The challenging Pacific Raceways outside Seattle, Washington has a way of unwinding even the most sorted of cars. The unique 2.25-mile, 9-turn road course has demanding terrain with great variety, little run-off and 110 feet of elevation change in less than a half-mile. It's difficult to say the least.
So one might understand my trepidation as we crested the hill and barreled into turn 3a, the tight downhill right-hander followed by another ultra-kinked downhill lefty, 3b, with sheets of rain pelting the windshield. The wipers could barely shed the blankets of water and despite my hesitation, the instructor assured me that WOT was safe for a few more seconds.
As I initiated the first downhill turn I'd hope all the techno jargon Goodyear mentioned the night before would be put into action. In an instant it was right turn, brake, left turn, gas and off we went in our BMW 328i coupe shod with nothing more than Goodyear's new Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season tires.
With more laps under my belt I started upping my pace, late braking and applying the throttle sooner. In what seemed like an instant my first session was over and much to my dismay I was so engrossed in the experience that I'd totally forgotten it was raining to the point of standing water on the track. Goodyear lesson number one, if you have great all-season tires even Mother Nature's wet weather can't hamper serious grip.
Welcome to all season ultra-high performance
During our stay, a small group of automobile journalists had the chance to experience the new Goodyear tires in a variety of situations, all in wet weather of course-what else would you expect from Washington?
From spirited street driving and a dash of highway cruising to road-course going and tight Auto-X flogging, the Winged Feet wanted us to sample its hides under a wide array of scenarios and even put them up against the benchmarks in its class, the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S and the Bridgestone Pole Position RE970 A/S.
Like most enthusiast, we were concerned with grip, communication at the limit and their characteristics under hard braking-all legitimate concerns for Gearheads. But Goodyear also wanted to prove that the new all-season Eagle F1s were a well-rounded package (pun intended).
The design engineers stressed that its all-weather grip not only translates into faster lap times and better feel, but more safety in emergency lane-change maneuvers and panic-stop situations. The engineers also conveyed the vast amounts of R&D invested in their quiet highway ride and hardy wear characteristics. In other words, Goodyear designed this all-season tire to be as versatile as it is potent.
It's all in the design
For the tech heads in the building, know that Goodyear went to great lengths to create what they describe as the best all-season performance tire. The design team ranked handling characteristics and traction in wet and dry conditions along with a 45,000-mile tread life as their top priorities.
While longevity and performance were never used in the same sentence on the all-season tires of old, Goodyear explained that the high-performance tire market is rapidly growing and now represents nearly 25-percent of its sales.
In order to obtain such lofty goals Goodyear focused on all aspects of the new design, first of which are the special compounds called Functionalized Polymers. Without getting into a scientific jargon, Goodyear changed the compound formulas at a molecular level for increased links between the compounds. These additional links help the stability of the rubber under high-g loads and allow for more reinforcement material to be added for longer tread life.
Moving outward, Goodyear also heavily tweaked the tread of the Eagle F1 Asymmetric A/S by dividing it into two zones, the Dry Handling outside shoulder and the inside All-Season zone. The all-season portion has a higher void volume with an emphasis on water evacuation while the outside shoulder, the portion of the tire that's put under the most stress during extreme cornering has more rubber per square inch for increased traction and stability. When the two are combined with Goodyear's Traction Teeth, specially designed leading edges of the tread blocks for more bite, you're treated to a tire that performs well in everything but heavy mud and snow.
Goodyear had enough sense to realize that performance is nothing without communication and thus spent countless hours developing its Tredlock Technology that literally locks the tread blocks together under load. Small sections of male and female prongs are molded into the sides of the tread blocks perpendicular to the face of the tire. These small prongs lock into one another as the tread blocks flex under load, preventing them from squirming. The result? More stability without the use of an overly stiff sidewall that compromises ride comfort.
Where the rubber meets the road
After a long presentation it was time to test tires against their main competitors, the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S and the Bridgestone Pole Position RE970 A/S on the rainy Pacific Raceways. The Goodyears outperformed both tires on all accounts.
They were faster around the road course and autocross while also offering more feedback. It was startling to notice such big differences since the benchmark tires weren't ones to sneeze at. We will however add the caveat that all testing on the tire launch was done in the rain so we can't vouch for the dry-weather performance of the Goodyears.
Wet-weather performance was certainly better, a plus when shopping for your next tires. But Goodyear again stressed the safety benefits of higher emergency lane change speeds and shorter stopping distances. After seeing the F1's consistently stop shorter it's a compelling reason to purchase them for their added safety alone. Sure we all buy high-performance tires with the thought of more traction and thus speed, but what about the added safety as well?
Their increased emergency lane change abilities and the fact they stop shorter than OEM-replacement hoops helps justify their greater cost. I don't know about you, but stopping a few feet shorter is the difference between a big sigh of relief and landing in the trunk of a Honda Civic. Goodyear lesson number two, great all-season tires make sense on a daily driver, even if it doesn't have modified suspension and big power.
The F1 Asymmetric A/S tires are available in W and Y ratings and in 17- through 19" diameters with over 35 different sizes. The tires come with a 300 AAA treadwear rating and are also backed by a 45,000-mile warranty.
Although our test was admittedly one-sided since it was completely conducted in the rain, nonetheless the new Eagle F1 Asymmetric A/S is an impressive addition to the Ultra High Performance All Season class that keeps growing with each passing year. Gone are the days of tires that just perform well in one category, instead we're greeted to performance rubber that's as versatile as the Euros we put them on. We're truly in the heyday of performance where we can have our cake and eat it too; or rather have our performance and longevity too. Look for a full report on these tires in the near future.