By Paul Rachwal
We go on a blind tire test in Miami
Coke vs Pepsi, some people swear they can tell a difference and others admit they can’t. The team at Sailun Tire sent us to Homestead Miami Speedway to perform their version of the Pepsi challenge and see if we could tell its Inspire and TerraMax line of tires apart from the competition in a series of subjective performance tests.
The setup involved two pairs or identically-specced vehicles: Honda Accords powered by the 1.5T inline-four, and Honda CR-Vs with the same powertrain driving the front wheels only. There were two autocross-style courses set up, one wet, the other dry, with the cars getting a chance to be driven on either. One Accord wore Sailun’s Inspire all-season touring tire, the other Goodyear’s Assurance ComfortDrive, both in the same size. The CR-Vs rode on Sailun’s TerraMax HLT and Goodyear’s Assurance MaxLife.
To keep drivers from peeking at what they’re riding on and thereby being biased, the tire make and model identifiers were hidden before installation.
Yes, we could have looked super close at the tread pattern and compared them with the tires on the manufacturer or other website, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. It was also very refreshing to see the company and its employees seem realistic and, dare we say it, humble.
“If I had to summarize it, we simply want to be the best bang for the buck in the market; that’s our goal,” Jared Lynch, Sailun’s Director, National Accounts, PLT, told us during a conference. He went on to explain Sailun has over 14,000 employees in more than 15 countries, a rubber plantation, three research and development centres, and six factories.
“What we want to do is to compete with the top brands at a value price,” Lynch added. Humble maybe, but with big targets and sights on the horizon.
We were then given the chance to drive all the cars, back-to-back, and fill out a questionnaire ranking the performance of the tires in four categories on a scale of one to five. These included Handling, Braking, Traction, and Ride Comfort.
Right before the lunch break, hired racers who flew down from Canada took us on a few hot laps on some of the banking and infield of Homestead Speedway, pushing the tires and vehicles to their limits and trying their best to scare and / or impress their passengers.
Full disclosure, Yours Truly rated the Sailun-shod Accords worse by a half-point in handling and braking on the wet course and only one point down in braking in the dry. All other scores were the same.
As for the CR-Vs, this guy rated the competition one point better in wet handling and braking, but gave a single point edge to the Sailun in ride comfort. In the dry, it had the opposite advantage in handling and braking, with ride comfort (which included noise) going to the Sailun by a point. Otherwise, my rankings were equal.
As a group average, however, the Sailuns stood tall. They beat out the household brand name tires 4.2 to 3.7 in the wet slalom on the Accords, and 4.1 to 3.8 in the dry. The CR-V battle was a bigger gap, with the average score in the dry being 4.4 to 3.6 in favor of the Sailun offering. In the dry, Sailun again won with a score of 4.4 to 3.8.
These ratings were even more impressive when the average purchase price was taken into consideration, with the Sailuns enjoying a near 50 percent difference.
Depending on the market, there are up to 63 sizes available for the Inspires, ranging from 175/65R14 to 255/45R20. The Sailun TerraMax HLT tires come in 54 sizes, from 15 to 20 inches.
While longevity couldn’t be tested, the Inspire has a 70,000-mile / 120,000km limited warranty according to Sailun. The TerraMax, meanwhile, sits at 50,000 miles / 80,000km.
Sailun has a long history in the tire manufacturing world, dating back to 1990 when parent company MESNAC was founded. In 2003, Sailun began manufacturing tires for North America in China. It built and supplies the machines that produce tires for the more familiar manufacturers. Now it just manufactures and brands its own. This is nothing new in the business world. Have you noticed Amazon is now getting into the delivery business of the products it itself sells?
A flagship manufacturing facility that is the size of nearly 110 football fields is based in Vietnam and employs 6,000 people. The company also recently opened a state-of-the-art facility in Cambodia in November that will primarily supply additional passenger and light truck (PLT) tire products to the North American market and select European regions.
Based on our experience, it seems like Sailun has a home run on its hands in two of the biggest-volume and therefore most competitive categories. Shoppers here aren’t usually interested in things like the look of the tread pattern, but rather value for their hard-earned dollar and performance equality.
Sailun seems to have the issue of the ability to fill a market want or need, it just needs to convince the market its tires are worth the proverbial kick. The company already has the manufacturing capabilities in place, though needs to face the same shipping headaches as other overseas manufacturers.
There is plenty more to come from Sailun, which seems to be hungry to compete, seemingly sparing little expense in this quest. There is the ERANGE EV (Electric Vehicle) tire in the works with what we were told involves a ground-breaking manufacturing process where the tire components are mixed in liquid state and more evenly distributed, vs conventional mixing . And according to independent tests, it is said to outperform or equal the original equipment tires of Teslas and other high-end EVs. We cannot wait to give these a spin.