tyre test goodyear hydragrip

tread carefully

tyre test  goodyear hydragrip

No Matter What You Drive Or How Safe You Think It Is, The Type Of Tyre You Use Could Make A Crucial Difference To Your Safety - Especially In The Wet. Goodyear's Hydragrip Tyre Claims To Out-Perform All Others When The Heavens Open, So Jonathan Crouch Put It To The Test

Rain is one of those things that all of us as motorists just have to put up with. But it's how we put up with it that can make all the difference. After all, over 30% of all road accidents happen in wet conditions and most of us are more fearful when we have to drive in them. Perhaps we don't have to be.

Forget four-wheel drive - it's the tyres you choose that can ultimately make the difference between arriving in an accident situation and narrowly avoiding it. And let's stop right there before going any further. Most of us don't choose our tyres: not in the sense that we choose our cars anyway. We accept without question whatever the manufacturer decides to fit as standard and when the time comes for rubber replacement, the general attitude seems to be either 'more of the same' or 'whatever's cheapest'.

I'd always imagined that only industry anoraks were especially bothered about the actual brand of tyre fitted to their cars - but now I'm not so sure. This realisation came quite recently when the opportunity arose to try Goodyear's latest development, the 'Hydragrip' tyre, around the company high speed test track at Mireval in southern France. Revolutionary developments don't often come in tyre technology, a field which, as far as I can see, hasn't changed very much in the last fifty odd years. However, the benefits offered by Hydragrip technology are well worth taking seriously.

For Goodyear, the whole thing was sparked by pan-European research that indicated, rather unsurprisingly, that over 70% of drivers wanted a tyre that performed at its best in wet conditions. Tyres with a wet weather emphasis have proved to be of growing interest over the last few years, with most of the leading tyre makers developing products claiming to offer superior grip in damp conditions. Goodyear's technicians looked at some of these and came away unimpressed: hence their Hydragrip technology.

I won't bore you with all the marketing babble. The bottom line is that, as far as I could make out, this tyre really seems to make a crucial difference. Direct testing against the two most prevalent rival products - Continental's 'Premium Contact' and Michelin's 'Exalto' - indicated that in wet braking from 70kmh, the Hydragrip tyre stopped up to a car's length quicker. In other words, the difference between knocking down a group of school children or avoiding them. With worn tyres, the difference was even greater.

The wet handling test was less decisive in Goodyear's favour - at least when it came to comparison with Michelin Exalto rubber. Through a high speed series of S-bends, the difference between driving the same car fitted with either brand was negligible. However, Hydragrip did hold an important advantage over cheaper brands like the Continental, allowing the driver to exit the series of S-bends at least a car's length ahead.

The final key test covered aquaplaning, that un-nerving sensation you get when your car hits a puddle of standing water at speed and temporarily loses all grip and steering feel, leaving you a passenger as the car slews to the left or right. Here, we found that the difference was small but significant. The Hydragrip-equipped cars tended to remain much more stable, in tests slewing between a quarter to a half a car's width less than vehicles fitted with rival rubber.

So why the difference? Goodyear put it down to what they call 'DynamicDrain-TRED technology', encompassing several key developments. '3D-Bis', the company's patented three-dimensional block interlocking system, allows for an increased number of 'blades' or ridges in the tyre surface, offering more edges to bite into the road and enhance grip.

'Cascade Blading' meanwhile, allows the tyre's tread shoulder blocks to provide a clamping effect, reacting like mini shock absorbers in emergency braking. Then there's 'V-TRED' design. This improves drainage across the tyre's surface by using a design that more easily forces water through wider grooves. Finally, there's also Hydragrip's more sophisticated tread compound to consider. It features a special reactive blend of high performance polymers and incorporates a tailor-made chemical that repels water to enhance grip. There's also an ultra-thin highly reinforced rubber layer under the tread compound to provide for stable steering and cornering.

All of this might lead you to the conclusion I arrived at. Namely, if the tyre really is this good, why aren't car makers queuing up to fit is as standard equipment on their products? The Goodyear people I spoke to were rather coy on this one but I did get several reasonable answers to this question. First, many of the car makers have yet to evaluate this product.

Secondly, Hydragrip was always developed as an 'after-fit' product. Car makers choose standard fit tyre brands on the basis of low road resistance. This, after all, delivers the kinds of impressive fuel consumption figures and low emissions readings that look good in the brochures. Unfortunately, this approach is not optimum for high levels of wet weather traction. So no, the tyres currently fitted on your car probably aren't the best or the safest for when the weather turns wet.

Should you choose to do something about this, you'll find that Hydragrip comes in 27 versions of 15 sizes from 14 to 16-inch wheels, with a 210 or 240kph speed rating, fitting the majority of family and high performance cars. Prices vary of course, depending on the stockist you use, but you should find Hyragrip pitched slightly above the Eagle Ventura tyre it replaces, positioned in cost terms just above the Continental Premium Contact and just below the Michelin Exalto.

Given that on average, over 141 days of every European year - or three in every five - feature rain, it's worth thinking again about the tyres you use. After all, enhanced rubber protection never did anyone any harm.