TO all but the most nerdy, tyres are those black round things that stop you scratching your lovely alloy wheels as you drive hither and thither about your daily lives.
Next to no public thought goes into their design, composition, manufacturer or maintenance. Most people might, and I stress might, check the pressures once in a blue moon.
As they spin their wheels pulling out of a junction one day, prompting the thought, ‘ooh, it doesn’t normally do that’, then they might also think to assess the remaining tread depth, using the rim of a 20p piece to ensure they are legal. But that’s it, that’s your lot and that’s if you are lucky.
Down on the pleasure-to-buy scale, tyres are right at the bottom along with insurance. So when the time comes to replace them a quick Google search will throw up myriad brands only for the buyer to opt for the cheapest – they are just tyres, after all.
Just tyres after all? Well, consider this; those black rubber rings are the only things which connect your relatively expensive vehicle to the road. The efficiency of what is termed the ‘contact patch’ is all that keeps you safely in this world and avoiding the next.
That interface of wash flannel-sized patches gets the vehicle moving, keeps it heading in the right direction and brings what is a heavy lump of metal to a stop, generally just in time given the way modern day stress is impacting on driving styles.
Manufacturers spend their lives honing the way vehicles handle, steer and stop and tend to fit original equipment (OE) that won’t undo their best efforts or leave them open to law suits. So new cars come shod with premium brands, names made well known by expensive advertising and marketing campaigns and from hurling money at motorsport.
Around 20,000 miles down the road, their consciences are clear as you come to replace the black stuff and face a bill, in the case of my Toyota C-HR, of around 4x£160. Pleasure purchase? Not really, particularly, as the OEs had been disappointing in the wet or snow.
At this point my thoughts turned to a tyre specialist, the cheery Peter Kerr from Tyres2U, who had come to my rescue once when a test car lost a fight with a big fat nail.
“Have you considered Vredestein,” he says. “They have just brought out a good all-season tyre,” at which point I must digress.
On a walk in the Lake District recently I noticed a brand new Land Rover Defender in the driveway of a very nice house. Resting against the garage wall were four tyres while another less shiny set propped up the Landy. “Ah, he is swapping his summer tyres for his winter ones,” I thought to myself. “What a pain and I hope he has a big garage to store his summers.”
And that’s the problem with winter tyres. In the winter, when the road surface is cold, permanently damp and often covered in standing water, mud, gravel, even snow, they are brilliant, you have no idea unless you have tried them. But in the warm dry conditions of summer they may be noisier, wear out faster and, due to the tread compound and design, not grip as well, so you have to swap your wheels back again. If only there was a tyre for all seasons. Ta dah. Vredestein has the award winning Quatrac Pro, whose compound and tread pattern excels all year round.
Vredestein was an early adopter of all-season tyres and now has almost three decades of experience in this specialist domain. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to try them.
Four Quatracs fitted, the first thing I notice is that they are a nice looking tyre with pretty patterns on the sidewalls and a manly tread. The manly tread appeals to my butch nature but there’s a fleeting thought that I hope this doesn’t wreck NVH (noise, harshness and vibration) levels.
So as the brilliantly quiet Toyota hybrid SUV pulls away I’m listening intently for noise and any feeling of vibration through the steering wheel. There’s nothing, in fact, I absolutely swear it feels smoother and quieter than the OEs. I’m certain the C-HR now steers even more positively too, so I’m happy.
The low noise and vibration levels also indicate to me that rolling resistance – or drag – has been minimised so the extra grip shouldn’t affect fuel economy – and I certainly haven’t detected losing any MPG.
The school run provides the next test – gale force wind, lashing rain and so much standing water the motorway looks like a river. Normally I’d be worried about aquaplaning but the Vredesteins part the waters like Moses, displacing the deluge and allowing the rubber to attach safely to asphalt.
It’s the same in the wet and dry rounding bends; I’m sure the Toyota is now carrying more speed through the corners safe in the knowledge it will be spat out of the other side. Levels of grip are thoroughly excellent, they really are.
So all I need now is ice and snow and I’m confident the uber-smooth power feed of the car’s electric motor will work in complete harmony with the extra grip of the Quatrac Pros to keep us moving and that the tread will shift the slippery stuff and work well with the anti-lock brakes to maximise braking and shorten stopping distances.
After that it will be all eyes on their performance during warmer climes and durability over the next 20,000 miles. As a self-confessed tyre nerd, I can’t wait.