August 10, 2007
Yokohama has been well known among North American driving enthusiasts as a manufacturer that develops some unusual, and very capable, performance tires in car-crazy Japan. Some of these tires make it to North America to be experienced by the Yokohama faithful on this side of the Pacific. Fond memories of the A001, A008R, AVS Intermediate, and more recently the legendary grip of the ADVAN Neova AD07 bring a smile to every enthusiast who has owned a set. Yokohama's latest performance tire to find its way here is the S.drive. Part of the .drive series available elsewhere in the world, the S.drive Ultra High Performance Summer tire is designed to deliver aggressive grip along with smooth handling and control. Introduced to North America in the late summer of 2007 with a huge initial size lineup, the S.drive is available to fit most performance cars on the road today.
To find out how this latest offering from Yokohama performs, Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive comparing the S.drive Ultra High Performance Summer tire with three popular options from the category, the Dunlop Direzza DZ101, Fuzion ZRi and Kumho's Ecsta SPT. Our evaluation used 2006 BMW 325i E90 sedans, with new, full tread depth 225/45R17-sized tires mounted on 17x8.0" wheels.
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 group of Ultra High Performance Summer tires proved to be a good partner to our BMW 3-Series test vehicles. The Fuzion ZRi seemed well suited on this platform, with a solid feel to the steering wheel along with a near-perfect balance of responsiveness without edginess or being twitchy. Kumho's Ecsta SPT also handled well, feeling sure-footed around the sweeping on-ramps along our test route. The Yokohama S.drive drove nicely, too, with only slightly slower steering response than the Fuzion and Kumho. The Dunlop Direzza DZ101 displayed rather quick steering, but couldn't quite deliver the precision or stability of the other three tires in the test.
Given their sporty disposition, ride quality for this group was rather good with none proving objectionable or overly harsh. The S.drive showed a small ride quality advantage over the others in this test, doing a better job absorbing the smaller impacts and ripples in the road. The Ecsta SPT also did a good job isolating the driver from feeling the rougher surfaces, but still allowed some impact noise to make its way to the driver's ears. The ZRi and Direzza DZ101 also proved to be capable, doing a good job smoothing out the road's irregularities.
As expected, all of the highly directional tread patterns of the tires in this group produced some noise, most commonly heard as a growl at speeds below 45 or 50 mph. The Yokohama and Kumho tires were very close to each other, both generating a white or broad-spectrum noise, rather than a distinct tone. This proved to be less noticeable than the tread pattern noise generated by the Fuzion and Dunlop tires.
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.
In dry conditions, all four tires proved responsive and fun to drive. The Kumho Ecsta SPT was able to just beat out the Fuzion ZRi for fastest average lap, feeling responsive and stable with a hint of understeer at the limit. The Fuzion ZRi showed a subtly more neutral balance, with predictable handling and a comfortable feel. The Yokohama S.drive was also fun to drive, but didn't have quite the overall grip level to catch the Ecsta SPT and ZRi. Dunlop's Direzza DZ101 trailed the other three, with crisp initial turn in but not quite the ultimate cornering grip needed to lead the group.
In wet conditions, we discovered larger overall differences in traction as well as subjective feel when pushing the tires to their limit. The Fuzion ZRi showed its strength here, feeling sure-footed and instilling driver confidence. The approach of the traction limit was well communicated, and even when inadvertently stepped over this tire would regain grip quickly. The Kumho Ecsta SPT was able to lap the course virtually as fast as the Fuzion, showing a comparable level of ultimate grip. This tire's characteristics were a little less refined however, feeling a bit edgy at the limit, slipping over it without much warning and taking longer to recover than the Fuzion. The Yokohama S.drive was relatively easy to drive at its limit, with smoother breakaway than the Kumho, albeit at a slightly lower peak level. Disappointingly, the Dunlop Direzza DZ101 struggled to find traction, taking noticeably longer than the other tires to recover what little grip it had when a slide did occur. The best our team could do was to tip-toe around the course, posting an average lap time 2.3 seconds behind the first-place Fuzion ZRi. The measured 50-0mph ABS-assisted stopping test also proved challenging for the Direzza DZ101, taking 21 feet longer to stop in the wet than the Fuzion ZRi.
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.
Fuzion ZRi (Ultra High Performance Summer): The Fuzion ZRi 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 Z-speed rated Fuzion ZRi 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.
Kumho Ecsta SPT (Ultra High Performance Summer): The Ecsta SPT (KU31) is Kumho's Ultra High Performance Summer tire developed for sports cars, coupes and sedans. The Ecsta SPT was designed to offer grip, handling, comfort, wear and good looks in order to provide enthusiastic drivers the ability to "Drive Hard 'Go Big' Look Good." Ecsta SPT tires are not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice.
Yokohama S.drive (Ultra High Performance Summer): The S.drive ("Sport drive") radial is Yokohama's Ultra High Performance Summer tire developed for the drivers of sports cars, sporty coupes and performance sedans. The S.drive radial is designed to use Yokohama's technological advancements to deliver extraordinary grip and handling on both wet and dry roads. Like all summer tires, the S.drive radial is not intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. Read more.
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