By Andre Lam

It’s black and round and it protects the shiny alloy rims. How can you tell if its good and what exactly are they? We take a look at the salient features of each type of tyre….


Most manufacturers claim this but only a few know the black art that delivers. It is not as simple as more comfort is attained at much detriment to handling. The easy part is probably material science, making the carcass lighter using exotic materials like Kevlar or high tensile steel and energy absorbing rubber compounds. Far more difficult is the design and fine tuning of the carcass something which the industry leaders like Michelin, Pirelli and Continental can do better than the Japanese. The formula looks like: Flexible sidewalls + unexciting tread pattern + tall profile + vibration absorbing rubber + fair handling + fair grip = comfort tyre. Not very appealing but if one adds a high price tag to the formula then it becomes a Premium tyre (see below)


Value is not about getting the absolute lowest cost tyre for your car. That can be downright foolhardy since Singapore enjoys one of the best prices on tyres in the world and you never know just when you’ll be needing every last bit of grip to save your life or someone else’s. Buying a ZR or YR rated tyre may be reassuring but is that really needed for a Toyota Camry or Honda City? However it is true that ZR and YR tyres are generally better engineered than the VR and TR ones. The choice is yours to make. It is really difficult to choose especially when not well informed. Also pricing varies depending on the aggressiveness of the dealer and your relationship with them. However the only reliable source of information is found in these pages of Torque. Read well. The general formula seems to be, acceptable grip + acceptable handling + low noise + acceptable ride + low price + Japanese name = Value tyre


What is a “Premium” tyre? Unfortunately it implies more expensive and is usually the case. So what does it provide for that extra outlay? Just a brand name? Sometimes it does but someone like Torque has to keep them honest. Premium tyres try to be excellent all-rounders, avoiding any real weaknesses rather than providing the ultimate in every aspect. However in the past year, it has become clear that some manufacturers have finally begun to make tyres that can excel in the performance tests and yet provide good ride comfort and low noise. But obviously there is a hefty premium to pay. Don’t expect this from your garden variety tyres. The general formula is good name + good grip + good handling + good ride + low noise + high price = Premium tyre


Without a doubt our favourite category. These tyres have a very focussed character. They employ many tricks from race tyre technology. Typically they are track-based tyres that are streetable as opposed to road tyres that are trackable. These tyres can stand up to regular use at the race circuit on track days providing high “g” fun for the performance junkie. Typically the designers throw out considerations for ride comfort, noise and tread life as they use very stiff carcasses. This makes designing them so much easier than attempting to be everything to everyone. The magic is in the tread employing quasi race compounds. Typically there are a reduced number of drainage channels and far larger tread blocks to lay down a solid, stable tread compound. The general formula is high grip + sharp handling + poor ride + short life + high price + great fun = Sports tyre

Eco tyres

To some extent many of today’s tyres are more eco-friendly than before. There are a few ways tyres can be eco-friendly and not just the time when they are on the car. Manufacture also consumes energy and raw materials. The increasing use of rubber synthesized from petroleum products also contributes to global warming and pollution. The use of renewable natural rubber has been on the decrease as manufacturers try to find even better performance from tyres. The end-of-life problems for tyres are slowly being solved. As they are derived from petroleum products, it can also be converted to energy in future bio-fuel plants. Of course the tyres contribute to energy loss constantly during its lifetime. About 17% of total energy produced by an engine is lost through the rolling resistance of tyres. Currently a 30% improvement in rolling resistance results in a 5% savings in over fuel consumption. New Silica compounds have been a huge help in achieving this. Typically tyres optimised to save gas are not particularly sporty. Manufacturers target the OE market and OE sizes as they form the majority and any improvement there have the biggest benefits. Many of the new eco tyres are embossed with CO2 saving or fuel saving labels. Silica compound + low hysteresis carcass + high inflation pressure + fair grip + willowy handling + long life + moderate price = low rolling resistance eco-tyre.


Of late a recent category of tyres has surfaced as the recent flurry of SUVs are now seeking replacement tyres. Sad to say these SUVs despite carrying 4x4 underpinnings hardly go off-road. So fortunately there are a number of possibilities for replacement. One is to find the original items. Or one can use a number of premium tyres of a larger size. However SUVs have big tyres making wheels of up to 22-inch in diameter a possibility. Proper off-road tyres are far too noisy for day to day use and a new breed of SUV specific tyres will soon arrive. But there is some resistance in terms of sales as many prefer to get a large road going tyre as its replacement. Large tyres have the ability to deform less for the car’s given weight and hence have lower rolling resistance. However the SUVs are so heavy it negates any theoretical advantage. The Huge footprint is necessary to offset on the negative impact of such heavy vehicles on our road’s surfaces. The SUV tyres do have gentler handling characteristics but typically offer less grip. Typically Low Grip + XXL size + high cost + tall profile + aggressive tread pattern + decent ride = SUV tyre

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