“Should we be disconcerted?” I asked the GT Radial PR rep.
“Because we’re at a training centre for fire fighters and emergency responders, and it looks a little like they’re setting up to practice using the Jaws of Life….”
“Actually they just finished.” Then she looked at me with a quizzical look on her face. “Maybe I’ll ask them to hang around for a bit…”
Testing tires is a difficult thing. You need a place that’s like the real world, where you can push a car safely to its limits without crashing into a busload of school children, and where you can offer variable surface conditions for the testers. That’s why we found ourselves at a police and fire fighter training centre just outside Toronto for a day of driving on two of GT Radial’s newest all-season products.
The first, the GT Radial Champiro UHP all-season is positioned as an alternative for luxury-performance cars. To that end the good folk at GT Radial put us in a fleet of BMW 320i xDrives and pointed us at their course with a driver coach as passenger – to stop those firemen getting more practice in, I suppose.
“Hey, wait a minute!” – it was the PR Rep again. “In here please, we have a short presentation before we hit the track”.
The presentation was disconcerting for a whole other reason. “Our test drivers scored these tires just one point lower in one area when comparing our tires to more expensive competitors,” we were told.
I wondered aloud how we were supposed to feel the difference barely felt by professional testers. “That’s the point”, GT’s rep told me. GT Radial wanted us to understand these tires are as good as tires in the price class above. If you can’t tell a difference, why should someone pay more?
So the plan was not to determine how much better these were, it was to see if they felt on par, given the price difference. The competitor set they’d pulled up for us? Pirelli Zero Nero A/S, and the Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2.
All three have similar features, including curb protector panels which sit over the lip of the rim. A curb protector is just an extra flap of rubber that helps protect the edge of the rim should you sidle up against a curb. It doesn’t protect those who like to park by feel however, as the rim protector is quite thin and only sticks out a few mm.