TYRE TEST We find out which tyre is best for your SUV

TYRES ARE NOT JUST BLACK AND ROUND, THEY’RE ALSO A BLACK ART. BUT WE’VE DONE THE SCI­ENCE TO HELP PICK THE BEST RE­PLACE­MENT TYRE FOR YOUR SUV

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - WORDS JAMES WHITBOURN PHOTOS THOMAS WIELECKI

THE most ef­fec­tive han­dling up­grade you can give your sports util­ity ve­hi­cle is fit­ting a road-bi­ased set of tyres in place of the all-sur­face rub­ber that carmakers spec­ify as part of the light off-road­ing SUV prom­ise.

And while the pro­lif­er­a­tion of the front-drive SUV has seen many mak­ers take this mea­sure into their own hands, the fac­tory-is­sue boots on many soft-road­ers still leave room for im­prove­ment.

Not the Hankooks on our Kia Sportage test mule, though; they would have fin­ished third if they were part of the test rather than the con­trol tyre. Like the car it­self, they were a sur­prise pack­age.

An SUV has a higher cen­tre of mass than a reg­u­lar sedan or wagon, but canny chas­sis tun­ing with elec­tronic aids and safety sys­tems means to­day’s breed is a de­cid­edly safer – and more sat­is­fy­ing – steer than those of a decade ago. With a great set of tyres fac­tored in, it’s a recipe for a safe fam­ily ma­chine.

The trouble is that our tyre in­dus­try sources sug­gest a low price re­mains one of the most pow­er­ful mo­ti­va­tors for re­luc­tant (in other words, most) tyre shop­pers. That means the buy­ers are likely to go in the other di­rec­tion, re­plac­ing the stan­dard tyres on their soft-roader with some­thing cheaper and even more grip-chal­lenged.

For those who see the value in putting a good qual­ity prod­uct be­tween their car and the road, which brand and pat­tern is best? The 2016 Wheels Tyre Test sets out to de­liver the an­swer.

The venue was the Ian Luff driver train­ing fa­cil­ity at Syd­ney Drag­way in the city’s west, where sea­soned test driver Re­nato Loberto put each tyre through the wringer.

Loberto was fly­ing blind, not know­ing what brand he was on, which left him to pro­vide in­sight­ful feed­back un­coloured by brand per­cep­tion or bias, while the stop­watches and Race­l­ogic Per­for­mance Box spat out the data.

Test­ing be­gan with a road loop to scrub the sur­face of the tyres and let us record a noise fig­ure for each set. Loberto then rolled into the slalom and brak­ing test el­e­ments at the grippy far end of the strip be­fore tak­ing to the han­dling cir­cuit for a se­ries of hot laps, and a sec­ond brake test, this time on a con­sis­tently wet sur­face.

Each dis­ci­pline is scored out of 10. To es­tab­lish the fi­nal scores, noise is marked down to quar­ter the value of the four pri­mary dis­ci­plines, and the to­tals ex­pressed as a per­cent­age.

We mea­sured track tem­per­a­ture and logged the time be­fore each run and the con­trol tyre was de­ployed on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to gather data on track and ve­hi­cle evo­lu­tion, if there was any.

The re­sults and anal­y­sis for each brand and pat­tern in 225/60R17 ap­ply broadly to the other sizes in the range.

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