It's fair to say, before we really even get started, that most people don't drive quickly through corners. Many slow right down to speeds where cyclists might even look for a way past.
If that is your own modus operandi, you might think tyre quality isn't relevant - and for 99.99% of the time you'd probably be right. But there will always be that one time you get caught out by circumstances you weren't expecting; an isolated deluge of water from a burst drain running across a dry bend, for example, or a car flying out of an unsighted driveway on the near side of a wet left-hander. It happens.
And when it does, you want to be able to handle it. Tests I attended at the Bridgestone Technical Centre Europe's proving ground show there's a world of difference between a premium tyre and the ones you simply bought because they were cheap. Take a look at the video above if you need convincing.
Brits are really bad for pretending they're concerned about safety above all else, before buying the cheapest tyres they can get their hands on. But why do you think Volkswagens, Fords, BMWs and so on never come with Linglong, Nankang, Federal, Landsail or HiFly tyres as standard? Because they're not very good, that's why.
Bridgestone had set up a small, cone-lined test track to simulate both a typical grimy, diesel spill-afflicted roundabout, i.e. rather slippy, and a fast, tightening corner. Both were wet. Two Volkswagen Golfs were lined up (the same ones as for the braking tests), one shod with Bridgestone's Turanza T001s and another with HiFly HF201s; far from the worst budget tyres you can get but still about £25 cheaper per corner.
All that needs to be said of the budget setup is that when the front end let go around the 'roundabout', at a very modest speed, mind you, it really did let go. Control was taken away completely, leaving you helplessly drifting towards the outside of the tarmac until you instinctively lift off the throttle, lowering the speed enough to return the tyres to their comfort zone.
There's no notice, no warning, and no manageable tipping point at which whatever skill you have can wrestle with physics. It just happens, and you're immediately in trouble.
In contrast, the Turanzas held their ground much longer, way past speeds that the average person normally corners at. They bit through the cold water and into the asphalt, sending just the slightest twitch through the Golf's steering wheel to let you know that the grip levels have dropped.
They're not perhaps the most feelsome tyres in the wet, but the improvement over the HiFlys is huge. Still want to install the cheapies?
The same goes for the faster, tightening corner. Imagine you misjudge a blind corner and have to brake and tighten the wheel. We're all human – it's rare but it happens. Let's just say you'd better hope it never happens when your car is wearing cheap tyres. They're dubbed things like 'Ditchfinders' and 'Skidmore DiYungs' for a reason.
Kiss goodbye to what grip you had, and hope that you – or the car's struggling electronics – can sort the problem out before a fully-loaded box van comes around the bend towards you. In the real world, it would be terrifying.
Up to a point there's little difference between the two sets of tyres. For simply pottering around on them at 15mph they could be made of cheese and it wouldn't matter. What companies like Bridgestone are arguing – with good reason – is that budget tyres can let you down when you need them most. Premium tyres won't. And that's why it pays to fit the best tyres you can afford.