Improving Driving Comfort with Tires

Your car giving you a noisy, harsh ride? Consider a change in tires to help improve overall driving comfort. Here’s how a change in tires transformed one car.

Other than the excellent Recaro seats, nothing about Chevy’s Z/28 Camaro is very plush or comfortable.

With engineering that prioritizes function and durability in high performance driving environments, driving “comfort” must take a back seat.

In some ways, this makes the Z/28 the perfect test bed for tire fitment experimentation. Because if any tire can transform the mad “Z” from an ogre of a car, to something that allows for some public road miles without repercussions on hearing capability and spinal integrity, then that’s saying something.

The Camaro’s original equipment tires were track focused semi-slicks, with effectively zero give/compliance in the sidewall and – on certain types of pavement – road feedback/noise that might just drive you mad. And the Z’s gigantic 305 mm section width tires at all four corners work to bring tire noise attributes front and center to the driving experience.

To improve the situation we fitted this “Z” with Michelin’s new Pilot Sport 4 S, an ultra-high performance summer tire. Unlike the original equipment tire choice, Michelin’s latest UHP tire is engineered for public roads, but is no slouch in the maximum performance department either. (The 4 S won’t stand up to quite the same level of punishment that a full-fledged track tire can endure over the course of a full session, but it’s more than capable of some “hot laps” at the track.)

After the tire swap, we experienced a tremendous improvement in overall ride comfort, including drastic noise reduction and a notable step up in ride compliance.

Impact harshness over Midwestern road cracks and ruts was reduced significantly, and the noise level was reduced at all speeds, over just about any type of tarmac. If asked to ballpark it, an estimated 50% improvement in overall comfort sounds about right. The Z/28 went from downright punishing on public roads and highways to a reasonably suitable grand tourer. (Well, not for everyone. Reference points, people…reference points.)

The lesson here is there’s a high variability in terms of tire comfort attributes. And while we selected from a different tire category to improve our Z/28’s comfort characteristics, this variability occurs even within a particular tire category. Tire choice can influence road noise and ride comfort in a major way.

If you prioritize driving comfort, look for tires that promote and emphasize those characteristics. For just about every type of vehicle, various tire types are available – some of those will be designed with comfort emphasized, others will emphasize performance of some variety over comfort.

Check out the tire manufacturer’s website for tire noise and comfort ratings:

User reviews on TireBuyer.com can also be a great resource to learn what it’s like covering some miles with any given tire:

 Here’s some additional advice on both finding quiet tires, and keeping them “seen but not heard” over the long-term: How do I find quiet tires for my car?

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