June 21, 2013
We often assume value propositions bring along some compromises somewhere in the equation. After all, there is no free lunch. If you cut out enough cost, at some point you'll begin to slice away at the core, too. Generic facial tissue doesn't feel as soft as the leading brand name, cheap steak never tastes as good as Black Angus beef, and will those no-name diapers really hold their business during a long car ride with the kids?
When it comes to tires, there is a wide range of brands, products and price points to choose from, and for many drivers finding the best balance between performance and price yields a good value. Among today's wide array of Ultra High Performance All-Season tires, there are a number of good values to choose from. But just as you would love to try a bite of that cheap steak to see how it really tastes before serving it for dinner, finding out how value-priced tires will perform is equally important as you consider your daily drive.
To get an understanding of how a group of value-priced Ultra High Performance All-Season tires drive, we conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive to compare two new models with a pair of established value leaders. New are the Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season and Hankook Ventus S1 noble2. For comparison we also drove on the Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval AS and General G-MAX AS-03. Our evaluation used 2012 BMW F30 328i sedans fitted with new, full tread depth 245/40R18 tires mounted on 18x8.0 wheels.
Our 4.1-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.
All four tires provided good handling, with the quick steering response of the General G-MAX AS-03 putting it at the front of the group with our team. Very close behind was the Hankook Ventus S1 noble2, which displayed a very direct feel without the extra urgency of the G-MAX AS-03. The Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season's response to driver inputs was rapid, but not quite linear, while the Firehawk Wide Oval AS displayed a small dead band for the first few degrees of steering input followed by a ramp up in cornering effort as the wheel was turned further.
The Ventus S1 noble2 provided the best ride comfort of the group as it did a fine job absorbing the bumps and expansion joints. The Firehawk Wide Oval AS also did a good job in softening the ride, but without the taut, controlled movement of the Ventus S1 noble2. The Eagle Sport AS and G-MAX AS-03 trailed somewhat, feeling noticeably firmer when encountering sharper bumps and impacts.
The Ventus S1 noble2 also produced the least amount of tread noise, although there was a moderate amount of boom heard when encountering larger impacts. The noise level from the Eagle Sport All-Season and Firehawk Wide Oval AS were similar and somewhat louder than the Hankook tire. The G-MAX AS-03 produced noticeably more growl from its directional tread pattern.
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, the Hankook Ventus S1 noble2 had the best package with good overall grip and very balanced handling. The General G-MAX AS-03 has similar overall grip with strong steering authority that could create some modest oversteer during rapid transitions. The Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season had balanced handling and composure that inspired confidence. Trailing the group was the Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval AS which responded a little slower and lacked the ultimate grip to keep pace with the others.
In the wet, there were two distinct groups within our test. The G-MAX AS-03 and Ventus S1 noble2 both showed a clear advantage in traction and stability. The G-MAX AS-03 displayed quick steering response and a small advantage in ultimate grip, but was a little harder to balance at the limit. The Ventus S1 noble2 felt very predictable and was easier to control which instilled confidence. Taking a noticeable step back in wet traction and handling was the Eagle Sport All-Season. Further back was the Firehawk Wide Oval AS which struggled to find traction.
Winter weather is often unpredictable, and snow-covered roads change with every passing vehicle as they churn snow into slush or pack it down to polished ice. A constantly changing test surface makes side-by-side comparisons difficult, so we use a dedicated winter testing facility in Northern Sweden with acres of groomed snow that provides the consistency we need to get reliable acceleration and braking comparisons. This facility also has a prepared snow handling course where we evaluate the stability and control of each tire during abrupt maneuvers. To simulate the icy conditions found at intersections or the black ice experienced out on the highway we use ice at a local hockey rink and measure acceleration and braking traction.
The Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season provided good traction in the snow. The Firestone Wide Oval All-Season and General G-MAX AS-03 were both adequate in the snow, but didn't have the ultimate traction or handling stability of the Goodyear. The Hankook S1 noble2 provided fair acceleration traction when using the vehicle's traction control to assist, but wasn't as good during braking or cornering.
Our Real World Road Ride features a relatively flat 4.1-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.
@ 15,000 Miles
|% vs. Most Efficient|
|Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval AS||29.1||515.5||-1.37%|
|General G-MAX AS-03||29.0||517.2||-1.72%|
|Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season||29.2||513.7||-1.03%|
|Hankook Ventus S1 noble2||29.5||508.5||--|
|*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 modest 0.5-mile per gallon difference between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy would result in an annual difference of almost 9 gallons of premium gasoline. At the current cost of $4.00/gallon, it would amount to an annual difference of just over $35 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.
Like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder. And we've found several of these value-priced Ultra High Performance All-Season tires can still deliver good performance at a reasonable price.
The Hankook Ventus S1 noble2 delivers a great package of road manners, handling and dry and wet traction, but falls somewhat short when driving in the snow. The General G-MAX AS-03 is perfect for drivers who want very responsive handling and good wet traction, and don't mind some extra tread noise. The Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season provides good traction in the snow along with a quiet ride and balanced handling during driving on clear roads, but would benefit from an increase in dry and wet traction if it wants to keep up with the leaders. The Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval AS offers reasonable winter capability, but trails the group in wet traction and overall handling.
Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval AS (Ultra High Performance All-Season): Firehawk Wide Oval AS tires featuring W-speed ratings represent Firestone's Ultra High Performance All-Season tires developed for drivers looking to combine ultra high performance handling with all-season traction for premium sports cars, sporty coupes and high performance sedans. It is designed to provide year-round driving capability by offering predictable handling, traction and control on dry and wet roads, as well as in light snow.
General G-MAX AS-03 (Ultra High Performance All-Season): The G-MAX AS-03 is General Tire's Ultra High Performance All-Season tire developed for drivers of sports cars, sporty coupes and high performance sedans looking for tires that suit their year-round driving needs. The G-MAX AS-03 is designed to combine ultra high performance handling with all-season traction in dry, wet and wintry conditions, even in light snow. Read more.
Goodyear Eagle Sport All-Season (Ultra High Performance All-Season): Goodyear's Eagle Sport All-Season tire line includes W-speed rated Ultra High Performance All-Season radials developed for the drivers of sports cars, coupes, sedans and performance-oriented light trucks looking to combine sporty handling with all-season traction. Eagle Sport All-Season tires are designed to offer drivers all-season versatility in dry and wet conditions with year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Hankook Ventus S1 noble2 (Ultra High Performance All-Season): The Ventus S1 noble2 (H452) is Hankook's Ultra High Performance All-Season tire developed for the drivers of sports cars, sporty coupes and performance sedans looking to combine on-road performance with all-season traction in dry wet and wintry conditions. Designed to provide Hankook's ideal ultra high performance all-season balance, the Ventus S1 noble2 blends handling and cornering performance with all-season traction, even in light snow. Read more.
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