Best car tyres: evo performance tyre test

Which high performance tyres should you be shortlisting for your car? We put seven 235/35 R19 tyres through the 2022 evo tyre test: the toughest objective and subjective test in the business

This year we put the increasingly popular 235/35 R19 tyre through the uniquely exacting evo tyre test, a test that delivers results based on both objective and subjective ratings. We include subjective assessments because as well as delivering great numbers, a tyre also needs to provide the feedback to give you the confidence to exploit its performance. So, 60 per cent of the total possible score for each tyre is objective and 40 per cent subjective, with a bias to wet weather ability because that’s when you’re most likely to find the limit of grip without trying. 

Coming in as favourite for this test is Continental’s all-new SportContact 7. Earlier this year it cleaned up in a three-way test of 265/35 R20s on a rear-drive, 460bhp Ford Mustang (evo 298). Can it repeat the success in this high-volume, front-wheel-drive fitment? The competition is formidable and includes the Pirelli P Zero, Goodyear F1 SuperSport and the impressive new Bridgestone Potenza Sport. We also welcome the Falken Azenis FK520 and, for the first time, the Maxxis Victra Sport 5, which was an unofficial entry on an earlier evo test and performed extremely well (evo 265). Last and far from least is the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S, winner of the last two tests in this most popular 19-inch size. It’s all set to be one of our toughest tests yet.

> Click here to see how much you can save on a new set of high performance tyres at BlackCircles.com

The car

For many years the Volkswagen Golf GTI has been the default test car, for its decent feedback and consistent, composed dynamics. In road tests the Golf GTI Mk8 hasn’t impressed us like previous models, but the GTI Clubsport we’re using for this test turns out to be everything we want and need. It has a biddable, adjustable balance and good steering feel, and with almost 300bhp and 300lb ft of torque has no shortage of performance to expose the strengths and weaknesses of the test tyres. 

The track

There are some fine tyre testing facilities around the world but Goodyear’s Mireval facility near Montpellier in the south of France is arguably the coolest. The sloping site overlooks the glittering waters of the Gulf of Lion in the Mediterranean and is bathed in sunshine for much of the year. It typically sees fewer than three days of rain per month from June to September and enjoys a cooler but still dry start to the year. It’s also said that the water for its wet handling circuit is drawn from the same source as Perrier…

The tyres

  • Prices shown are an average from a number of suppliers. 

  • EU tyre label ratings for each tyre are shown inside the brackets: 

  • RR = rolling resistance, on a scale ranging from A (best) to E (worst). A tyre with a better rating should deliver better fuel economy.

  • Wet = wet grip, also on a scale ranging from A (best) to E (worst). This EU rating focuses solely on wet braking performance.

  • Noise = the exterior noise generated by a tyre, measured in decibels. Quieter tyres generate between 67 and 71 dB, louder tyres up to 77 dB.

Wet handling

The weir-fed wet handling circuit has an excellent mix of corners and in the Golf can be negotiated in just third gear. It starts with gently climbing, medium-speed turns that test front-end bite on the way in and traction on the exit. It’s crucial here, and especially at the tighter, cresting right, to manage wheelspin because too much will side-slip the car off line and squander drive. The hairpin is a straight test of braking and then traction, while the fast sweeps that follow demand adjustability and stability in transition, as does the entry onto the huge, falling-then-climbing circle. Tyre feedback is crucial to exploiting and maximising grip with confidence. 

The Bridgestone was fastest of all, by just over half a second from the Pirelli, which was the most highly rated subjectively. Accurate and exploitable, calm and tactile, the Pirelli didn’t really have any weakness – apart from not having quite the pace of the Bridgestone. It felt confident on the brakes, had good traction and offered some rotation, helping to get the Golf into the faster turns. The Bridgestone scored well subjectively for its granular steering feel and excellent traction and offered a similarly fine set of characteristics, being marked down slightly only for being a fraction less communicative. 

Just pipping it to second subjectively was the Goodyear, joint fourth fastest, a second and a half off the pace of the Bridgestone. It struck a good balance between adjustability and front grip, allowing rotation to be measured out. Poised, secure and accurate, it just lacked the traction of the best. The Maxxis, third fastest, was also impressive and praised for how well its adjustability could be accurately controlled: you got just what you wanted so could be consistently neat. 

Oddly, the Continental’s lap time was more impressive than its feel. Although it matched the Goodyear’s pace it seemed to struggle for traction while turning and needed a delicate touch with steering and throttle to extract the best from it. The Michelin was a little off the pace too, the rear axle a bit loose, which helped in the slower turns and hindered in the faster ones, making it a little tricky to be consistent. Slowest was the Falken, 3.7sec off the Bridgestone. A little too ready to skitter off line through the fast curves but otherwise predictable, it seemed to be working with less grip that the others and the performance appeared to drop off too. 

Wet handling - lap time

TyreSeconds%
Bridgestone64.5100
Pirelli65.199.1
Maxxis65.898.0
Continental66.097.7
Goodyear66.097.7
Michelin66.497.1
Falken68.294.6

Wet handling - subjective

TyreScore%
Pirelli58100
Goodyear5594.8
Bridgestone54.594.0
Maxxis54.594.0
Continental5187.9
Michelin5289.7
Falken4984.5

Wet circle

There’s a broad correlation between performances on the wet circuit and the wet circle, the fastest being the Bridgestone and the slowest the Falken in both cases. However, there’s not as big a spread from the top to the bottom of the table for this simple test of wet cornering grip as there was on the wet circuit. The Goodyear tied for the top spot, improving upon its wet circuit placing. A fraction behind were the Maxxis, Continental and Michelin, with the Pirelli a close sixth, just a couple of tenths ahead of the Falken. 

TyreSeconds%
Bridgestone13.5100
Goodyear13.5100
Maxxis13.798.5
Continental13.897.8
Michelin13.897.8
Pirelli13.997.1
Falken 14.195.7

Braking and rolling resistance

The Continental dominated the braking tests, putting an impressive amount of clear air between itself and the others in the crucial wet test. At just 28.1m, it stopped from 80kph (50mph) an astonishing two metres better than the best of the rest, while in the dry, from 100kph (62mph), its superiority was smaller at 0.8m.

The Michelin was consistent too, taking third spot in the wet and the dry, albeit over 2.5m off the Continental in the wet. The Goodyear was second best in the wet but fell to joint fifth in the dry, while the Bridgestone went the other way, scoring second in the dry but a distant fifth in the wet. The Pirelli was middling in the wet (despite feeling good in the wet handling test) and joint fifth in the dry, along with the Goodyear and the Maxxis, which was sixth in the wet. The Falken was fourth best in the dry but furthest off the pace in the wet, taking a massive 4.3m more to stop than the Continental. 

In theory, each tyre’s manufacturer-declared rolling resistance should be repeated by our physical test but previously we have seen tyres that both outperform and underperform versus their maker’s rating. In this instance, all the C-rated tyres – Michelin, Falken, Continental and Pirelli – are above the D-rated Bridgestone and Goodyear. The tyre that’s out of place is the D-rated Maxxis, which sits in the middle of the C-rated tyres. 

Wet braking

TyreMetres%
Continental28.1100
Goodyear 30.193.4
Michelin30.791.5
Pirelli31.090.6
Bridgestone31.389.8
Maxxis32.087.8
Falken32.486.7

Dry braking

TyreMetres%
Continental31.0100
Bridgestone31.897.5
Michelin32.396.0
Falken32.495.7
Goodyear32.695.1
Maxxis32.695.1
Pirelli32.695.1

Rolling resistance

TyreCoefficient%
Michelin (C)8.46100
Falken (C)8.5099.5
Maxxis (D)8.8895.3
Continental (C)9.0893.2
Pirelli (C)9.5888.3
Bridgestone (D)9.9185.4
Goodyear (D)10.3681.7

Aquaplaning

Aquaplaning occurs when a tyre can no longer cut through the water beneath it and lifts clear of the road surface, meaning it cannot offer any control. We test a tyre’s ability to resist aquaplaning in a straight line and also in a corner, measuring the speed at which it overspeeds by more than 15 per cent. We make multiple runs and the method of calculation means that the peak speed recorded and the percentage rating don’t always correlate. 

Bridgestone scored a narrow win in both tests, a whisker ahead of the Michelin in a straight line and just ahead of the Goodyear in the curve, though all the tyres performed well in the straight-line test, the seventh-placed Falken being within a few per cent of the Bridgestone.

In the curve the spread is larger, the Bridgestone, Goodyear and Falken being closely matched at the top of the table, a decent amount clear of the Maxxis, Michelin and Pirelli, with the Continental finishing seventh.

Straight-line aquaplaning

TyreMax kph%
Bridgestone82.1100
Michelin82.099.9
Goodyear81.899.6
Continental81.399.0
Pirelli81.399.0
Maxxis81.098.7
Falken79.997.3

Curved aquaplaning

TyreResidual accel%
Bridgestone66.6100
Goodyear66.496.9
Falken66.096.3
Maxxis64.388.6
Michelin64.388.6
Pirelli63.988.4
Continental63.387.3

Dry handling

Mireval’s dry handling circuit is a former racetrack that starts with a big challenge: a very fast, drop-away right hander with a blind apex. From there it’s downhill and braking into a double-apex right, a shallow first apex and tighter second with a compression in-between, testing stability, grip and confidence. Fast sweeps then lead to a tight, flat hairpin and into a series of tight corners that bring the circuit back up the hill, demanding good turn-in and agility, and grip and traction while turning. Even the final, long, climbing right tests traction. 

As usual, the spread of times is smaller than in the wet, the Continental sitting at the top of the table with a lap time of 92.9sec, a mere tenth ahead of the Goodyear and 0.4sec ahead of the Bridgestone. These three were also top-ranked subjectively, though not in the same order. The Goodyear just pipped the Bridgestone, being grippy and accurate through the fast turns and more positive than any other. It scrabbled for traction a little in the tighter turns but drew praise for its tactile and detailed steering feel. The Bridgestone delivered a strong, gritty performance and was similarly praised for its lucid steering feedback: you could sense when you were close to overloading it. The Continental carried speed well and although it didn’t offer quite the same levels of feel and feedback it was adjustable and effective. 

A few tenths off this top trio were the Maxxis and Michelin with the same average lap of 93.7sec, though the French tyre was preferred. It wasn’t quite as positive as the best, taking a moment to settle into the quicker turns, but it offered good, predictable agility and traction. The Maxxis, meanwhile, was more positive initially, with slightly better steering connection feel, and offering better traction too, but it was also noisier as it hung on and got noisier still as it got hotter on its second flying lap. 

The Pirelli was slowest of all, a couple of seconds adrift of the Continental, but ranked fifth subjectively, ahead of the Maxxis. Like the Michelin, it had a broad spread of ability with no outstanding feature, feeling effective but lacking the bite and positivity of the best. The Falken split the Michelin and Pirelli on lap time despite the Golf feeling soft and a little loose on it. What it lacked in outright grip it made up for in adjustability, rotating usefully in the slower turns, but it was judged some way short of the positive, precise performances of the best here. 

Dry handling - lap time

TyreSeconds%
Continental92.9100
Goodyear93.099.9
Bridgestone93.399.6
Maxxis93.799.1
Michelin93.799.1
Falken94.298.6
Pirelli94.997.9

Dry handling - subjective

TyreScore%
Goodyear60100
Bridgestone5998.3
Continental5693.3
Michelin54.590.8
Pirelli53.589.2
Maxxis5286.7
Falken48.580.8

Road route

The tyres that felt most positive on the dry track also offered the most connected steering and sporty feel on the road. We also rate the tyres for comfort and noise and most impressive over our mixed-surface road route was the Michelin, which suppressed noise and surface agitation best of all and combined it with steering that was well weighted, connected and gave great feel in corners.

Also impressive was the Pirelli, which was a fraction noisier but offered similarly direct and feelsome steering at a moderate pace. The Falken scored an admirable third. Its steering wasn’t the sharpest but its refinement over all surfaces was excellent, effectively suppressing noise and neutralising coarseness. 

If you place steering precision and feedback over refinement, the Bridgestone and Goodyear deliver. The Bridgestone’s steering was crisp but calm with decent feel under load, but if a surface looked rough, you’d feel and hear it. The Goodyear was a fraction less excited by surfaces and offered engagingly positive steering feel and feedback.

The Maxxis was a bit noisy on the rougher surfaces but smoothed them over well, and although it wasn’t the sharpest steering it delivered good feel. Ranked seventh was the Continental, which was as unrefined as the Bridgestone and Goodyear but didn’t compensate with great steering, being direct but not as tactile and engaging.

The GT Radial lacked the fine steering feel of the best, but its ride rounded off sharp inputs well, if a little noisily. The Bridgestone felt like it had sacrificed comfort for sharp steering, while the Michelin gave decent steering directness at speed but was soft at lower speeds and was noisy over transverse ridges too. The Hankook was similar, lacking the feel and sharpness of the best and crashing noisily over difficult surfaces.

Last was the Triangle, which offered good refinement and dealt well with most surfaces but gave soft, light, feel-free steering.  

TyrePoints%
Michelin24100
Pirelli23.597.9
Falken2395.8
Bridgestone 22.593.8
Goodyear22.593.8
Maxxis2291.7
Continental2187.5

Results

7th: Falken 91.1

Highlights were excellent refinement on the road and good performance in curved aquaplaning, and it wasn’t far off the pace in dry handling too. Lacks the incisive, feelsome steering of the best here but good overall.

Blackcircles says… A fairly new tyre to the market, so we are unable to provide any insight into its popularity with customers at present, although its predecessor has scored well, with 4.6/5 from over 130 customer reviews. 

6th: Continental 93.7

Our winner in a bigger size earlier in 2022 with the rear-drive Mustang, this placing shows the strength and competition in this sector. Fastest in dry handling, outstanding in wet and dry braking, it just didn’t hit the steering connection and refinement of the best.

Blackcircles says… New to the market and successor to the popular SportContact 6 – rated 4.6/5 from 250 customers – this tyre looks set to build upon the solid reputation for performance set by its predecessor.

5th: Michelin 93.8

The Michelin was never far off the pace but in this contest only topped the tables in rolling resistance and on the road route, where it delivered an unmatched blend of fine ride quality, great refinement and direct, feelsome steering. Still a great tyre.

Blackcircles says… This tyre is a firm favourite with our customers – over 3100 reviews have resulted in an overall score of 4.7/5. Customers often commend the tyre’s excellent handling, comfort and stability.

4th: Maxxis 94.2

A great performance from the least expensive tyre. Although it never topped any of the tables it was rarely far off the pace in a strong field. If it had delivered better feel to go with its impressive objective performance it would have finished even higher. 

Blackcircles says… At the time of writing, Blackcircles.com does not hold stock of this tyre, so is unable to provide any insight into the tyre’s popularity with our customers. 

3rd: Pirelli 94.5

The most engaging and rewarding tyre on the wet circuit, the Pirelli put together a great overall performance. On road it was impressive, matching refinement with connected, tactile steering, and if it had delivered in dry handling it might have taken the win overall.

Blackcircles says… This tyre has gained a strong reputation with our customers, scoring 4.6/5 from over 430 reviews. Comments have highlighted the reliable grip and responsive handling.

2nd: Goodyear 94.8

Superb steering feel defines this tyre. Ranked best for feel in dry handling it was also objectively excellent, never far off the pace by any measurement. Not the most refined but an impressive tyre that delivers great performance and feel.

Blackcircles says… Customers at Blackcircles.com have been impressed when buying this tyre, leading to a 4.6/5 overall score. Reviews often praise the excellent grip and handling. 

1st: Bridgestone 95.1

Set the standard in wet handling and aquaplaning and backed that up with good results in the dry, including great feel and feedback on road and track, at the cost of some road refinement. The best of an exceptionally strong field. A deserved winner.

Blackcircles says… This tyre regularly receives high customer ratings, with an overall score of 4.8/5. Reviews praise the overall performance, focusing on grip and balance in dry conditions.

Our 2022 tyre test first published in evo 304. For our 2021 test of the ZR-rated 225/40 R18, click here.

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