, Goodyear and Michelin. The budget segment of the UHP tires was represented by the Giti, Falken, Kumho, and Nexen tires. And, since the all-season tires are becoming increasingly popular, this summer test also involved (performing out of competition l) the all-season Michelin CrossClimate 2, one of the most modern and efficient tires of this type.
The final lineup of the Auto Zeitung 2023 test of UHP summer tires in size 235/35R19 included:
- Bridgestone Potenza Sport;
- Continental SportContact 7;
- Falken Azenis FK520;
- Giti Sport S2;
- Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 6;
- Kumho Ecsta PS91;
- Michelin Pilot Sport 5;
- Nexen N’Fera Sport SU2;
- Pirelli P Zero PZ4;
- Michelin CrossClimate 2 (an all-season tire performing out of competition).
A summer test begins with testing the tire’s dry performance. During the 100 km/h dry braking test all the competitors showed extremely good results: the difference between the shortest braking distance demonstrated by Continental — 31.6 meters — and the last-placed Giti that took 33.4 meters to come to a full stop, is less than 4 meters, which corresponds to an acceptable remaining speed of 32.8 km/h. In last year’s test, the difference between the best and the worst results was much larger. The all-season tire, which, due to its sheer build, is characterized by softer tread blocks and more elastic rubber compound, is surprisingly close to the result shown by the Giti model with 30 extra centimeters of braking distance.
In the handling test, the all-season tire fell only slightly behind the summer tires and even beat some of them on the slalom track. The multipurpose Michelin tire is characterized by logical and predictable behavior but, for obvious reasons, it does not demonstrate such a strong grip and such a crisp handling performance as its specialized rivals. On the other hand, this tire has rather high ride comfort and it is pretty quiet, and when it comes to energy efficiency, it beats the summer tires with an obvious lead. The most economical among the summer tires turned out to be Giti. On the other hand, the Continental, Goodyear, and Michelin Pilot Sport 5 successfully combine relatively low rolling resistance and optimum grip.
In the final standings, the new Continental model surpasses a group of rivals that consists of Goodyear, Bridgestone, Falken, Michelin, and Pirelli, whose scores differ within a range of seven points. The lagging group with scores of less than 108 points included Nexen, an all-season model from Michelin, Giti and Kumho.
The wet tests included braking, handling, and such important disciplines as hydroplaning and lateral hydroplaning when driving in a circle. After a few hours of testing it became clear that Bridgestone was unbeatable on wet pavement! The Japanese tire showed virtually flawless results, scoring 141 points of the possible 150. Only in the emergency braking test, Bridgestone shared the first place with Continental with an identical result of 38.1 meters. Eventually, both tires became the winners of the test, scoring an equal number points in the wet and dry tests combined.
The second place was also shared by two contestants — Goodyear and Pirelli, the latter due to better behavior on a wet track, characterized by excellent handling performance and crisp steering response. The Goodyear tire, on the other hand, seems less dynamic in the rain, but it compensates this with excellent dry performance.
Third-placed was the Michelin Pilot Sport 5, which missed just one point to also be able to ascend to the second step of the pedestal. Possibly, this tire is not as good on a high-speed track as its even more sporty version Pilot Sport 4S, but it scores an almost equal number of points on wet and dry pavement alike, which indicates that its performance is extremely well-balanced and it is packed with safety features.
The Falken tire tends to lose its road holding ability on a wet track, yet still behaves in a stable way, thanks to which it ends up with a «recommended» verdict. In addition, it has the best price/quality ratio. Its rivals, which are trying to catch up, are not quite impotent on wet pavement, but are still worse. For example, the Giti tire’s remaining speed in the wet braking test (46.6 m) is an indecent 40 km/h. This Chinese tire, on the other hand, redeems itself in the two hydroplaning tests, scoring the maximum number of points. The Korean tires Kumho and Nexen show decent results, but without any obvious leadership.
And what about the all-season tire? On wet pavement, it lags behind significantly: its V-shaped tread pattern does ensure required snow grip, but it cannot effectively evacuate water from the contact area, which negatively affects hydroplaning resistance.
The Final Standings
This test divides all of its participants into three groups. The leaders are Bridgestone and Continental that win with an equal number of points. Then follow Goodyear and Pirelli that also scored an identical number of points, and Michelin just one point behind them. The third group is headed by Falken with the best sum of points and the best value for the money in this price bracket. Nexen, Kumho, and Giti close the tournament bracket. Giti is the most economical among the summer tires but its rather hefty price tag virtually cancels this advantage. The all-season Michelin tire cannot compete with summer tires on wet pavement but it almost keeps up with them on dry pavement, producing quite a favorable impression with its ride comfort and overall performance. This is quite a result, especially in view of the fact that this is an all-season tire with a winter bias.