Economies of scale and proliferation of technology aren't the first things that come to mind when you think of tires. But it's these wonderful mechanics of capitalism that make great tires available for little money.
Korea is the new champion of manufacturing almost anything cheaper and better. Lucky for us, tire manufacturers like Hankook call Korea home. And thanks to them, we have tires to burn at the track without breaking the bank.
Without the big-dollar ad campaigns of other large tire companies, few consumers realize Hankook's significant involvement in North American and Asian motorsports and the tire technology that results from those endeavors. Hankook makes race tires for everything from open-wheel cars to rally cars. Trickle-down technology from these series makes tires like the R-S2 Z212 possible. Keeping the bottom line low also helps bring these sticky tires to market inexpensively. Plus, the Z212 is based on the RSS Z211, which was the spec tire for NASA's 2005 U.S. Touring Car Championship series-trickle-down at its best.
The Z212, however, uses a different tread pattern featuring deeper grooves that increase wet performance and sweeping tread blocks, which are offset to reduce tire noise. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Z212 looks almost identical to Yokohama's Advan Neova, which costs at least twice as much.
Hankook rates the Z212 as 200/AA/A on the UTQG scale, which is just shy of the industry standard for the softest and stickiest a tire can be without being labeled an R-compound. It drives that way, too. Around constant-radius turns, the Z212 has similar lateral grip to some of the segment leaders, but it lacks their turn-in response-probably due to a softer sidewall.
This turns out to be an advantage if you want to use the Z212 as a training tire, as it's fairly forgiving and clearly communicates its limits. The Z212s we drove endured an entire day of beating on an autocross course. In these extreme constant-use conditions, they exhibited some chunking and scaling but held up impressively. We didn't get a chance to drive the Z212 on the street or test it at higher speeds for noise, comfort or straight-line performance.
Hankook currently offers the Z212 in 17 sizes ranging from 14 to 18 inches in diameter. More sizes are anticipated, but for now the widest size offered is 245mm in section width-so the professional drifters will have to wait.
The Z212 offers silly grip for slightly more than the lint in your pockets. Capitalism rules.
Things we like about the Hankook R-S2 Z212
* Guiltless burnout pricing
* Modern, race-derived compound with gobs of grip
Things we don't like about the Hankook R-S2 Z212
* Scaling and chunking when abused
* Not as responsive as the market leaders (but half the cost)
Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Z212 looks almost identical to Yokohama's Advan Neova, which costs at least twice as much.