When Continental Tires invited us out to their testing facility, we were surprised to find a bunch of huge dub wrappers on display. Instead of boring you with tires twice as big as your rims, we had Andy Hope beat up on a big ugly Ford with some all-seasons from Conti's subsidiary, General Tires, that would actually fit your ride. -DB
Of all the things you can do to improve a car's handling, nothing tops a grippy set of tires. Following that logic, many enthusiasts here in Southern California have gone to full R compound tires for street use. They work great other than being extremely dangerous when hitting the occasional puddle. Then on the rare occasion when it really rains, the car stays home while you bum a ride to work. I had pretty much accepted this as one of the compromises of driving a tuned car until a recent experience in Texas, of all places.
General Tire Co. hosted an open house at their tire testing facility outside of San Antonio. The purpose was to launch the new Altimax line of stock replacement tires. I'm sure the Altimax's are perfect for a soccer mom with an Odyssey full of fourth graders. But, most readers with stiff lowering springs and loud exhausts wouldn't be any more interested in the technology used to create quiet comfortable tires than I was.
The facility itself, however, was undeniably impressive. It was like a theme park for reckless drivers. There was an 8.5-mile oval, wet and dry skidpads, road courses, and 10 different off-road courses. They had every kind of surface from polished concrete to pothole simulations and tire-chewing limestone aggregate. There's no doubt that the company's tires see a lot of hard miles at that place. I spent the day testing several of General Tires' offerings on a variety of courses. They all performed well, but nothing really stood out until we got to the wet road course.
The track was about a mile long with a variety of 30 to 70mph corners. A series of pipes at the edge of the track pumped a constant flow of water across the asphalt. One of the Mustang GTs provided for the test was equipped with General's Exclaim UHP tires. UHP stands for "Ultra-High Performance" class tires, which traditionally are optimized for dry handling and are awful in the wet. But these were phenomenal. The unidirectional tread pattern cut right through the water. Even with the automatic transmission randomly sending gobs of torque to the rear wheels, the tires stuck amazingly well.
Full wet racing tires will normally be destroyed in minutes when run in the dry. With their wide groove tread pattern, I expected the Exclaim UHPs to show significant wear after being pushed hard on the dry road course. But they held up really well. Traction was decent even if they did grease up a little when continually overdriven. Still, just surviving the abuse in the Texas heat was all they needed to do to fill a nitch that really hasn't been talked about much in the import performance market, wets.
F1 cars don't just park when it rains. They switch to wets and keep going. With a set of these mounted on an old set of rims, your car could continue to outperform the masses even in a downpour. General Tire recently released the Exclaim UHPs in Honda/Acura friendly fitments such as 205/50VR15, 205/45ZR16, and 205/40ZR17. A quick search online showed these sizes going for right around 60 bucks a piece making the idea of having a second set of street tires all the more tempting. Plus with a treadwear rating of 380 they could easily be run between storms, or between corded sets of race tires.