The very first rally I won was on MRF tyres. My first (and only) race podium was on MRF tyres. And the first time I got my knee down the bike was running MRF tyres. Call me biased then but I’ve always considered MRF to be among the more impressive of the Indian tyre brands as far as performance goes.
But good enough to challenge the big-name international behemoths? MRF certainly think their R&D is up there with the best in the world and they’re venturing into new territory with the Perfinza range of luxury car tyres. To find out how far MRF have come, we put on a set of 225/45 91W 17-inch tyres on our long term test CLA-Class and have now done nearly 5000km over the past two months.
Now the benefit of running tyres made by an Indian company is that they know Indian roads better than their global rivals. And what’s the one thing we want in India? That’s right, comfort. Especially on a car like the CLA that’s particularly stiffly sprung, a characteristic that becomes even more pronounced over roads that have become truly horrible in the monsoons.
First impressions of the Perfinza tyres are of a significantly improved ride quality, to the tune of at least 15 if not 20 per cent compared to the earlier tyres. I have to mention here that the Perfinza tyres aren’t run flats but neither were the tyres that the CLA came to us with, so it’s an apples to apples comparison. Our testers pointed out that the car does not feel as firm edged as before and had become better at absorbing potholes at medium speeds. Tyre noise has also significantly reduced, with less tyre hum, so the overall improvement in refinement is quite pronounced.
The first drive on these tyres coincided with the first rains, making roads not only wet but rather greasy in parts. We found the wet weather grip to be good with no aquaplaning worries and planted road manners. This also reflects in the wet weather braking that is surefooted and strong with ABS kicking in only at the end of very heavy braking. You will get slightly higher wet weather grip from high performance tyres, such as MRF’s very own ZLO range which we tested earlier on our Lancer Evolution X, but for a tyre focused on comfort, this is actually pretty good.
In the dry, the grip levels are on the same (high) level as the earlier tyre and very little tyre squeal at the limit. For the capabilities of the CLA’s chassis and engine, the grip offered by the MRF Perfinza tyres hit the right spot.
We usually run slightly higher tyre pressures in the wet and when the sun came out we dropped it to 34 PSI, which improved the ride quality even further. We even noticed a very slight improvement in fuel efficiency.
These tyres are available from MRF’s premium outlets and cost Rs 12,213 (per tyre), which is slightly more affordable than the big MNC brands. But MRF aren’t harping on pricing with these tyres, rather they want to stress the strong performance that is better suited to Indian conditions and after 5000km on these tyres we can attest to the fact that they deliver better ride while delivering the cornering and braking performance we have become used to from the CLA.
The 17-inch Perfinzas are also available in a higher-performance Y-rating (rated up to 300kmph) which is priced at a premium (Rs 13,472 per tyre) and claims to deliver better cornering and braking performance at the expense of a slightly firmer ride than the W-rated (up to 270kmph) that we have put on our CLA-Class. It is the Y-rated tyre in the 18-inch size that has got the coveted MO mark (Mercedes Original) after tests by Mercedes-Benz at the IDADA test track in Spain. Curious to test the MO tyre we have put this on our Corolla (having up-sized the wheels to 17 inches) and will bring you reports on that tyre soon.