August 27, 2009
Not all performance cars or drivers need or want Z-speed rated Ultra High Performance All-Season tires. Ultra High Performance All-Season (UHP A/S) tires are tuned to deliver excellent handling with impressive dry and wet traction, but often bring along a modestly firmer ride and somewhat quicker tread wear as trade-offs for their nimble handling and high grip levels. And while a tire's speed rating isn't a true performance rating, overall tire performance levels tend to climb or fall with higher or lower speed ratings.
High Performance All-Season tires, on the other hand, are H- (or sometimes V-) speed rated, deliver a blend of reasonable road manners along with sporty handling and somewhat longer tread life than their UHP A/S counterparts. These tires provide suitable performance levels for the types of vehicles targeted by their size offerings, which are generally smaller rim diameters geared towards mainstream vehicle applications.
With today's ever-expanding range of unique vehicle fitments and tire sizes, many tire manufacturers consolidate dozens of different tire sizes under a common product line name in an effort to bring unity to the brand and product line. It's quite common for these "power lines" to contain both High Performance (H- or V-speed rated) and Ultra High Performance (Z-, W- and Y-speed rated) All-Season tire sizes sharing the same tread pattern and basic design characteristics grouped under the umbrella of a common product name.
To that end, BFGoodrich has taken their sporty Ultra High Performance All-Season g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated) tire line and expanded it to also include a number of High Performance All-Season H- and V-speed rated sizes, targeting coupes and sedans using select 14" - 18" tire sizes.
To find out how much of the g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated) "sport" has trickled down to the High Performance All-Season category, the Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track drive to compare the H-speed rated g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated) with three other H-speed rated tires from the category, the Kumho Ecsta AST, Pirelli P Zero Nero All Season and Yokohama AVID H4s. Our evaluation used 2008 BMW E92 328i coupes fitted with new, full tread depth 225/45R17 tires mounted on 17x8.0" wheels.
Our 6.6-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.
The Pirelli P Zero Nero All Season was a favorite with our team for its compliant ride quality, doing an admirable job rounding over the sharp impacts. The Yokohama AVID H4s was close behind, also delivering a comfortable ride. Judged on ride quality alone, the Kumho Ecsta AST was ranked third, but brought with it a small ping sound as it clip-clopped over the expansion joints on the expressway. Impact sound of this sort can give the impression the ride is harsher than it really is. The BFGoodrich g-Force Sport A/S rounded out the group, displaying a somewhat firm ride that was still at an appropriate level for the category.
The P Zero Nero All Season was also rather quiet as it rolled across the variety of surfaces of our test route, generating minimal tread noise at all speeds. Again right behind was the AVID H4s, also found to generate only modest tread pattern noise. The g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated) produced some additional noise volume, but was found to be reasonable overall. The Ecsta AST trailed the group, with measurably more tread noise at all speeds that began as a low whine around 35mph and grew in volume as it accelerated to highway speeds.
The firm ride of the g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated) rewarded our team with responsive steering and stable handling much closer to a summer-only tire, belying the all-season intention of its design. The Ecsta AST and AVID H4s followed with an appropriate level of steering response and overall handling. The P Zero Nero All Season felt a little sluggish in comparison to the others, being a little slow to respond to initial inputs of the steering wheel.
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.
The AVID H4s was able to post the fastest overall lap time, thanks to plenty of grip that ultimately ended in gentle understeer as the front tires reached their limit. Like we found out on the road, the g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated) felt much more like a summer-only tire than an all-season tire on the dry test track, with stable cornering traction and the fastest steering response of the group. The P Zero Nero All Season felt similar to the AVID H4s in responsiveness and stability, but just didn't have quite as much grip. The Ecsta AST seemed to lack overall and especially rear end traction, showing a small tendency to oversteer following abrupt or aggressive inputs of steering or throttle.
In the wet it was all AVID H4s as this tire displayed noticeably more overall traction than the other three tires, which helped it post the fastest lap time of the test. The balanced handling of the P Zero Nero All Season made it one of the subjective favorites with our team, but it didn't have quite enough overall grip to keep pace with the AVID H4s. Right behind was the g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated), which was held back somewhat by its modest understeer during hard cornering. Struggling to keep up was the Ecsta AST, which our team found to be quite slippery and challenging to drive at its limit.
BFGoodrich g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated) (High Performance All-Season): The g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated) tires featuring H- and V-speed ratings are BFGoodrich's High Performance All-Season tires developed for the drivers of sports cars, sporty coupes and performance sedans. The H- and V-speed rated g-Force Super Sport A/S (H- or V-Speed Rated) tires are designed to provide traction in dry, wet and wintry conditions, including in light snow. Read more.
Kumho Ecsta AST (High Performance All-Season): The Ecsta AST is the High Performance All-Season member of Kumho's Ecsta family of performance tires for the drivers of modified coupes, sedans and sports cars. The Ecsta AST is designed to offer the exotic looks, traction and value tuners want in a tire while providing year-round traction on dry and wet roads, as well as through occasional light snow.
Pirelli P Zero Nero All Season (High Performance All-Season): The P Zero Nero All Season is Pirelli's Ultra High Performance All-Season tire designed to provide all-season traction and handling. It was developed for drivers who operate their vehicles in America's various weather conditions, including in light snow. This line originated as the P Zero Nero M+S "Pinna" line that identified Pirelli's use of a tread design that features additional sipes to enhance snow traction compared to P Zero Nero M+S tires. Read more.
Yokohama AVID H4s (High Performance All-Season): The AVID H4s/V4s radials are Yokohama's High Performance All-Season tires designed to take everyday driving to a new level of comfort and confidence. The AVID H4s/V4s radials were developed to provide sporty cars, coupes and sedans with good treadwear, responsive handling and year-round traction, even in light snow.
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