August 11, 2017
Most people don't want to replace their tires every year, or even every couple of years. For some, buying new tires is something they would like to do as infrequently as possible, so the more miles their tires provide, the better. However, all tire designs require compromise, and many of the strategies used to increase a tire's longevity can have an offsetting negative effect on other aspects of performance. It's up to the tire manufacturers to limit those compromises and find the right balance that provides performance quality, not just mileage quantity.
Michelin recently introduced the Defender T+H, which replaces their previous Standard Touring All-Season entry, the Defender. Utilizing the same tread pattern as its predecessor, the Defender T+H features an advanced all-season tread compound focused on improving durability and longevity without sacrificing performance in any other areas.
The Hankook Kinergy PT is another new release, replacing the Optimo H727 and with a similar focus on providing long life in addition to wet traction and dry handling performance.
To test these new entries against some of the best and most popular tires in the category, we rounded them up along with the Continental TrueContact and Pirelli P4 Four Seasons Plus for a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive. Our evaluation used 2017 BMW F36 430i sedans fitted with new, full tread depth 215/60R16 tires mounted on 16x7 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.
All the tires in this group made strong cases for their consideration in the road ride portion of our testing. As is often the situation, there were noticeable differences in the tires' personalities, despite their common performance category. The Continental TrueContact found the most favor with our testers, thanks to its supple ride quality and quiet operation. The steering response and light handling were somewhat relaxed, but appropriate for a touring tire. Scoring nearly as high, but with a very different persona, was the Michelin Defender T+H. With the firmest ride of the group and the most direct and responsive steering, the Michelin had the sportiest feel on the street, and its moderate levels of tread noise earned positive scores. The ride of the Pirelli P4 Four Seasons Plus was softer than the Michelin, but more controlled than the Continental, essentially feeling like a blend of the two. The steering feel and responsiveness built in a naturally linear way, but felt slightly dull compared to the other tires in the test. With only some light tread growl present over most surfaces, the Pirelli was reasonably quiet, as well. Hankook's Kinergy PT was just a small step behind the rest of the group, with ride quality that was firm, and also had some noticeable residual motion following repetitive impacts. Over grooved concrete, the Kinergy PT felt somewhat twitchy or nervous, and it created some light but noticeable pattern noise on most surfaces.
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.
Michelin's Defender T+H received the highest subjective score in our dry track testing, thanks to its responsive steering and confidence-inspiring braking feel. The Continental TrueContact received several positive comments from our team and placed second in the subjective results. The Hankook Kinergy PT delivered the strongest performance in our dry objective testing, with the top figures in all our measured criteria, but landed in third subjectively. While certainly capable, the Pirelli P4 Four Seasons Plus rounds out the group, with average lap times around .6 second slower and 50-0 mph braking distances about six feet longer on average than the leading Hankook.
The wet track evaluation resulted in three tires performing similarly and at a relatively high level, and one tire a noticeable step back from the group. The Kinergy PT led the way, with reassuring traction in the wet while braking, accelerating or turning. The TrueContact was .3 second behind in average lap times, and delivered the shortest 50-0 mph stopping distances, along with confidence-inspiring balance. A mere .2 second separated the Defender T+H from the TrueContact, and it, too, felt sure-footed around the track, with eager turn-in that had a slight tendency to dissolve into understeer. The P4 Four Seasons Plus posted average lap times four seconds slower than the leading Hankook and required an additional 35 feet to come to a stop from 50 mph. Completing a lap in the wet on the Pirellis took care and required gentle inputs to avoid overstepping the tires' abilities.
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.
Driving in the snow, all four tires delivered reasonable traction for most situations. During our acceleration test, all four were separated by only five feet. When it came time to stop, the difference from best to worst grew to almost a full car length. The Continental TrueContact led the way, followed by the Pirelli P4 Four Seasons Plus and Hankook Kinergy PT not too far behind, with the Michelin Defender T+H trailing somewhat.
Driving around the snow-handling course, the TrueContact again led the way with predictable handling, followed closely by the P4 Four Seasons Plus and Kinergy PT tires. The Defender T+H rounded out the group, with a lower level of overall steering and cornering traction.
On the ice, acceleration and braking test results were very similar for all four tires. And like we find when testing all-season tires on the ice, none of the tires in this group could come close to the traction of 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 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.
Low rolling resistance is often a consideration for consumers looking for Standard Touring All-Season tires, as a small difference in fuel economy multiplied over the considerable life of high-mileage tires can have a noticeable effect. Within this group we found a slight difference in observed vehicle fuel economy, with a 1.3 mile per gallon disparity between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy. This difference would result in an additional 21.6 gallons of premium gasoline used per year. At the current cost of $3.00/gallon, it would amount to an annual difference of $64.80 for drivers driving 15,000 miles per year.
@ 15,000 Miles
|% vs. Most Efficient|
|Hankook Kinergy PT||29.9||501.7||-2.7%|
|Michelin Defender T+H||29.4||510.2||-4.4%|
|Pirelli P4 Four Seasons Plus||30.1||498.3||-2%|
|*Our evaluation used Race Technology DL1 data loggers to record true distance travelled.|
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.
In the past, tires designed to deliver exceptionally high mileage typically brought with them a high level of sacrifice in other areas. Thanks to constant advances in technology and manufacturing capability, the four tires in our test demonstrated that tire longevity and tire performance don't necessarily have an inverse relationship.
The Continental TrueContact continues to perform at a high level in all areas. The tire's demeanor on the road is quiet and comfortable, it's capable in the dry and strong in the wet, and past testing has proven it to be one of the top-performing all-season tires in the snow, as well. Michelin's Defender T+H feels surprisingly sporty for a Standard Touring All-Season tire during normal driving, but the ride may be a touch firm for the category. Its wet track performance is slightly behind the best in the test, but should be sufficient to satisfy most consumers. The Hankook Kinergy PT is a standout performer in both dry and wet objective track testing, and with its agreeable on-road behavior, is a solid addition to the category. The Pirelli P4 Four Seasons Plus rounds out the group. Its refined character on the road and category-appropriate dry track performance are high notes, but its unsatisfactory wet performance leaves much to be desired.
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.
Hankook Kinergy PT (Standard Touring All-Season): The Kinergy PT is Hankook's Standard Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, family sedans, minivans and crossover vehicles looking for a tire that combines low noise and a comfortable ride with long life. Designed for year-round use, the Kinergy PT delivers traction in dry, wet and slippery conditions, even light snow. Read more.
Michelin Defender T+H (Standard Touring All-Season): The Defender T+H tire is Michelin's Standard Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, family sedans, minivans and small crossover vehicles looking for a long-lasting, comfortable tire that delivers all-season traction in the dry, wet and light snow. Read more.
Pirelli P4 Four Seasons Plus (Standard Touring All-Season): The P4 Four Seasons Plus is Pirelli's Standard Touring All-Season tire developed for drivers of coupes, sedans and minivans. Designed to help reduce environmental impact, P4 Four Seasons Plus tires combine ride comfort, low noise and reduced rolling resistance with long life and four-season traction on dry, wet and wintry roads, even in light snow. Read more.
Need help choosing the right products for your vehicle? Our team of highly trained experts has
the knowledge and passion to help. Just pick up the phone and give us a ring.
Or let's chat via email. We love solving problems and lending a hand (or an ear).