They say the devil is in the details, and following my recent purchase of a '11 VW Golf TDI, I wanted to see if such slight changes could really affect performance. I decided this was a great opportunity to test the effects of a tire-only upgrade on this vehicle's handling and braking. I swapped out my stock 17-inch Porto wheels for a set of 18-inch Detroit wheels from a '11 GTI. Both setups feature a 225mm width, but the real difference came from the 5 percent decrease in sidewall for the larger rim. Between the two there was a slight difference, noticeable but not dramatic, especially since both sets of wheels were wrapped in all-season rubber.
I then compared a street-legal motorsport tire, swapping out the factory all-seasons on the Detroits with a set of Falken Azenis RT-615K. Taking advantage of the ability to experience all four seasons in California, depending on where you go, it was fortuitous that October happened to be the test month. The day I had the Falkens installed, outside temperature was 112 degrees F and heat radiated off every surface. My first opportunity to test the tire came in the form of long, sweeping, 180-degree on-ramps to the 101 freeway. The Falkens dug in and I accelerated faster through the turn than I'd ever been able to on the all-season rubber. After 25 miles I jumped on Highway 23, Westlake to Malibu. I threw the DSG tranny in manual mode and attacked every corner without hesitation. Again, the Falkens held steady and gave consistent performance all the way through Pacific Coast Highway, even with the severe frictional forces and intense heat.
In an amazing example of what we call "earthquake weather," the next week brought temperatures averaging around 60 degrees, followed by several days of light to heavy rain. For a street tire, the Azenis performed well in the rain and at no time did the Golf lose contact with the road. As for the handling, I am not about to go all-out during a rainstorm in my brand-new car, (our insurance lacks a stupidity clause), but I felt confident that the tire wouldn't let me down. After the rain had passed and the roads dried out, but temperatures remained low, I did notice that the RT-615Ks needed to warm up before they really started to grip. Once they do, no complaints can be found.
Did the RT-615K transform the Golf TDI enough to satisfy my handling requirements? In short, no; but they alone came awfully close; the stock sport suspension is just to way too soft to see what these tires can really do.
- Proprietary casing design eliminates heavy steel construction with bead apex and turn-up technology, resulting in 8% reduction in unsprung tire weight
- Aqua tusk tread design incorporates three high-void, low-turbulence grooves
- Solid center rib increases the tread contact patch, helping to reduce wheelspin
- Motorsport tread compound formulated to maintain grip as temperatures increase
- Size tested: 225/40/18 92W RF
- Treadwear: 200; Traction: A; Temperature: A