The Importance of Tires
I've been asked more times than I can count what a person should invest in or modify first when it comes to their own project cars. My first two answers are always the same: A) Learn how to drive, and B) Have a good tire on the car.
Now, I myself, nor anyone on the internet can teach you how to drive faster but understand that getting proper instruction and practicing safely on a road course is the best way possible to improve your driving skills and lap times. This also translates to having a better and safer experience when it comes to spirited getaways on your local backcountry roads.
That leaves us with tires, and if you take a step back and think about it, tires are the one component of your ride that connect you to the road (not your expensive suspension setup, powerful engine, or fancy bodywork...) Tires are the single most important investment you can make when it concerns your safety and your vehicle's performance.
How To Choose the Right Tire
Unless you're driving a 1996 Toyota Corolla, you're going to need something with a little more quality than those all-seasons for sale at your neighborhood tire shop. There's a lot of factors that go into selecting the right tire which includes overall traction, handling characteristics, how it handles various weather conditions and terrains, tread life, noise level, appearance, and price. Some of these priorities might matter to you more than others.
For example, if you're building a dedicated track car then you'll want the most grip and best handling possible with no care in the world for tread life and noise. You're likely going to shop for the lowest treadwear possible which suits your driving style and vehicle - something along the lines of a Toyo R888R (UTQG 100AAA) or ADVAN A048 (UTQG 60AAA). However, if you're looking for something for that 100hp Corolla, all you'd worry about is getting the most mileage out of that tire for the cheapest price.
Don't be ashamed if you're asking yourself these questions because I sure didn't know what I was doing when I first got into cars. There was a time when I just wanted the most aggressive tire my wallet could afford but was totally unnecessary since I wasn't driving much more than to my school everyday. I've learned a thing or two over the years and realized doing your research and reading up on real-life reviews is the first step toward making an educated decision on choosing the right tire, which is why I'm happy to share the experiences with my 2020 Toyota Supra.
How Yokohama Stole the Show at SEMA '19
Yokohama SEMA booth
Super Street Toyota Supra Project Car
The A90 Supra in factory form is a blast to drive and truly caters to the sports car enthusiast and weekend track junkie. Being that I'm from Super Street, there was no way in hell I was going to keep it stock though, so I installed just about everything that was available to improve its overall handling, power and looks. For example, KW coilovers, beefier Brembo brakes up front, Akrapovic titanium exhaust matched with an AMS downpipe and a carbon Voltex rear wing for added downforce. There are definitely more goodies I've added but these are the key components to giving it a better edge on a racetrack. The Supra made its debut at the 2019 SEMA Show, however its ultimate test would be participating in Global Time Attack Challenge at Buttonwillow Raceway where it successfully completed several hot laps and pushed to its maximum limit running ADVAN A052 tires (UTQG 200AA), one of Yokohama's softest and most race-inspired tires, which also allowed it to compete under the Street class rules of Global Time Attack.
Track Tires Aren't for the Street
You might be wondering why I wouldn't just run with the A052 tires all the time, but the truth of that matter is, while grip was phenomenal around Buttonwillow's 3.1-mile road course, the 200-treadwear tires were flat out too aggressive for handling day-to-day duties like commuting to the office. These circuit-designed tires aren't cheap, either (for my car they'd run around $300-$350 per tire), and don't offer a long tread life. Wasting miles on 'em picking up groceries would be foolish, not to mention I was forced to run a smaller 18" diameter wheel to take full advantage of the widest A052 footprint possible. Wanting to keep the 19" stock-sized wheel for the street, I had to ask myself what tire would make the most sense for commuting several times a week but also allow me to let loose on some winding backcountry roads from time to time. This is where the ADVAN Apex comes into play.
APEX V601 Technology and Features
The ADVAN Apex tire is Yokohama's flagship summer tire and intended to be an OEM replacement for high performance, fun-to-drive vehicles like the BMW M3, Nissan GT-R or Toyota Supra, just to name a few. What I found interesting about this tire is that it's Yokohama's first offering developed for the U.S. market. This means its local R&D team was able to take into account our road conditions, demands in performance, preferences in tread pattern and requests for certain fitments to offer the best street tire possible, designed for our roads.
Let's take a step back as it's important to remember that it's impossible to have a tire that excels at everything. A tire that's able to get you around in the snow, isn't going to also perform well in the rain or give you the most grip in the dry. Formulating a tire consists of finding the complicated and delicate balance of the right chemistry, compounds, and design to offer a specific combination of driving traits.
In the case of the Apex, traction and handling are the top two priorities, so you'll find a high-grade micro-silica compound that creates the most grip with the road. Then there are wide outer rib blocks and strengthened sidewalls to maximize dry grip performance and turning feel. Other important traits for the V601 include distributing heat faster which aids a longer tread life. While not as important as traction, these are important factors engineers have to address, which is why the Apex becomes a good option for cars that see a lot of mileage.
Over the last 30 days, I've had the chance to feel the Apex tires on my Supra in both an everyday environment and spirited summer driving sessions in the secluded twisty roads of Malibu Canyon and Angeles Crest Highway. First off, they're quiet and comfortable for daily commuting. Its sound profile isn't overbearing at all and resembles the factory Supra tire offering. I can't comment on the tire's wet performance and tread life, but in a short period of time I was able to test the Apex tires' handling and grip and frankly, those are what I cared about most.
The sharp, tight handling wasn't there like my A052 track tires, but I when kicked up the aggression and pushed my driving limits to about 80-90%, the V601s answered the call. They felt very even and controlled through cornering and stable at triple-digit speeds. Admittedly not as much initial bite as I like with a more track-focused tire, but the control and stability were there. There's an old saying, "smooth is fast", which is exactly how the Apex felt as it rewarded me with each properly executed turn. It didn't break traction unexpectedly or require any unnatural steering compensation due to additional understeer or oversteer. Managing proper weight transfer lets the Apex's compound and tread design do at all the work. I should highlight that even during hard launches and using maximum braking force, the tires experienced minimal to no slipping.
Street Tire Reminder
I can't stress enough that it's important to remember this isn't a competition tire and not a tire you should be pushing 110% while aiming for the fastest lap. It's a reliable 280-treadwear UHP tire that hits its mark for guys that have powerful cars and enjoy driving them fast on the street. The Apex is something for the majority of folks that aren't looking to prove anything at all times but want a tire that fits their needs as a performance car nut and a driving enthusiast.
One Last Note
To my Supra brethren, the A90 comes with already stellar tires using Michelin Pilot Super Sports. I would say the Apex is a comparable tire in high performance and daily driving situations; however, when it comes to cost, the Apex tires are considerably less expensive at approximately $50 cheaper per tire. I don't know about you but saving $200 is a win in my book!
Special thanks go out to Auto Tuned for helping me mount and balance the new tires!