Tires for SUVs: Toyo in search of the perfect balance

 

Not the first time we pay our attention to a problem of a choice of optimum tires for cars of SUV class, but repetition is the mother of learning… Here, by the way, there can be some difference in understanding of what this class is. Someone relates to it both frame SUVs (including the professionals of struggle against impassability), and crossovers, both all-wheel drive, and with drive only on one axis, but someone believes that the terms “SUV” and “crossover” are synonyms, and “SUV” is something completely different. There are authors, on the contrary, who believe that SUV is a typical North American light truck, which is used as an everyday vehicle, and that crossovers are something between them and cars. Let’s agree to stick with the first point of view. But back to talking about tires…

The selection of tires for SUVs has some specificity, stemming from both the technical features of the cars themselves, and the specifics of operation. First, the body SUV, as a rule, heavier than the body of cars of comparable size, and the loads that are experiencing tires – higher, because the class involves the ability to operate not only on smooth pavement. Secondly, cars SUVs have a relatively high ground clearance, which implies the use of tires with a fairly large outside diameter. And here is a serious difference in the nature of the operation of cars by different owners. Some focus primarily on driving on asphalt, and all the extreme offroad for them – driving on a snowy parking lot. Others want to be able to drive comfortably in the city, without much stress to make a throw of a thousand or two kilometers on the highway and confidently travel on very bad local roads and dirt roads. But there are also those who want to be able to overcome several kilometers on muddy forest tracks…

It is clear that it is unreal to develop a tire that would be equally effective in any mode of operation and in any ratio, because the requirements to the tire on different surfaces often directly contradict each other. For example, high performance on weak soils implies a sparse tread pattern. But this automatically leads to a reduced grip area on asphalt. Longitudinal drainage grooves, which effectively channel water away from the contact patch on hard surfaces, reduce the tire’s traction with the ground. A high profile increases comfort when hitting obstacles, but impairs handling, while increased sidewall strength, on the contrary, reduces comfort. Hence a simple conclusion: even owners of identical cars need different tires, and their choice should depend on how they plan to operate their SUV. That is why the leading manufacturers offer a whole line of tires for SUVs and crossovers. Let’s analyze what these lines are, by the example of Toyo Tires products.

The first group is made up of the UHP, Ultra High Performance tires, which have a speed index V, which allows driving at speeds up to 240 km/h. Such tires are of interest to owners of powerful and fast SUVs of premium brands – Range Rover, Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Lexus…

Among the tires in this group, there are models derived from the usual “passenger” variants by strengthening the sides, but practically the same in terms of tread pattern. An example of this approach is the Proxes Sport SUV model. In the development of this model, the main emphasis was placed on improving the handling on dry and wet asphalt, as well as on maximum noise reduction. To achieve these indicators works and composition of the rubber mixture, developed using Nano Balance technology (about this technology we told in detail. It is important that in the manufacture of this model two types of mixture were used. The outer part of the tread is made of rubber compound with high traction properties, achieved by high content of silica and the use of a special elastomer. The base part consists of a high-stiffness rubber compound, and the use of an elastomer for heat control and special components for maintaining stiffness allows the tire’s properties to remain unchanged as it warms up.

Equally important is the tread pattern. Among its features are four longitudinal drainage grooves, forming ribs with rounded edges (such a solution allows to evenly distribute pressure in the contact patch), high-stiffness ribs on the outer side of the tread, providing stability in curves, and dynamic grooves that improve steering. The ribs with increased number of sipes on the inner side of the tread improve traction properties on wet roads and reduce noise level. The tires are available in 42 sizes, from 215/65 R17 to 295/40 R22, but the greatest number of variants is provided for the landing sizes R20 and R21.

Another model of the same purpose and category, Proxes ST III, is designed specifically for installation on powerful crossovers and SUVs. This tire has a directional tread pattern and attracts attention with its spectacular sporty design. The design concept of this tire is based on images of a lightning bolt, arrowhead and stealth fighter wings, but these are not just images. Each of the elements carries a functional purpose as well: Arrow-shaped tapered elements increase directional stability in straight driving and contribute to better traction on wet roads, lightning grooves improve water drainage from the contact area, rigid wide parallelogram blocks improve control on dry surfaces, and 3D-lamellas in tread shoulder zones limit block movement during braking and acceleration, thereby improving brake and traction forces transmission and reducing uneven wear. These tires are suitable for those who prioritize effective appearance, handling and durability, but they care less about noise and comfort. These tires are available in sizes from 215/65 R16 to 305/35 R24, with a maximum variety of variants in the seat diameters of R20 and R22.

However, among the owners of SUVs, who practically never leave the asphalt, there are also the owners of much more modest mass models. Moreover, their audience is much more, and such requests are also worth considering. But here the system of priorities is different from the requirements that the owners of premium SUV tires: they are more interested in comfort, durability, survivability and fuel economy. The Proxes CF2 SUV, developed on the basis of the “light” model Proxes CF2, can answer these needs.

A special compound of rubber compound with addition of silica, polymers, which increase durability and traction properties, provides high performance on wet roads and low wear, and with low rolling resistance. Above all, these tires are characterized by short braking distances on wet roads, long service life and efficient fuel consumption. Four wide water grooves reduce the risk of aquaplaning, while the tyre’s hard ribs reduce noise and improve the car’s roadholding. For better handling and improved comfort work and features of the internal construction: extra strong elastic bracing layers and high-strength filler cord.

Proxes CF2 SUV is available in 29 sizes, from 175/80 R15 to 245/45 R20, but the main attention is paid to the middle sizes R16 and R17, that is what the owners of Hyundai Creta, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4 and VW Tiguan need.

But there are also those who bought a crossover or SUV in order to go to the country, hunting, fishing, just to relax in nature, who, in the end, does not live in metropolitan areas, but in “district towns” or just in the countryside. For them, the tires that are not designed for driving on the ground, just contraindicated! But Toyo has solutions for them, too: the entire line of Open Country tires, consisting of four models marked U/T, H/T, A/T Plus and M/T.

Toyo Open Country M/T

But this type of tread tends to result in a higher noise level and not the best grip on wet asphalt. To make the situation not look so sad, all the blocks are cut with deep sipes, and the shoulder blocks have different sizes and configuration – this reduces the noise level on hard surfaces. As a result, consumer reviews call this model one of the quietest and most comfortable in the dirt segment. The tire is available in 25 sizes, and exactly those that can be used on full- and medium-sized pickups and SUVs. The fact that the Open Country M/T tires are perfectly suitable for installation on light commercial vehicles is confirmed by the LT letters in the size designation.

At the other pole are the U/T and H/T models. They are quite close in their consumer qualities, because they are designed primarily for driving on roads with paved surfaces, although in principle they allow driving on light off-road.

Open Country H/T tires are “sharpened” for the highway and are designed for those who often travel long distances. Accordingly, one of the main advantages of the model is a long service life. In addition, a symmetric non-directional tread pattern prevents uneven wear, the blocks with different levels of inclination reduce noise arising from the contact of the tire with the road surface. The wave-like sipes, which cut the tread blocks to a greater depth, are designed for the same purpose. The central stiffening rib is responsible for cornering stability and handling on dry asphalt, while two deep circular grooves in the shoulder area are responsible for water drainage, noise reduction and high performance in all weather conditions. Open Country H/T tires are available in only four sizes, but these are the most popular sizes: 235/75 R16, 275/60 R18, 245/55 R19 and 235/55 R20. However, the H/T model is gradually being withdrawn from the range, as it is believed that it can be replaced by the U/T model.

The size range of the Open Country U/T model is much wider and includes 51 positions, four of which are designed for light commercial vehicles. As the name suggests (U/T stands for Urban Terrain), the tires are designed to operate primarily in the city, but the owner of a crossover “wearing” such tires may well afford an outing to the countryside, grass and country roads. The composition of the rubber mixture with the addition of silica significantly reduces noise, improves traction with wet asphalt and reduces the rolling resistance, and therefore – increases energy efficiency.

A number of features of the tread pattern are also aimed at fighting noise, such as the optimized placement of tread blocks of different shapes and the frequent grooving on the inner surface of the grooves. Such shape of grooves creates an obstacle for air flow passing through them, and this, in turn, reduces the noise level created by the tread while driving. This technology is known as the Silent wall, or “wall of silence”. Other features include the presence of so-called multiwave sipes in the shoulder area, which give the tread blocks optimal rigidity. This stiffness increases the stability in curves, and also contributes to a more even wear of the tire.

But what to do if a car owner regularly has to drive on not the best roads, and he wants to ride on gravel roads with the same confidence as on the asphalt of highways? Then he needs real “universal soldiers”, that is, tires of All Terrain category. The Open Country A/T Plus model takes this place in Toyo’s range.

On the one hand, this model’s tires are perfectly adapted to meet the off-road conditions. Under the seamless upper bracing there is a heavy-duty steel bracing, which covers the frame made of two-layer polyester. All this, together with the high wraparound of the carcass layer and the rigid filler cord, is responsible for unexpectedly high (for an off-road tire) handling, stability and durability. In addition, a special composition of the rubber mixture with the addition of silica (silicon dioxide) is responsible for the wear resistance of the tread, low rolling resistance, as well as for the traction with wet asphalt.

As for the tread pattern, it is designed, first of all, to obtain a high cross-country ability: the side blocks separated by wide grooves are arranged in peculiar steps and the tread runs over the sidewalls. Clearly, A/T tires, by definition, have slightly less off-road potential than M/T tires, but if we rate Open Country M/T’s performance with a 5, then Open Country A/T Plus deserves a solid 4. In general, you should not rush on these tires to assault the Karelian bogs, but they will cope with the muddy soils in the middle zone without any problems.

Toyo Open Country A/T Plus

As a result, the tire is rated “above average” for terrain and durability, and when evaluating all other parameters (performance on dry and wet surfaces, comfort, noise and rolling resistance) it looks confident average – of course, if you compare this model with a purely highway Toyo tires, the same Proxes Sport or CF2.

In Russia, Open Country A / T Plus are available in 56 sizes, including options that are ideal for “old-school” and medium-sized pickup trucks and SUVs (for example, 30×9.50/R15LT, 31X10.50/R15LT and 33X12.50/R15LT), and for mass crossovers (235/70 R16 and 235/65 R17), and powerful cars segment SUV-D – for example, 285/50 R20.

To sum up: choosing tires for your crossover or SUV, do not “vote with your heart” and focus on fashion or spectacular appearance. First of all, you should clearly understand how exactly you will use your car, where and how often you will go and what qualities you are ready to consider as the most important – a low noise level, driving comfort, behavior on asphalt, readiness to struggle with aquaplaning or passability. None of the most famous brands can provide all these at the same time. But to find a tire with the right balance for you is quite real, including Toyo lineup, and this Japanese brand can please you with affordable prices.

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