March 30, 2014
Standard Touring All-Season tires are designed to effectively deliver good ride quality, reasonable handling and relatively long tread life. Standard Touring All-Season tires with an eco focus add fuel efficiency to the equation, and are designed to minimize fuel consumption as your vehicle moves down the road.
If you could look over the shoulder of a tire designer working to balance all of the requirements for a new Standard Touring All-Season tire, you would see a game of give and take. Nearly every major attribute of the tire has its opposite. Gains in one often lead to a trade-off in the other. And in any tire, improving its rolling efficiency to increase vehicle mpg often results in a reduction of wet traction.
Continental thinks they have minimized the trade-off in wet grip while delivering lower rolling resistance and long tread life. That solution is the Continental TrueContact featuring EcoPlus Technology. To sample the TrueContact, Continental invited several members of the Tire Rack team to experience its wet traction and road manners. The evaluation used new 215/60R16 tires on a BMW F30 328i sedan.
Drivability under everyday conditions is a critical aspect for any tire in the Standard Touring All-Season category. How smoothly does the tire ride, how quiet is it as it rolls over the variety of surfaces you encounter during your drive, and how well does it handle and respond to your inputs?
Our road ride evaluation consisted of driving around a three-mile asphalt oval featuring several pavement textures and a variety of surface imperfections to test ride quality and noise levels. Handling, steering feel and on-center stability were evaluated by simulating driving in surrounding traffic, such as lane changes at various speeds and maintaining lane placement around sweeping curves with a strong cross wind.
In this test environment, all three tires drove well and as expected for a Standard Touring All-Season tire. Minor differences were noticeable only because of making the direct side-by-side comparison. Any of the three would be fine for everyday driving.
The Continental TrueContact displayed good steering response and a tight, connected feel on-center when driving straight ahead. The ride was comfortable with good control over staccato bumps. Noise levels were minimal with only a hint of whine on smooth asphalt and minimal booming on bigger impacts.
The Ecopia EP422 rode slightly better over the smaller bumps, but when it encountered repetitive impacts or larger bumps it felt a little less controlled and jounced around somewhat. Handling was not as direct as the TrueContact, with a small vague spot right at straight ahead.
The steering feel of the Michelin Defender was very responsive once the turn was initiated, but when making minor corrections within the first few degrees of center it felt just a little slow to respond. Tread pattern noise was minimal, but there was some audible boom associated with larger impacts.
All three tires were found to be fairly close during regular road driving in dry conditions, but the real separation came in the wet when asking the tire to perform during a panic stop or abrupt avoidance maneuver.
For consistency we used a dedicated wet test track. Several drivers ran multiple laps until consistent lap times were achieved for each driver. The .95-mile course featured a water system to consistently wet the track where most turns were driven in third gear with several tighter second gear turns, and peak straightaway speed at just under 65 mph.
|Wet Track||Avg. Lap Time (seconds)|
|Bridgestone Ecopia EP422||82.066|
In the wet, the TrueContact was in its element with good overall traction. Our test car felt composed in every situation with stable and predictable handling. If the car did start to slide, breakaway was gradual and easily controlled.
The overall grip level of the Ecopia EP422 trailed the TrueContact. Cornering traction seemed to be somewhat of a struggle, which led to some instability, particularly at the rear of the car during transitional maneuvers.
The Michelin Defender responded quickly, but didn't have the steering authority of the TrueContact. Overall stability during abrupt maneuvers showed a small tendency towards gentle understeer, which kept the rear of the car inline unless provoked into a slide by driver inputs.
We took the opportunity to instrument the car and measure 60-0 mph, ABS-assisted stopping as a way to gauge ultimate braking traction. Multiple stops on each tire were averaged. Like we found on the wet track, there was a noticeable difference in ultimate braking traction across the three, with the TrueContact showing a clear advantage.
|Wet Track||60-0 mph ABS Stop (feet)|
|Bridgestone Ecopia EP422||210.8|
During our brief encounter with the Continental TrueContact it seems to deliver on the goals of good road manners plus excellent wet traction. Our introductory drive didn't allow us to evaluate dry traction, winter weather performance or fuel consumption. We'll have a chance to put the TrueContact to the test during our full tire evaluation later in 2014.
Continental TrueContact (Standard Touring All-Season): The TrueContact is Continental's Standard Touring All-Season tire developed for coupes, sedans, minivans and crossover vehicles. Featuring Continental's EcoPlus Technology to help conserve fuel, extend treadwear and maintain wet braking grip, TrueContact tires are designed to provide all-season traction in dry, wet and wintry conditions, as well as in light snow. Read more.
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