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Testing Max Performance Summer Tires: In Search of What Fits Your Needs



July 11, 2014

Tires tested:

Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position (Max Performance Summer, 245/40R18 97Y)
  • What We Liked: Balanced handling and competent road manners
  • What We'd Improve: A little more ultimate grip
  • Conclusion: A capable tire that does everything well

Continental ExtremeContact DW (Max Performance Summer, 245/40R18 97Y)

  • What We Liked: Impressive wet traction and comfortable road manners
  • What We'd Improve: More precise steering response and handling
  • Conclusion: A great choice for anyone wanting solid overall capability

Hankook Ventus V12 evo2 (Max Performance Summer, 245/40R18 97Y)

  • What We Liked: Sharp steering and nimble handling
  • What We'd Improve: More wet traction
  • Conclusion: A very good tire for drivers who want the feel of a sporty tire

Pirelli P Zero Nero GT (Max Performance Summer, 245/40R18 97Y)

  • What We Liked: Capable handling and very good dry traction
  • What We'd Improve: Increase wet traction a little
  • Conclusion: A very good all around performer

Vehicles used:

2014 BMW F30 328i Sedan

Max Performance Summer tires are designed to give drivers the highest blend of dry and wet traction and handling, using the latest developments in tire design and component technology. If you want it all in a tire you can drive, and live with on the street, Max Performance Summer tires might be just the thing for you. These are well-rounded options that avoid the specialization and compromises of more extreme performance options.

Today there are more choices than ever, with a growing range of choices from a wide variety of tire manufacturers. In this test we're comparing two of the newest, the Hankook Ventus V12 evo2 and Pirelli P Zero Nero GT, with several of the top-rated established leaders in the category, the Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position and Continental ExtremeContact DW. Our evaluation used 2014 BMW F30 328i sedans fitted with new, full tread depth 245/40R18 tires mounted on 18x8.0 wheels.

What We Learned on the Road

Our 6.0-mile loop of expressway, state highway and county roads provides a great variety of road conditions that include city and highway speeds, smooth and coarse concrete, as well as new and patched asphalt. This route allows our team to experience noise comfort, ride quality and everyday handling, just as you would during your drive to school or work.

Driving with surrounding traffic is usually a pretty mild affair, with the majority of time and effort spent following your lane and maintaining spacing to other cars around you. Even at this relatively low effort level from the tire's perspective, differences across the group in steering feel and feedback were apparent. Our team liked the refined and responsive feel of the Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position best. It just feels good, balancing direct response without being nervous or too edgy with small inputs. Close behind in overall rating by our team was the Pirelli P Zero Nero GT, which also felt well tuned and reassuring. The Bridgestone and Pirelli tires did exactly what you want, when you wanted it, from minor corrections to larger steering efforts. If you like laser-sharp steering feel then the Hankook Ventus V12 evo2 is a good option to consider. It feels very bright and responsive from behind the wheel, with the quickest response to even small inputs. In contrast, the more relaxed handling and steering response of the Continental ExtremeContact DW displayed a need for small steering corrections, as its response wasn't exactly in phase with driver inputs.

The ExtremeContact DW paid a dividend in the ride and comfort side of everyday driving, having a clear advantage in overall ride and noise characteristics. The Potenza S-04 Pole Position and P Zero Nero GT followed with very similar overall characteristics. Both were firm without being harsh. The Ventus V12 evo2 rounded out the group with a slightly firmer ride and a bit more overall road noise than the others.

What We Learned on the Test Track

Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, a five-cone slalom and simulated expressway ramps. Run in both dry and wet conditions, the test track allows our team to experience the traction, responsiveness, handling and drivability normally only encountered during abrupt emergency avoidance maneuvers or competition events.

In dry conditions, subjectively, the Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position and Continental ExtremeContact DW scored well with our team. The Bridgestone felt responsive and stable, while the Continental provided sure-footed traction, particularly under hard braking. Compared with the other two, both of these tires were more predictable and therefore confidence inspiring for a large portion of our team. Lap times were all very close, with less than 4/10ths of a second spread across the whole group. But interestingly, the highest rated Bridgestone and Continental tires were the slowest. The Pirelli P Zero Nero GT proved to be fastest around our track, as well as displayed balanced handling that felt close to Bridgestone and Continental tires, as well as good overall traction. The Hankook Ventus V12 evo2 felt responsive and agile, and generated the highest lateral g-forces during our measured cornering traction test. Its overall traction level was high, but the peak was a little narrow compared to the broader plateau of several other tires, making this one a little harder to maximize at the limit.

In the wet, all four tires performed well. Here the ExtremeContact DW held a noticeable advantage in controllability and overall traction. The Potenza S-04 Pole Position was also very capable and easy to drive at the limit. A modest step back was the P Zero Nero GT which felt capable enough, but a little edgy as it reached the grip limit. Another step back was the Ventus V12 evo2, which had good initial steering response but lacked the ultimate traction to match the pace or composure of the others.

Fuel Consumption Results

Our Real World Road Ride features a relatively flat 6.0-mile loop of 65 mph expressway, 55 mph state highway and 40 mph county roads along with two stop signs and one traffic light every lap. Our team drove each tire approximately 400 miles over the course of several days. Since we wanted to compare fuel consumption results that typical drivers would experience, our drivers were instructed to maintain the flow of traffic by running at the posted speed limits and sustain the vehicle's speed using cruise control whenever possible. They did not use hypermiling techniques to influence vehicle fuel economy.

Tire Line Test
MPG*
Gallons/Year
@ 15,000 Miles
% vs. Most Efficient
Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position 28.9 519.0 -4.84%
Continental ExtremeContact DW 29.8 503.4 -1.68%
Hankook Ventus V12 evo2 30.3 495.0 --
Pirelli P Zero Nero GT 29.7 505.1 -2.02%
*Our evaluation used Linear Logic ScanGauge II automotive computers to record fuel consumption, and Race Technology DL1 data loggers to record true distance travelled.

While none of the tires in this test were designed with low rolling resistance as a high priority, we did find a difference in observed vehicle fuel economy across the group. Based on our results the 1.4 mile per gallon difference between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy would result in an annual difference of 24 gallons of premium gasoline. At the current cost of $4.00/gallon, it would amount to an annual difference of $96 for drivers driving 15,000 miles per year.

It's important to note our test's fuel consumption measurements follow consistent procedures designed to minimize variables that could influence the results; however, they do not represent an exhaustive long-range fuel consumption study. While our procedures require the test vehicles in each convoy to run under the same prevailing conditions, the week-to-week differences in ambient temperatures, barometric pressures and wind speeds that we experience over a season of testing can influence vehicle fuel consumption and prevent the absolute mpg values of this test from being compared directly against those of others.

Larger differences in consumption between tires may indicate a difference that might be experienced on the road, while smaller differences should be considered equivalent. As they say, your mileage may vary.

Summary

Ahh, Max Performance Summer tires. If you're a driving enthusiast, or simply want sporty handling and excellent traction in both dry and wet conditions, something from the Max Performance Summer category could be right for you. All four tires in this test performed well, and with enough variety across the group to let nearly anyone find a match to what best fits their needs.

The Continental ExtremeContact DW blends good ride quality with sure-footed, wet weather traction. The Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position brings a high level of refinement, delivering a very well-tuned package. The Pirelli P Zero Nero GT is also well sorted out, providing a good blend of handling and ride quality. The Hankook Ventus V12 evo2 is a bit more of a specialist, focusing on responsive handling and ultimate dry traction ahead of ride comfort or wet grip.

Product Details

Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position (Max Performance Summer): The Potenza S-04 Pole Position is Bridgestone's Max Performance Summer tire developed for the drivers of ultra high performance sports cars, coupes and sedans who want to feel the rush of driving their vehicle. Potenza S-04 Pole Position tires are designed to perform in warm, wet and dry conditions. However like all summer tires, they are not intended to be driven in near freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.

Continental ExtremeContact DW (Max Performance Summer): The ExtremeContact DW (DW for Dry & Wet) is Continental Tire's Max Performance Summer tire developed for the drivers of sports cars, sports coupes and performance sedans. The ExtremeContact DW is designed to deliver good ride quality and serious performance on both dry and wet roads. Like all summer tires, the ExtremeContact DW is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.

Hankook Ventus V12 evo2 (Max Performance Summer): The Ventus V12 evo2 (K120) is Hankook's Max Performance Summer tire developed for the drivers of sports cars, sporty coupes and high performance sedans who want to express their personality and style. Designed to deliver impressive traction and handling, Ventus V12 evo2 tires offer comfort and control in warm dry and wet road conditions. However, like all summer tires, they are not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.

Pirelli P Zero Nero GT (Max Performance Summer): The P Zero Nero GT (nero, Italian for black) is Pirelli's Max Performance Summer tire developed for the drivers of sports cars, sporty coupes and medium-large sedans. As the evolution of Pirelli's earlier P Zero Nero, the P Zero Nero GT introduces their latest technological developments to enhance product performance and tread life. Pirelli's warranty does not cover tires that develop compound cracking due to use in ambient temperatures below 45° Fahrenheit (7° Celsius), so the P Zero Nero GT, like all summer tires, is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.




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