March 25, 2011
Over the years Bridgestone has reserved the Pole Position designation for select performance tires using advanced designs. They have always featured innovative tread patterns and internal construction, but what has set them apart has been their revolutionary tread compounds.
The addition of silica to a tire's tread compound has been known to improve traction and wear, but brings with it some complexity in properly mixing the rubber compound. Simply adding more of this "good thing" can make matters worse as silica doesn't bond easily to the polymers and other components in the compound mix. Bridgestone's new Potenza S-04 Pole Position is the latest Max Performance Summer tire to bear the Pole Position designation, and features Bridgestone's NanoPro-Tech tread compound chemistry. This improves the dispersion of silica throughout the tread rubber at the molecular level, allowing the engineers to use a high percentage in the S-04's tread compound.
Bridgestone helps the S-04 make the most of its compound by also optimizing the footprint pressure for improved traction and wear during hard cornering. In addition, careful placement of the tread rubber and undertread foundation layer help interlock the center rib of the tread pattern to the internal structure of the tire for improved steering response.
Several members of the Tire Rack team were given an opportunity for a brief drive on the new Potenza S-04 Pole Position before it was available to the public. Our exercise showcased the tire's dry traction and steering response using several potent but heavy Audi S4 sedans riding on 245/40R18 tires. The demonstration compared the Potenza S-04 Pole Position with the Pirelli P Zero on a high-speed slalom course designed to challenge each tire's ability to change direction while accelerating.
Both tires were able to navigate the six-cone slalom at full throttle, achieving similar terminal speed at the end. The Potenza S-04 Pole Position felt well-balanced and poised, with equal levels of initial steering response, cornering grip and drive traction. In comparison, the P Zero displayed subtly quicker response to initial steering inputs, but transitioned to gentle understeer once the vehicle's weight transferred to the outboard front tire. This might have been exacerbated by some modest wheelspin of the inside front tire as we accelerated through the slalom.
Our drive was limited to the dry handling exercise, and didn't provide the opportunity to explore all of the new tire's characteristics. We're looking forward to putting the Potenza S-04 Pole Position through its paces in our comprehensive Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive during the 2011 test season.
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