June 20, 2014
Nowadays, many tires in the Passenger and Standard Touring All-Season categories are anything but "standard". Moving well past simple commodity status, a growing number of newer tire designs feature advanced tread compound and internal material technologies, providing an impressive blend of long treadlife, smooth ride and reasonably good levels of traction in dry, wet and wintry weather.
True to the idea that tires in these categories should be more than just basic round and black, Continental's latest Standard Touring All-Season tire, the TrueContact, is designed to provide fuel efficiency along with long treadlife and good traction, particularly in the wet. To find out how well the TrueContact performs, we conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track drive comparing it with three other top rated tires, the Firestone Precision Touring, Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season and Michelin Defender. Our evaluation used 2014 BMW F30 328i sedans fitted with new, full tread depth 215/60R16 tires mounted on 16x7.5 wheels.
Our 6.0-mile loop of expressway, state highway and county roads provides a great variety of road conditions that include city and highway speeds, smooth and coarse concrete, as well as new and patched asphalt. This route allows our team to experience noise comfort, ride quality and everyday handling, just as you would during your drive to school or work.
Out on the road, the Firestone Precision Touring held a small advantage in ride comfort over the other three, as it did the best job at softening the harshness of road imperfections making their way into the car. The ride of the Continental TrueContact can be best described as taut and well controlled without being harsh, but it's not quite as comfortable as the Precision Touring. The Michelin Defender also rode well, but wasn't quite as nice as the Firestone and Continental tires. The Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season delivered appropriate levels of ride comfort, just a bit behind the other three tires.
The tread pattern noise and impact sounds of the TrueContact, Defender and Precision Touring were all similar and relatively low, with a small advantage for the TrueContact. The Assurance TripleTred All-Season produced a bit more whirring sound from its tread pattern and little additional booming sound when encountering larger bumps.
When it came to handling and steering feel, our team liked the TrueContact best thanks to its direct response and stable handling. The Defender and Assurance TripleTred All-Season tires both also drove well with good handling. The Precision Touring doesn't feel quite as direct through the steering wheel as the others, likely a small trade-off for its comfortable ride.
Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, a five-cone slalom and simulated expressway ramps. Run in both dry and wet conditions, the test track allows our team to experience the traction, responsiveness, handling and drivability normally only encountered during abrupt emergency avoidance maneuvers or competition events.
During the abrupt maneuvers on our track in dry conditions, the Continental TrueContact, Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season and Michelin Defender all performed well and with nearly identical results in stopping distance, cornering traction and average lap time. The Firestone Precision Touring was just a small step behind in ultimate traction and handling stability.
As we often find, wet weather traction is a bigger separator than dry. And in this test group the TrueContact showed a noticeable advantage in overall traction and stability during the wet handling test. The TripleTred All-Season combined its quick steering response and good overall traction to be the next best overall in the wet. A noticeable step down in ultimate wet capability was the Defender, which did well in our measured stopping distance test, but didn't have quite the level of handling stability as the Continental and Goodyear tires. Trailing the others somewhat was the Firestone Precision Touring, which proved adequate for the task, but not up to the level of the best performers.
Winter weather is often unpredictable; and snow-covered roads change with every passing vehicle as they churn snow into slush or pack it down to polished ice. A constantly changing test surface makes side-by-side comparisons difficult, so we use a dedicated winter testing facility in Northern Sweden with acres of groomed snow that provides the consistency we need to get reliable acceleration and braking comparisons. This facility also has a prepared snow-handling course where we evaluate the stability and control of each tire during abrupt maneuvers. To simulate the icy conditions found at intersections or the black ice experienced out on the highway, we use ice at a local hockey rink and measure acceleration and braking traction.
Overall the Continental TrueContact led the group with good overall winter traction and stable handling. The Michelin Defender was next best, providing reasonable traction levels in the snow. The Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season and Firestone Precision Touring both provided noticeably lower traction than the Continental and Michelin tires, with the Goodyear tire taking nearly 35 feet longer to stop in the snow from 20mph than the test-leading Continental tire.
Our Real World Road Ride features a relatively flat 6.0-mile loop of 65 mph expressway, 55 mph state highway and 40 mph county roads along with two stop signs and one traffic light every lap. Our team drove each tire approximately 400 miles over the course of several days. Since we wanted to compare fuel consumption results that typical drivers would experience, our drivers were instructed to maintain the flow of traffic by running at the posted speed limits and to sustain the vehicle's speed using cruise control whenever possible. They did not use hypermiling techniques to influence vehicle fuel economy.
@ 15,000 Miles
|% vs. Most Efficient|
|Firestone Precision Touring||31.1||482.3||-4.82%|
|Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season||31.9||470.2||-2.19%|
|*Our evaluation used Linear Logic ScanGauge II automotive computers to record fuel consumption, and Race Technology DL1 data loggers to record true distance travelled.|
We did find a difference in observed vehicle fuel economy across the group. Based on our results, the 1.5 mile per gallon difference between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy would result in an annual difference of just over 22 gallons of premium gasoline. At the current cost of $4.00/gallon, it would amount to an annual difference of just over $88 for drivers driving 15,000 miles per year.
It's important to note our test's fuel consumption measurements follow consistent procedures designed to minimize variables that could influence the results; however, they do not represent an exhaustive long-range fuel consumption study. While our procedures require the test vehicles in each convoy to run under the same prevailing conditions, the week-to-week differences in ambient temperatures, barometric pressures and wind speeds that we experience over a season of testing can influence vehicle fuel consumption and prevent the absolute mpg values of this test from being compared directly against those of others.
Larger differences in consumption between tires may indicate a difference that might be experienced on the road, while smaller differences should be considered equivalent. As they say, your mileage may vary.
This group of tires shows that "standard" can be much more than just basic. Overall, the Continental TrueContact delivers a good ride along with great traction and handling for the Standard Touring All-Season category, and provides a good level of winter weather traction. The Michelin Defender also provides competent handling and dry/wet/snow traction with good road manners. The Goodyear AssuranceTripleTred All-Season brings good summertime traction and handling to the equation, but gives up a little in the snow and on the comfort side to get it. The Firestone Precision Touring is the most comfortable riding tire in the group, but doesn't have the wet or winter traction to match the others.
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.
Firestone Precision Touring (Standard Touring All-Season): The Precision Touring is Firestone's Standard Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans, family minivans and crossover vehicles looking for year-round capability and comfort. The affordably priced Precision Touring is designed to blend long treadwear, a quiet ride and all-season traction on dry and wet roads, as well as in light snow. Read more.
Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season (Passenger All-Season): The Assurance TripleTred All-Season is Goodyear's premium Passenger All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans and minivans looking for confident all-season traction. The Assurance TripleTred All-Season is designed with three unique tread zones to provide year-round drivability and all-season traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Michelin Defender (Standard Touring All-Season): The Michelin Defender Standard Touring All-Season tire has arrived to serve the drivers of family cars, minivans and small crossover vehicles looking for tires that will provide a confident driving experience that helps protect those they care about most. In addition to enhancing vehicle fuel economy by meeting Michelin Green-X low rolling resistance objectives, Defender tires are designed to deliver extra long wear, comfortable driving characteristics and all-season traction in dry, wet and wintry conditions, even in light snow. Read more.
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