Comparative tests help when purchasing replacement tyres, and motoring organisation ADAC has provided clarity in this area for 50 years. This month it published the results of a golden anniversary tyre test that evaluates one product for each year since it entered the tyre testing game. Using a VW Golf 8 as test vehicle ADAC looked at 205/55 R16V tyres – currently the most popular size. Most of the tyres in this test are available for purchase in the UK.
ADAC rated more than half these tyres good or satisfactory, and only seven as poor. In readiness for the next 50 years and as a nod to the increasing significance of environmental issues and sustainability, the association also overhauled its system of tyre test scoring.
Tyre testing has contributed to improvements in product quality over the past five decades, but ADAC acknowledges that “requirements have changed enormously” after half a century. For this reason, 30 per cent of the overall score in each ADAC tyre test is now reserved for factors such as tyre wear, weight and sustainable production, with points also given or withheld after evaluating a tyre’s lifecycle from production to recycling.
But driving safety remains the highest priority, and here ADAC found a broad and worrying discrepancy between the best and worst performers in its summer 2023 test: It called the Continental PremiumContact 6 the “safest tyre in the test,” and when fitted with these tyres and braking from 80 km/h the VW Golf came to a halt in just 34 metres. When switching tyres to the Double Coin DC99 (joint last place) and testing under the same conditions, the Golf required 59.3 metres to stop – a 25-metre difference. ADAC observes that at the point where the Continental-shod vehicle is already stationary, the car fitted with Double Coin tyres is still travelling at 52 km/h.
Relatively pricey products from Goodyear, Continental, Michelin and Bridgestone sit at the top of the anniversary tyre test – twice in Continental’s case thanks to the performance of its relatively new UltraContact low rolling resistance tyre. Alongside Nokian and Falken, Korean manufacturers Kumho, Hankook and Nexen round off the group of tyres with the ADAC ‘good’ rating.
ADAC points out that the Continental PremiumContact 7 has begun to replace its joint winner in selected dimensions.
Testing resulted in 21 tyres – including many premium manufacturers’ second brands – gaining an ADAC ‘satisfactory’ rating. Most tyres here only missed out on a higher rating due to a specific shortcoming, and this means that depending on driver-specific needs and preferences, they may offer a wholly acceptable and slightly cheaper alternative.
While ADAC gave some tyres a lower score due to slight weaknesses in wet conditions, others lost points in the environmental balance testing, mostly due to higher wear. An example of this is the Apollo Alnac, whose tread depth wore down to 1.6mm in under 30,000 kilometres.
As the Michelin e.Primacy shows, even premium manufacturers still can’t always resolve the traditional conflicting goals of tyre development. The e.Primacy, which Michelin recommends for both combustion and electric cars, shines on the environmental balance sheet with convincing wear characteristics and efficient performance. ADAC declares that the e.Primacy “sets the standard here” with its 71,500-kilometre working life and an abrasion rate of 34.8 mg/km/t (milligram per kilometre per tonne vehicle weight) that was the result of the 50 tyres. However, its performance on wet roads is nowhere near as good as that of the other tested Michelin tyre, the Primacy 4+. The e.Primacy only pulled to a stop from 80 km/h after 43.7 metres, and was rated ‘adequate’ while ADAC rated its sibling as ‘good’.
Despite bonus points for sustainability, the only retreaded tyre in the tests – King Meiler Sport – just gained an ‘adequate’ rating as well.
The motoring association rated seven tyres as ‘deficient’ in light of “disastrous” performance in wet conditions, even though some of these tyres delivered top results in other disciplines. The high mileage, slow-stopping Double Coin DC99 is a stark example of this – it delivered mileage of almost 65,000 kilometres, one of the best of the 50 tested tyres, but still couldn’t achieve better than joint last place.
“The new ADAC two-pillar methodology of driving safety and environmental performance thus offers consumers the opportunity to choose a tyre that is even more tailored to their own driving profile,” comments the motoring association. Its advice to those who drive many miles a year is to select a tyre that’s rated ‘good’ for both driving safety and environmental performance.
“For infrequent drivers, mileage is less relevant, so a slightly cheaper tyre with good safety characteristics can be a good choice,” ADAC continues. “But it is also clear that the choice of tyre should not depend on price. After all, many low-priced tyres in the current test show great weaknesses, especially on wet roads.”