If it saves you once a year, it's a Goodyear – that’s the slogan at least - but what about those of us that might not necessarily need saving? We own a performance car and want to have some responsible fun. For those of us that like our cars enough to spend a little more on one of the most vital components, the tyres, this might interest you.
- by Alborz Fallah
Goodyear is a company that has been around since 1898, so if anyone knows tyres, it's these guys. A call and an email informed us that CarAdvice had been invited to the launch of Goodyear's latest tyre, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric (with Active CornerGrip technology).
Fortunately for me, David was too busy at a Hyundai launch with Anthony, Paul was away with Skoda, Matt was working hard, George was too busy, Karl, well, he lives in a different country (no offence to our West Australian readers) so it was left to me, the Queensland kid, to find my way to Hyatt Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast.
Goodyear called it the Oceania launch, which included most of south Asia and Australia. Journalists all the way form Vietnam and even the Philippines had joined us for the two day event.
Now if you're wondering what happens at a tyre launch, allow me to explain.
You see, first you need something special, you're not going to gather half the world's best motoring journalists just to launch another family tyre.
No, not at all, what Goodyear had invited us to see was their new top-of-the-range performance tyre. A tyre that not only values the integrity of the brand with a strong emphasis on responsibility and safety, but also gives Goodyear that much needed upgrade to compete against the likes of Bridgestone's RE050A and Michelin’s Pilot Sports.
The two-day event began with an interesting opening ceremony, which demonstrated all the additional uses to which you can put the new Eagle F1 - just look at this guy.
The new Asymmetric tyre will sit above the sexy Goodyear Eagle F1 GSD3, the very tyre that has since the beginning enhanced our background here on CarAdvice (left hand side).
As a previous owner of two sets of the GSD3, the only problem has always been the noise in corners, a result of the V-tread pattern. Goodyear is adamant that despite the introduction of the new Asymmetric tyre, the GSD3 will be available for some time.
Unlike the evolution from the GSD2 to the D3, the F1 Asymmetric tyre was built from a clean platform, with a team of more than 100 engineers, chemical experts and test pilots in Luxembourg designing and testing the tyre in over 18 months.
The benefit of this tyre is summed up in its title, “Active Corner Grip” technology, now that might sound like three ordinary words put together for marketing purposes, but the reality is different.
What Goodyear has done is insert a layer of Aramid into the inner sidewall to reinforce compression during cornering. This results in an increased footprint on the road, the more the footprint, the better the grip and handling. Sounds simple doesn't it? I am not going to bore you with exactly what they have done to make it do what it does, instead let's actually see if it really does what it's suppose to.
Unlike some tyre manufacturers, Goodyear had bravely brought along its direct competitors' tyres for a side-by-side comparison.
The first event for the day was a wet-surface brake test. Two identical BMWs would drive side by side and jump on the brakes at the same time. The results, although not independently verified, were impressive. As you can see the competitor tyres (in this case, the RE050As) took a good one-and-a-half car lengths longer to stop.
The first and most obvious difference in the new tyre is the tread pattern, no longer portraying that sexy GSD3 look, the Asymmetric tread not only provides better grip, but is also quieter and according to Goodyear, lasts longer too.
Interestingly you can now swap the tyres front and back as well as side to side. Given the Asymmetric design pattern, the tyres are not affected by a left to right switch.
Goodyear says while the tuners and racers might still pick the GSD3, the target market for the Asymmetric is the high end, Audi, BMW, Porsche and Ferrari drivers.
Of course when you have more than 40 journalists on hand the last thing they want to do is stand around and watch test drivers have all the fun. So Goodyear kindly handed us the keys to a wide variety of cars for some, err, responsible driving on track.
The first test involved two slaloms in the wet and dry. The idea was to go out and feel the new corner grip technology doing its work. In the dry at low speed the Asymmetric is a solid performer, a very quite one too.
The wet however, is where it shines. Push it harder and harder and you won't feel it slide. Wet or dry, the grip levels are comparable.
The next activity, perhaps the most fun, was a speed test. Four cars, three identical BMW 525s and an SS Commodore waited patiently as we made our way across the Holden Performance Driving Centre.
One of the BMWs was fitted with European made Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric, one had a Chinese made version of the same tyre and the third was shod with the RE050A. The SS was also equipped with European sourced Goodyears.
The point was to first notice the difference between the Bridgestones and the Goodyears and secondly, to see if there was any difference between the European and Chinese made variants (the SS was there for fun). Whilst the instructor was giving his speech, I checked all tyres for authenticity, there were no games here, and the RE050As were brand new and up to the correct pressure, just like the Goodyears.
I first jumped in the Bridgestone shod Bimmer, the interesting thing is; the RE050As are a great tyre, so great in fact that the likes of Aston Martin use them as a factory fit. So for Goodyear to come out with a tyre which is supposed to be better, is an achievement worth having an international launch over!
The half-track was rather simple, an easy left hander into a hard right followed by a swooping right and a hair pin right to push the tyres to their maximum potential.
On my first go, the Bridgestone rubber felt strong, apexes where hit, instructors were happy, so, I asked myself, what more can there be? Move on to the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric.
Let's be fair here, the RE050A has been around for a while, so in car speak, it would be like comparing a 2006 model car to a brand new one. Not that I care, because at the end of the day, you must buy the tyre that best suits your needs and at the moment, that's the Goodyear.
The difference between the RE050As and the Eagle F1s can be summed up rather easily, grip. Whilst the Bridgestones feel strong, the Eagle F1 Asymmetric is that extra noticeable step above the competition.
I approached the hairpin corner at about 120km/h, jumped on the brakes and gently pushed the car towards the apex, not bad.
Swap BMWs to the Goodyear car and try it again. I aimed for consistency, 120km/h as I approached, jump on the brakes, smooth transition of weight from right to left, not even the smallest hint of understeer and the 5-series went around.
The difference is not obvious unless you drive both tyres back to back repeatedly (as was done here), eventually you'll realise the Goodyear gives just that little more, especially in corners, it makes sense after all, ActiveCornerGrip technology isn't just a bunch of made up words!
You can buy the Eagle F1 Asymmetric in 32 different sizes, ranging from 17-20inch and 28 of the variants come from Europe, whilst four come from Goodyear's Dalian tyre plant in China. Would there be a difference between the two? There shouldn't be, after all, there is no RRP cost difference based on manufacturing location.
After five consecutive laps on the European tyres followed by five laps on the Chinese-made tyres, the difference is hard to pick, your better senses might be telling you, make sure you still get the European one anyway, but in reality, Chinese production quality for tyres has improved dramatically over the past decade and Goodyear has stringent quality control to ensure maximum performance and quality no matter where its tyres are made.
The Goodyear tyres are produced to the exact same specification and identical compound worldwide. They are not run-flat tyres but the engineers say they are compatible with the technology if that was a requirement for manufacturers. Speaking of manufacturers the US based company already has a few luxury makers in its sights to become the official standard tyre.
The next activity is not worth mentioning, basically as it involved a Holden Barina, a wok, and a tennis ball. Yes, definitely not worth mentioning.
We left the Barina behind, grabbed some food and headed to the skid pad.
This was no ordinary skid pad though; it was blessed with a rotating turntable to force an oversteer situation. The aim of this exercise? See how the Eagle F1 matches up against the RE050A.
I can't praise the RE050A enough, it is a great tyre, but somehow, the Goodyear still feel more planted, more assured and more confident.
More than 10 runs were done on each tyre and although practise made perfect, the Goodyear simply felt better without question. The Eagle F1 was easier to pull back in line and definitely much less likely to permit an uncontrollable spin.
After an hour of skid pan madness, it was time to hit the road and a convoy of Audis began a 120km route toward Mount Tamborine, during which we examined the tyre's potential on road. Goodyear has done a lot of work to make the new Eagle not only their best handling road tyre but also the quietest.
Through the twisty bends around Mount Tamborine, the Goodyear tyres remained consistent, with Active CornerGrip technology allowing for quick entry speeds into tight corners.
On the road or track, the new tyres proved themselves against the competition with better cornering grip, assured handling, quieter ride and excellent dynamics in the wet.
The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric, simply one whole step ahead of the competition.