This week’s key subject (in my humble opinion) is tyres. Which, given that you’re an Autocar reader and therefore know your Bridgestone Duravis R630s from your Fortuna F3000s, are so much more than just the round and black things that need replacing every 10.000-15,000 miles.
Deciding which tyres to fit to your car is arguably the single most important decision you’ll make after you’ve bought the thing and done a few miles in it. The most common temptation is to click on one of the excellent tyre comparison websites and discover that you can buy an entire set of Woosung Darkhorses for your Golf GTi for less than the price of a single Continental Sport Contact 3, the tyre it came on when it was shiny and new.
“How much worse would the car honestly be if I saved myself £700 and went for the Woosungs?” you end up wondering. To which I’d reply; don’t even go there, my friend, not unless the idea of aquaplaning along a dark wet motorway at 48mph turns you on for some weird kind of reason.
Fact is, in the wet especially, cheapo tyres are miles worse in every dimension than their more expensive but more established mainstream equivalents. And let’s face it, it’s in the wet when you really a need a tyre to do its thing; to not just throw its hands in the air metaphorically and say; “Best of luck mate, not much else I can do to help from here on in.” So don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Which brings us to another area of rubbery debate; winter tyres. Should they become compulsory during the winter months in the UK, given that our nation continually grinds to halt whenever there is what weather folks refer to as ‘a cold snap?’
In Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Latvia and Sweden winter tyres are mandatory during certain periods of the year. In Slovenia they even insist that you carry a set of snow chains between November 15 and March 15. And although motorists in Germany are merely obliged to make sure they have the correct tyres fitted for the conditions, fines are handed out to drivers caught using summer tyres on roads that are quite clearly covered with snow.
So why not do the same thing over here? Why not put the emphasis on the driver to make sure they do the right thing, rather than on the state to bale them out when they don’t? And why not punish drivers who are stupid enough to ignore such advice and get stuck – in the same way we punish people who take to the road on bald tyres?
Finally (although I could go on about tyres for days); runflats. I was talking to an eminent chassis engineer recently and, much to my surprise, he actually praised BMW for persisting with its policy of fitting runflats to all of its mainstream road cars. “They ruin the ride quality” he said. “I know that, and you know that. But what you’ve also got to remember is that they (BMW) know it, too, yet they continue developing the idea because they know that they’ll crack it eventually. And in the end, someone has to be the pioneer.” Being dim, I’d never really thought of it like that before.
One more thing; back in 2010, some people wrote asking how we could vote the Porsche 911 GT3 RS our favourite driver’s car of the year when it uses tyres that are dangerous to use on wet roads.
Answer; the GT3’s Michelin Cup tyres are NOT dangerous to use on wet roads, not if you stay within sight of the speed limit. Neither are owners of the car required to sign disclaimers before they take delivery, as some of you had suggested. And before you scream ‘Rubbish, that’s not true, because I read it on the internet that they do” I called Porsche GB to check that one out for myself. It’s a complete myth apparently, probably one that was invented on the internet and ran from there.