11/05/2011: Is on-road performance the future for 4 x 4 tyres?
It looks as if 4 x 4 tyres are separating into two reasonably well-defined markets according to a recent analysis by Continental Tyres who are of course well known as a leading supplier to the 4 x 4 tyres market segment. Clearly, the original off-road market will continue to develop and prosper, but it seems increasingly likely that a whole new area is opening up in the design and development of 4 x 4 tyres that are specifically intended for on-road use.
This recently-appearing trend which is referred to as ‘car-ification’ by Continental Tyres, appears to have arisen from the changing expectations and requirements from those parts of the SUV sector which are predominantly road-orientated. In these cases, 4 x 4 tyres are required which will meet the need for car-like handling, fuel consumption and acoustic properties. The expected outcome of this is that 4 x 4 tyres will increasingly be appearing with more car tyre tread patterns.
Apparently, there also appears to be some evidence that noise legislation is playing a contributory part in encouraging this new direction in 4 x 4 tyres. Underlying all this is the fact that new vehicle derivatives are constantly appearing in the SUV sector and with many more of these coming on to the market, drivers and fleets are also calling for improved fuel consumption. Unsurprisingly, new designs of 4 x 4 tyres are now moving towards lower rolling resistance designs.
In response to all this, the traditional off-road patterns of 4 x 4 tyres are now being complemented with tread pattern designs that have traditionally been found in the more car-orientated end of the spectrum. In the case of Continental Tyres for example, the new ContiSportContact 5 tyre is likely to be available in SUV sizes of 4 x 4 tyres as well as UHP car sizes.
Running in parallel with this, many users of 4 x 4 tyres are those with mixed terrain needs such as driving to equestrian events on the highway and then pulling horse boxes around muddy fields. These all-terrain and mud-terrain 4 x 4 tyres therefore need to provide good off-road capability whilst meeting on-road requirements including low noise, good ride comfort, economical mileage, more comfort and better fuel economy. In all, this represents a significant challenge to tyre and vehicle manufacturers so you can certainly expect some exciting new developments in 4 x 4 tyres.