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It seems that nearly all of today's Ultra High Performance Summer tires are going in a new direction. Many of the popular tires in the category have long featured stylish and functional directional tread patterns designed to look as good as they perform in the wet, by aiding hydroplaning resistance and enhancing wet traction. Sporty handling and good dry grip were also standard characteristics. But often, all but the most expensive tires in this category tended to be a little unrefined when it came to ride comfort and road noise. Drivers of sports cars and sporty coupes and sedans had to accept a little more tread noise and ride harshness to get the level of summertime handling they were looking for.
Fortunately for driving enthusiasts, tire designs and tire manufacturing technologies of the lower-priced tires haven't stood still, elevating capabilities and refinement while retaining the value-oriented price point. Most new products benefit from advancements in computer-aided design, test simulations, internal components and better manufacturing techniques, bringing with them more wet and dry performance along with improved road manners.
To get a better understanding of the direction the Ultra High Performance Summer tire category is headed, Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive on several of the newer and more popular mid-priced tires in the category. We compared the AVON Tech M500 and its asymmetric tread design with three tires featuring directional tread designs, the BFGoodrich g-Force Sport, Dunlop Direzza DZ101 and Fuzion ZRi. Our evaluation used four identically equipped 2006 BMW 325i sedans, with new, full tread depth 225/45R17 tires mounted on 17x8.0" wheels.
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.
Our ride revealed some noticeable differences, and notable surprises among the group.
Of particular note was the AVON Tech M500's relatively low amount of tread noise when driven across all of the road surfaces along our route, without any of the usual fixed tones or pitches generated by the aggressive directional tread patterns of most other Ultra High Performance Summer tires. The tread noise of the Dunlop Direzza DZ101 was a little louder than the AVON, but also did not have any distinctive pitches or tones. The BFGoodrich g-Force Sport and Fuzion ZRi were rated third and fourth respectively, both generating some noticeable noise at several distinct pitches.
The AVON was also found to offer the best ride comfort of the group, doing an impressive job (for an Ultra High Performance Summer tire) absorbing the bumps along the rougher sections of our route. The Dunlop was rated second, somewhat behind the AVON, while the BFGoodrich was found to be a close third, allowing some impact harshness into the car. The Fuzion was forth overall, but still not objectionable.
In the handling department, the Dunlop Direzza DZ101 and BFGoodrich g-Force Sport both offered sporty handling and crisp steering response, with our team giving a slight edge to the Dunlop. The Fuzion ZRi felt somewhat less responsive than the Dunlop or BFGoodrich tires. The AVON Tech M500 delivered overall road handling appropriate for an Ultra High Performance Summer tire, but as a by-product of its comfortable road manners felt a little less precise or responsive as the other three tires in this test.
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.
This group of tires really showed their stuff by performing well during the dry track test. Subjectively, the BFGoodrich g-Force Sport felt the most responsive of the group, with crisp, precise steering. Its hint of gentle understeer may have been the limiting factor, keeping its average lap time just behind the first place AVON Tech M500. The AVON did not feel as responsive as the BFGoodrich, but its better overall balance allowed for faster cornering speeds and a slightly quicker average lap time. The Fuzion ZRi also lapped our test track quickly, but did not have the responsiveness of the BFGoodrich or comfortable balance of the AVON. The Dunlop Direzza DZ101 was responsive on initial turn-in that would transition to gentle oversteer on corner exit, but lacked the ultimate grip of the other three tires in this test.
In the wet, grip levels and overall track performance differences were even more noticeable. Our wet track test is designed to simulate the water depth and conditions found during a moderate rain shower, and is not designed to challenge the hydroplaning resistance of the tires, so we could not evaluate if the directional versus asymmetric tread pattern had any distinct advantage. The Fuzion ZRI and AVON Tech M500 managed to run virtually identical average overall lap times. Without knowing which tire you were driving it would be difficult to tell them apart, as both tires possessed very good grip along with poised, balanced handling. The Fuzion did demonstrate a small advantage in hard, straight line braking, while the AVON was able to slice through the slalom slightly faster. The BFGoodrich g-Force Sport was a distant third for average overall lap time, displaying moderate understeer as well as plenty of wheel spin under acceleration, and lacking the ultimate grip of the AVON and Fuzion tires. The Dunlop Direzza DZ101 struggled to keep up with the other tires, feeling very slippery during every maneuver (acceleration, braking and cornering), and lapping the course nearly 3 seconds behind the first place AVON.
AVON Tech M500 (Ultra High Performance Summer): The Tech M500 is the Ultra High Performance Summer tire member of AVON Tyres' family of Tech performance tires. The attractively priced Tech M500 is designed to bestow confidence to the drivers of sports cars, sports coupes and performance sedans by providing traction, handling and control in dry and wet road conditions. Like all summer tires, the Tech M500 is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice.
BFGoodrich g-Force Sport (Ultra High Performance Summer): The g-Force Sport is BFGoodrich's Ultra High Performance Summer tire designed for sport compact drivers who want to combine outstanding dry handling with affordable prices. The g-Force Sport was developed to provide crisp and responsive handling in both wet and dry conditions. Like all summer tires, the g-Force Sport is not intended to be driven in near freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.
Dunlop Direzza DZ101 (Ultra High Performance Summer): The Direzza DZ101 (di-rez'-za) is Dunlop's Ultra High Performance Summer tire for the drivers of sport compact cars. The Direzza shares its name with Dunlop's Japan GT Championship (JGTC) racing tires, and was developed to provide crisp and responsive handling in both wet and dry conditions, however it is not intended to be driven in near-freezing conditions, through snow or on ice. Read more.
Fuzion ZRi (Ultra High Performance Summer): The Fuzion ZRi by Bridgestone is the Fuzion brand's Ultra High Performance Summer tire developed to meet the needs of sport compact and sports car driving enthusiasts and tuners. The Fuzion ZRi combines advanced UNI-T technology with affordable pricing and is designed to provide crisp and responsive handling and traction in both wet and dry conditions. Like all summer tires, the ZRi is not intended to be driven in near freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.