Doctor Diesel

Looking for a comfortable ride

Web04Hope that you can help, Doctor, regarding thoughts on purchasing some new tyres. There’s plenty to read on various tyre manufacturer and retailer web sites, there are group tyre tests to read from other magazines, including some by European magazines, and there are, not that unexpectedly, somewhat conflicting reports. Could you offer any helpful thoughts, with particular reference to ride comfort, noise, and fuel economy, and maybe wet road safety, as opposed to ultimate dry road grip, high speed handling, and wear, as I don’t cover a high mileage or race about much in my 2010 Alhambra. Advice much appreciated.
Doug Hall

Well you’ve certainly given me a pretty wide brief here Doug, and I’ll try to dispense some words of helpful wisdom. Tyre tests can be very useful, but there are some caveats: You need to be cautious regarding conclusions that may relate to tyres that you are considering, but of a different size. You also need to be cautious regarding conclusions relating to tyres of different speed ratings, and also to tyres that are identified by coding such as MO for Mercedes-Benz or AU for Audi original equipment. It’s actually rather difficult sometimes to know for sure exactly what you are buying, because the tread compounds and carcases of one size of highly-rated tyre may not be replicated in another size, and a 225/45/17 98Y MO may be different from a 225/45/17 98V without the MO. These differences may often come down to minor constructional changes, the details of which we never actually get to know. It has even crossed my mind to consider just why a car manufacturer might wish to specify a tyre that’s different from that of another, or from the standard tyre in that size, and the question of cost does cross my mind – but then I am a touch cynical at times, as you well know!

I think that I would try to avoid tyres marked as original equipment for Mercedes-Benz on the Alhambra, although I can’t specify just why. What people don’t often realise though is that a higher speed rating tyre – a 94Y say – has to retain its safety at higher speeds and temperatures than a 94V or 94W, and that this may entail using a more rigid carcase that retains its integrity under greater stress, but is as a result less shock-absorbent and flexible, and thus harder-riding and more noisy than a more modest variant.

So, whilst you need to ensure that the speed rating is at least as high as that specified in your handbook or on the tyre pressure label (usually found on a door pillar or inside the fuel filler flap), there is no advantage, but a possible disadvantage, in fitting 98Y rated tyres when you only need 98W load rated tyres – both of which are safe to speeds well in excess of anything that is legal.

What I can say though is that I would advise you to avoid cheap tyres, particularly those with romantic Chinese names like “Softride” and “SupaSava”. If you’re an unfussy driver, or tend to drive at relatively modest speeds and avoid demanding road conditions, then there is a second string of tyre brands such as Kleber, Uniroyal, Fulda, Ceat, Matador and Barum that are manufactured in low-cost countries, possibly to somewhat dated designs, but by offshoots of respectable world-class manufacturers. These are fine value, if you’re looking to save some money, and I can testify to that having used them, as are some oriental manufacturers like Kumho and Nexen. Otherwise, I would stick to the major brands, and, in your case, you will want to avoid performance variants of tyres in your size, and look at mainstream good value and generally more comfortable, good-wearing summer tyres, like Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance, Dunlop Sport Blueresponse, Pirelli Cinturato P7, Michelin Primacy HP and Continental Sport Contact, possibly, although not necessarily, in that order of preference, based on what I’ve seen of recent comparative tests, and bearing cost in mind. If you think diesel, then you will probably tend to think economy and the EC labelling indicates that you will be best off with either “A” or “B” fuel economy rated tyres (very few are “A” rated), and for a quieter ride, look for tyres with a noise rating of below 70dB, which I think would also tend to indicate a softer ride. It’s worth noting that the EC labelling indicates noise as measured externally side-on to the passing car, on a specified standard road surface. That’s not the same as transmitted noise that’s perceived in the cabin, so the EC labelling does not directly relate, as some tyres transmit external noise in a directional manner that muddies the issue. But do go on-line and look at tyre ratings, do educate yourself (if necessary) regarding the EC tyre labelling, and shop on-line for the very best prices, which if specified as “fully fitted and balanced” at a convenient tyre depot or garage selected by you, will be all that you pay, with no hidden extras. If you were to call in person or telephone this same garage or tyre and battery supplier for a quotation, you will generally be given a significantly higher price. Buying on-line does work!
The Doc

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