Tire Preview: Pirelli Scorpion Verde: Pirelli’s new green tire auto product reviews
Pirelli Scorpion Verde. Click image to enlarge

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By Greg Wilson

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Pirelli Scorpion Verde

There’s little doubt that ‘green’ tires are the way of the future: they save fuel due to their lighter weight and reduced rolling resistance, they use fewer raw materials in their construction, and they take less energy to produce. They’re kinder to the environment, you see.

The problem with green tires, traditionally, is that they provide less cornering and braking grip and have a firmer ride due to their harder compounds. Tire companies have been working diligently to minimize these drawbacks by developing new tire compounds and different tire and tread designs while maintaining their ecologically-friendly attributes.

But is it really possible for a green tire to match the roadholding and ride advantages of a standard tire?

Tire Preview: Pirelli Scorpion Verde: Pirelli’s new green tire auto product reviews
Tire Preview: Pirelli Scorpion Verde: Pirelli’s new green tire auto product reviews
Pirelli Scorpion Verde. Click image to enlarge

Pirelli seems to think so. The company claims its new Scorpion Verde all-season tire (Verde means green in Italian) offers handling, braking and ride characteristics equal to or better than many regular all-season tires.

The new Scorpion Verde all-season tire, designed for use on light trucks, SUVs and crossovers, uses 10 per cent fewer raw materials in its construction, is 8.0 per cent lighter than a regular all-season tire, and offers 20 per cent lower rolling resistance when compared to a regular Scorpion STR tire. The net result is a 3.4 per cent reduction in average fuel economy. With an expected 96,000 km tire life, the Scorpion Verde will save about 455 litres fuel and all the emissions that would have been emitted by burning the extra fuel, says the company.

Key differences between the Scorpion Verde tire and standard all-season tires are added stiffening in the sidewalls and a squared-off bead (the inner ring where the tire meets the wheel) instead of a rounded one, helping to maintain tire stability in sudden transitions and hard cornering.

As well, the Scorpion Verde uses nano-filler particles in the tread compound and a polymer structure that adapt to various road conditions. A new proprietary silica-based compound improves tire life while allowing the tire to be flexible enough to provide a large contact patch on the road at higher speeds, particularly on wet roads. The Verde’s tread has four longitudinal grooves to displace water when driving in the rain, high-density lateral sipes (small slits in the tire) to enhance stability, and longitudinal sipes to further enhance lateral stability on loose surfaces. As well, Pirelli claims the Scorpion Verde’s tread design results in 30 per cent less tire noise inside the vehicle.

Tire Preview: Pirelli Scorpion Verde: Pirelli’s new green tire auto product reviews
Tire Preview: Pirelli Scorpion Verde: Pirelli’s new green tire auto product reviews
Pirelli Scorpion Verde; photos by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

To demonstrate the handling and performance qualities of the Scorpion Verde, Pirelli set up a slalom course in a local parking lot, and equipped one SUV with Pirelli Scorpion Verde all-season tires and an identical SUV with Michelin Latitude HP regular all-season tires. They then asked a group of motoring journalists to test drive the two SUVs back to back to see the differences.

The course consisted of a short, looping slalom course on dry pavement, and a straight braking course where journalists were required to do a panic stop from 80 km/h on wet pavement.

The vehicles chosen for the test were BMW X5 diesel SUVs which, being rather heavy and bulky, proved a handful on the tight, slalom course. However, that was probably the point since the slalom’s tight turns invoked severe understeer at speed, perfect for measuring the tires’ grip and stability.

Without precise scientific measurements, it was difficult to say exactly how well the Scorpion Verde performed compared to the Michelin Latitude HP, but from the driver’s seat, it felt like the Verde gripped better in the tight turns, responded quicker to steering input, and was quieter. In the panic braking section on wet pavement, the Verde stopped sooner than the Michelin and was well-controlled in a straight line. Of course, it’s quite possible that Pirelli chose a competitive tire that wouldn’t perform as well as the Verde, but the fact remains that Pirelli’s ‘green’ all-season tire outperformed a ‘regular’ all-season tire.

Tire Preview: Pirelli Scorpion Verde: Pirelli’s new green tire auto product reviews
Tire Preview: Pirelli Scorpion Verde: Pirelli’s new green tire auto product reviews
Pirelli Scorpion Verde; photos by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

I would have liked to take a longer drive in both vehicles to compare the tire’s ride over smooth and rough pavement – which for most people is more important than how well a tire performs in a slalom – but that wasn’t part of this test.

The least I can say after this short test is that the Scorpion Verde shouldn’t disappoint SUV owners who are used to the handling and grip of regular all-season tires.

The Pirelli Scorpion Verde tire is available in diameters of 16 to 20-inches, tread widths of 235 to 275 mm, aspect ratios of 45 to 70, in T, H and V speed ratings, with a UTQG rating of 600 AA. The company says runflat green tires are also in the works.

Already, the Scorpion Verde is planned as original equipment on the new Volkswagen Touareg, Porsche Cayenne, Volvo XC90 and Audi Q3. By the end of 2011, Pirelli says that 20 to 40 per cent of the tires it produces will be green.

Given the ongoing need to minimize harmful effects to the environment and maximize the use of our resources, it’s quite likely that green will be the norm in tire production within the next decade, rather than the exception.




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).