August 12, 2016
February 10, 2017 (Winter Update)
Sooner or later, everyone has to become a performance driver. You may one day have to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a deer or swerve to dodge the traffic collision in front of you. When you're in the market for a Grand Touring All-Season tire, chances are "performance" isn't the first item on your priority list, but like a flashlight or Swiss army knife, performance is something that comes in handy when the situation calls for it. As the old adage says, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Fortunately for the drivers of Grand Touring All-Season tires who find themselves in a tricky spot, a certain level of performance capability is expected of tires in the class. To compare the two newest additions to the Grand Touring All-Season category with two existing benchmarks, the Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive featuring the BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport, Firestone Champion Fuel Fighter, General AltiMAX RT43 and Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus. 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.
Grand Touring All-Season tires have to strike a delicate balance between the requisite ride comfort of a touring tire and the responsive handling expected from this sportiest of all-season touring categories. Lean too far in either direction and an entrant risks missing the mark entirely. With this in mind, the Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus impressed our testers during the road ride, offering the most refined and insulated ride of the group combined with satisfying on-road handling characteristics. Having participated in a multitude of past comparison tests, General's AltiMAX RT43 is a known entity, and it delivered exactly as expected. This means a relatively muted ride with a hint of tread growl, a feeling of solidity over bumps that can be just a touch firm and weighty, direct steering.
The two newcomers in the group struggled somewhat on the road portion of our test. The Firestone Champion Fuel Fighter delivered a ride that, though not objectionable, was slightly stiff, and the noise was turned up a notch from the General. The tight on-center steering was fast and responsive to inputs, but required small corrections that could get tedious during daily use. The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport seemed slightly unrefined for a Grand Touring All-Season tire. The noise produced by the tread was noticeably louder than the other three tires, and it was the least forgiving over bumps of all sizes. The steering and handling were high notes, but we have to wonder if drivers will appreciate the performance characteristics enough to forgive the lack of refinement.
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.
Though all four tires produced similar results in the dry portion of our testing, the Advantage T/A Sport separated itself with average lap times that were a small step ahead of those posted by the tightly grouped three tires that remained. With the exception of the Champion Fuel Fighter, all the entrants in this comparison felt somewhat at home on the track, or at least didn't feel out of their element. In contrast, the Firestone was slow to respond to steering inputs and generally felt uncoordinated through every transition on the track.
The four tires within this group varied widely from top to bottom in the wet. The ever-reliable AltiMAX RT43 posted the top numbers in every objective test and delivered the highest level of driver confidence. From there, performances dropped off somewhat. The capabilities of the Advantage T/A Sport are likely high enough that a sedate driver will rarely reach the limit on the street. Straight-line braking and lateral g-forces nearly matched those of the General, but there was about .6 second difference in the two tires' average lap times because the BFGoodrich had difficulty combining those two skills. It could deliver longitudinal traction or lateral traction, but required care when asking it to do two things at once. Understeer seemed to be the Champion Fuel Fighter's preferred behavior around the wet track. Front end traction would dissolve into a slide without much provocation, so, barring a particularly ham-fisted input by the driver, the front tires didn't have enough bite to get the rear end to slide. Taking one more significant step backward brings us to the Cinturato P7 All Season Plus' wet track performance. The front and rear axles were balanced, and the longitudinal and lateral grip levels were proportionate, but the available traction was surprisingly low, forcing drivers to carefully navigate the course using deliberately slow inputs to avoid upsetting the vehicle. Prior testing of this tire has shown it has modest wet traction, but this time around it felt a little lower than what we remember.
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.
In the snow just like we've found in past tests, the General AltiMAX RT43 displayed very good acceleration and braking traction along with very good handling. A modest step behind was the Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus. The Pirelli tire was close in acceleration and braking, but didn't have the AltiMAX RT43's cornering traction or handling stability. Right behind the Pirelli was the BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport, delivering reasonable traction in all areas. Trailing the group was the Firestone Champion Fuel Fighter, which took much longer to start, stop and lap our handling course than the best in this test.
On ice, all four tires displayed a similar level of moderate traction to start and stop our test car, and as is typical for all-season tires, all took significantly longer than a dedicated winter 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 three stop signs every lap. Our team drove each tire approximately 500 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 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|
|BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport||31.4||477.7||-4.5%|
|Firestone Champion Fuel Fighter||32.8||457.3||--|
|General AltiMAX RT43||32.0||468.8||-2.5%|
|Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus||31.6||474.7||-3.8%|
|*Our evaluation used Race Technology DL1 data loggers to record true distance travelled.|
Low rolling resistance and its impact on vehicle fuel economy can often play a role in the purchase decision for Grand Touring All-Season tires. Within this group we found a noticeable difference in observed vehicle fuel economy, with a 1.4 mile per gallon disparity between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy. This difference would result in an additional 20.4 gallons of premium gasoline used per year. At the current cost of $3.00/gallon, it would amount to an annual difference of $61.20 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.
Whether or not it is a front of mind consideration when trying to find the right tire, Grand Touring All-Season tires are expected to include some sportiness to go along with their comfortable character. Some drivers may appreciate this capability every day with a spirited drive to work, while others may not exploit their tires' full potential until they involuntarily become a performance driver. In either case, this performance is nice to have available when you call on it.
The General AltiMAX RT43 once again proved that it deserves to be one of our go-to comparison tires. With the ability to do everything asked of it at a high level, it was the most complete package in this test. Pirelli's Cinturato P7 All Season Plus aced the grand touring portion, with ride quality fit for even the most luxurious automobiles. It was reasonably sporty, with confident light snow performance, too, but wet traction was the weakest of the group by a large margin. As the name implies, The BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport is the most athletic tire of this group, with handling that satisfies on the road or track and acceptable winter traction, but is also the least refined option. Firestone's Champion Fuel Fighter presented a reasonable, if not compelling, option for getting from point A to point B, with somewhat limited wet and snow traction being its only real standout traits.
BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport (H- or V-Speed Rated) (Grand Touring All-Season): Advantage T/A Sport tires featuring H- or V- speed ratings are BFGoodrich's Grand Touring All-Season tires for the drivers of coupes, sedans, minivans and small crossover vehicles looking to add some fun to their daily commute, in addition to all-season traction in dry, wet and light snow conditions. Read more.
Firestone Champion Fuel Fighter (H- or V-Speed Rated) (Grand Touring All-Season): The Champion Fuel Fighter (H-or V-Speed Rated) is Firestone's Grand Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans, family minivans and crossover vehicles looking for year-round capability and long tread wear combined with fuel efficiency and a comfortable ride. Read more.
General AltiMAX RT43 (H- or V-Speed Rated) (Grand Touring All-Season): AltiMAX RT43 (Road Touring) tires featuring H- or V-speed ratings are General's Grand Touring All-Season tire members of their AltiMAX family of flagship tires. Designed to deliver impressive consumer value through even tread wear and long tread life, the AltiMAX RT43 combines a quiet, comfortable ride with year-round, all-season traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus (Grand Touring All-Season): The Cinturato P7 All Season Plus is Pirelli's Grand Touring All-Season tire designed for the drivers of touring and luxury touring cars looking for tires offering predictable handling, everyday comfort and all-season traction. Developed to be environmentally friendly, Pirelli's EcoImpact icons confirm the Cinturato P7 All Season Plus' contribution to the environment with regards to energy efficiency, clean air, low noise and long wear. Designed to be driven in America's diverse weather conditions, the Cinturato P7 All Season Plus features lower weight, less rolling resistance and reduced noise while enhancing wet braking and year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.
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