General Tire has developed an innovative launch concept to introduce the all-new Altimax passenger car tyre range in South Africa. They set up three dynamic driving tests to show Altimax Sport performance versus cheap competitor tyre. I had the opportunity to drive the same cars on the same course but with different tyres. The results left me in complete shock!
First up was a wet handling course and the car was a Renault Mégane. There was a blue one, which was fitted with the cheaper competitor brand and a white one, fitted with the Altimax Sport rubber. I set off in the blue car and within a few metres on the tight wet handling course it was clear that this car had no grip. The rear end was very loose and I had to constantly correct the steering input. Going into a corner at about 40km/h the car would understeer towards the railing. The traction control was constantly kicking in, fighting to keep the car stable. I did four laps of the 530-metre track and every lap was a struggle.
When I set off in the car fitted with the Altimax tyres I could feel the difference almost immediately. The car was planted and going through the corner at about 50km/h this time there was no hint of understeer. The Altimax Sport features wide circumferential grooves and open shoulder blocks to allow faster water dispersion from the contact patch. This leads to shorter braking distances and better grip.I was actually able to catch the blue car, which set off a few seconds before me within the first lap. The Altimax delivered consistent performance on every lap.
Next up was the aquaplaning course. Gerotek’s Dynamic Circular Track features a 200-metre circular diameter and a total length of approximately 650 metres. Most importantly, it incorporates a 20-metre long test section where water flows across the asphalt at a constant depth, adjustable between one and eight millimetres - the maximum depth is used for the General Altimax Sport test.
The test cars were two Mercedes-Benz B250 CDIs. One fitted with the competitor and the other fitted with the Altimax. Upon entering the water at a set 85km/h the competitor tyre loses grip causing the B-Class to veer off in the wrong direction the moment it reached the dry surface. The tyres screeched as they fought to find grip. The Altimax tyre - on the other hand - sliced through the water at the same speed with ease and I was able to hold the line through the corner with no tyre screeching at all.
The skidpan was next and this is the perfect place to test wet-weather steering, braking and accelerating exercises. The slippery skidpan hosts a series of emergency braking exercises and demonstrations. These assess the tyre’s ability to provide adequate stopping performance when the available level of grip on the road surface is extremely low. As you would expect, the Altimax tyres out-performed the cheaper tyres by quite a large margin.
These tests were set up to demonstrate real world situations and how, fitting the right tyres to your car, can potentially save your life. Imagine hitting a pool of water on William Nicol Drive at 80km/h and because you decided to fit cheaper tyres to your car, it loses control and starts sliding, hitting everything around it. How about when it’s raining and you are travelling on the N1? Suddenly, the car in front of you slams on brakes and you push the pedal to the floor but because you fitted cheap tyres to your car, it takes an extra 20 or 30 metres to stop. That’s 20 or 30 metres too late.
Now, I’m not punting the General Tire brand here, but it is important to fit the right tyre to your car. The cheaper competitor tyres provided for the test were Chinese copies of Continental tyres. General Tire is part of the Continental group, which has years of development behind its name. General Tire is actually 100 years old this year.
Okay, so I’ve been referring to the cheaper brand throughout this article but how much cheaper are they compared to the General Tire Altimax. Well, the 17-inch Chinese copy is about R350 cheaper than the 17-inch Altimax and the 18-inch tyre is R500 cheaper. I’m sorry, but I’d rather pay the extra R2 000 per set of Altimax tyres, knowing that I have tyres designed by professionals, using the finest materials.