Tire manufacturers have begun to make serious efforts towards making fossil fueled vehicles more efficient by designing tires with lower rolling resistance. By reducing the amount of energy required to start and keep a tire rolling, the car becomes less expensive to run long term and reduces its impact on the environment by reducing carbon emissions.
Last year, we did an enjoyable test with the Toyota Prius, and then, this past week, we tested the newest entries in the Low Rolling Resistance (LRR) category on our normal fleet of BMW 3 Series. We are still finalizing the results from the most recent test, but I can tell you that the differences in fuel mileage were not huge. However, when the difference is factored in over the life of the tire, the differences can be significant.
You have to be careful with LRR tires since they can have low traction levels when stopping in the wet. Based on last week's experience and last year's testing results, here are a few LRR tires that I suggest:
The Continental ProContact with EcoPlus Technology: I first drove a prelaunch version of this tire at Continental's test facility in Texas and was immediately struck with the ease at which it handled wet stopping tests. It is very comfortable and should wear well with proper rotation and care (which will be easy to achieve since it is a normal symmetric tire).
The Michelin Energy Saver A/S: Performed well in the wet portion of our testing last year and was a pleasure to drive. The tire had great road manners and ride quality.
There are other good LRR tires and most of them provide a good balance of handling, ride quality and wet traction. However, these two are great options in a tire category that will continue to grow.