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The traditional characteristics used to determine if a tire belongs in the Passenger or Touring All-Season categories are blurring as newer products in these two groups take technology and styling cues from more advanced products in the manufacturer's offering. Higher speed ratings, refined tread designs and sidewall styling normally reserved for Grand Touring or Performance tires are making their way into tires aimed at the more traditional Passenger and Standard Touring All-Season categories.
Yokohama's AVID TRZ Standard Touring All-Season tire with its unique "Three-Ride Zone" asymmetric tread pattern and silica tread compound takes advantage of some of the latest tire design and molding techniques, intended to advance this tire's traction and handling capabilities while maintaining the level of ride quality, tread life and price point appropriate for Standard Touring All-Season tires. To find out how well this blend improves the breed Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive to compare the AVID TRZ with the Firestone Affinity LH30 (Premium Passenger All-Season) and Kumho Solus KH16 (Grand Touring All-Season). The Affinity LH30 features a long-wearing tread design with an unusual H-speed rating, while the value-priced Solus KH16 is tuned to offer a blend of comfort and performance.
Our evaluation used 2003 BMW 330Ci coupes, with new, full tread depth 205/55R16 tires mounted on 16x7.5" wheels. We also included a fourth 2003 BMW 330Ci fitted with the Original Equipment (OE) 205/50R17 Goodyear Eagle RS-A High Performance All-Season tires mounted on factory 17x7.0" wheels. We have included this vehicle/tire combination in other tire evaluations, and have found it helpful to have an OE-equipped vehicle in the test to evaluate the impact of installing the other products.
What We Learned on the Road
Our 5.6-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.
Once again, we proved that the Goodyear Eagle RS-A tire that is fitted as Original Equipment on our BMW 330Ci test cars is a well-tuned product for this vehicle. But we also found that the other three products used in this evaluation were able to exceed the capability of the OE Goodyear in at least one area each, reinforcing the idea that replacement tires can specialize in specific capabilities, while most OE tires may be required to blend all areas.
The Yokohama AVID TRZ was praised for its ride comfort during the road evaluation. This tire seemed to keep the harshness of sharp expansion joints at a distance, softening their blow through the steering wheel or into the driver's seat. The Goodyear Eagle RS-A scored close behind, while the Kumho Solus KH16 and Firestone Affinity LH30 tires both rode a bit more firmly than the others.
While all four tires in this test offered comfortable (relatively low) levels of tread pattern noise over the variety of surfaces and speeds of our test route, the Affinity LH30 seemed to have a slight advantage over the other three tires. The Affinity LH30 generated a very general, "white" noise that quickly falls into the background. The noise level of the other three tires in the test were not objectionable, but each had several specific pitches that became more noticeable at different speeds.
The Kumho Solus KH16 (and the tire it replaces, the Ecsta HP4 716) drives as if it is tuned towards the sportier side of the Grand Touring category. Just as with its predecessor, the handling of the Solus KH16 felt well-connected around the curving off-ramps and responsive during light-duty cornering around the 90 degree turns of our road ride route. The OE Goodyear Eagle RS-A also felt responsive, but was rated just behind the Kumho by our team. The Yokohama AVID TRZ slotted in a close third, while the Affinity LH30 felt a bit less responsive than the other three tires.
What We Learned on the Test Track
Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, lane changes 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.
Admittedly, the group of products in this evaluation is not aimed at the driver who wants to participate in the weekend autocross or track-day event, but rather someone who is looking for a comfortable ride with appropriate levels of traction and handling for what comes along during their day-to-day commute.
The Kumho Solus KH16, which felt a bit firm over the bumps on our ride evaluation, rewarded drivers by offering the most overall grip and responsiveness on our dry handling track. Coming as an unexpected surprise the Yokohama AVID TRZ, which was the most comfortable on the road, was able to post lap times right behind the Kumho. While steering response was not quite as crisp as the Kumho or Goodyear tires, the overall stability and grip level of the AVID TRZ made it easy to control.
With our sprinkler system wetting the track, the BMW's OE Goodyear Eagle RS-A showed it offers respectable wet weather traction, posting the fastest average lap time of the test. Traction was predictable and controllable, with some gentle understeer when driven at the limit of grip. Again the Yokohama AVID TRZ did a good job hanging on to the wet surface, feeling easy to control in the hard braking and cornering areas of our track. The Kumho Solus KH16 and Firestone Affinity LH30 felt as though they did not have as much sheer wet grip as the Goodyear or Yokohama tires, which was also reflected in their slower average lap times and longer measured stopping distances.
Firestone Affinity LH30 (Premium Passenger All-Season): The Firestone Affinity LH30 with UNI-T provides the traction, treadwear and handling of premium All-Season tires - without a premium price. As its name implies, the Affinity LH30 was developed to meet the needs of the driver who desires to have the capabilities of their vehicle and its tires combine to provide ride quality, noise comfort and overall performance, as well as year-round traction, even in light snow. The Affinity LH30 with UNI-T provides everything most drivers expect from the tires on their family sedan or minivan - come rain or shine.
Goodyear Eagle RS-A (High Performance All-Season, Original Equipment Comparison): The Goodyear Eagle RS-A is a High Performance All-Season tire produced with several speed ratings and in a wide variety of sizes. Its design is heavily influenced by its use as an Original Equipment tire by BMW, Volkswagen, General Motors, Chrysler and others. The Eagle RS-A features a subtle asymmetric tread design with larger tread elements in the outside shoulder intended to deliver more responsive handling, cornering, and steering. Smaller tread blocks on the inside shoulder combined with wide tread and lateral grooves are intended to enhance wet and snow traction. Read more.
Kumho Solus KH16 (Grand Touring All-Season): The Solus KH16 is Kumho's Grand Touring All-Season offering developed for the drivers of sporty coupes and sedans. Solus KH16 tires were designed to offer a harmonious balance of noise comfort, ride comfort and handling performance, along with dry, wet and year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Yokohama AVID TRZ (Standard Touring All-Season): The AVID TRZ is Yokohama's premium Standard Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of sporty coupes, sedans and minivans. The AVID TRZ is designed to provide comfort, longevity, confidence and driving satisfaction across all road conditions, including light snow. Read more.