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July 10, 2013

Tire Review: Goodyear Eagles Are Like Track Shoes For Your Car

Goodyear-Eagle-audi-A4-QuattroA tire is a tire is a tire, right? With the exception of tire folks and performance drivers or enthusiasts, probably the vast majority of drivers feel this way. Yet tires are one of the most important components of our vehicles, and unfortunately one of the most undervalued and least understood. I'm ashamed to admit that even though I’ve been a mechanic for my entire adult life, it is only recently that I have come to really appreciate the science behind, and the vast differences between, those big black round rubber things that we literally entrust our lives to each and every time we get in our cars.

I've recently been getting a crash course in tires and have been fortunate enough to attend a few ride-and-drive events to test out a few of the new tires on the market, including a recent event hosted by Goodyear to introduce and test out their new all-season Eagle Sport tires. What an eye-opening experience! I had no idea how much I didn't know.

Goodyear-eagle-sport-all-season-tire-testTires affect everything from fuel efficiency and handling to braking distances and ride quality. No matter what type of vehicle you drive, its ultimate road performance is determined by the quality and type of tires mounted on it. Where you live, what type of driving you do, what type of weather you'll be driving in: predominantly, all these things affect what type of tire you might choose. Yet, with so many choices and so little understanding of tires, most of us wind up buying based on price, manufacturer recommendations, or the recommendations of our tire shop.

It is important to know that, as with most things in life, there is always a trade-off. A tire designed to grip the road optimally in the summer with high temperatures and a dry road is very different than a tire designed to handle rain, sleet, or snow. Tires that are designed to last (and last and last) are made from a different composition from those designed for handling and grip under more rigorous driving conditions. A tire built to excel at a specific application has to sacrifice one thing to gain another.

In the past, all-season tires were known to be a bit of a “jack of all trades, master of none.” They did all things "ok" but did nothing as well as a tire designed specifically for any one thing. They are most popular in the American market where drivers are usually looking for convenience and a one-size-fits-all product. We don't want to have to change our tires as the summer or winter seasons change. We generally also want performance, a quiet ride, and a long tread life. We expect *a lot* out of our tires and we want it all at an affordable price. That's a tall order for tire manufacturers, but developments in tire compounds (all the different "ingredients" so to speak, that get mixed with the rubber in the manufacturing process) and tread design (all those grooves and ridges in your tire) are allowing all-season tires to overcome their reputation of doing lots of things, but none of them well.

Goodyear describes the new Eagle Sport All Season as a mid-tier performance tire, one of the fastest growing tire segments in the states. The driver they had in mind when engineering it is a sport-minded driver who, while she/he may not be out doing autocross, enjoys the driving experience and wants to feel connected to the road. Their mission was to provide sportier feel and performance while simultaneously providing a long life and handling in a range of conditions to meet the daily needs of the average driver in their daily commute all year long. Plus they wanted to do all this at an affordable and competitive price point.

While the Eagle Sport is comparable in price to the Eagle GT that it is replacing, the Sport offers increased traction in snow and wet conditions, which equals better handling and shorter stopping distances in rain, snow, and on ice. Goodyear says they have achieved these gains without compromising dry performance or the smoothness and quietness of the ride. Goodyear says the new Eagle Sport also offers a “significant” increase in tread life and is backing up that claim with an incredible 50,000-mile tread life warranty. That kind of tread life is normally not reasonable to expect from a performance tire.

Though learning about silica content and asymmetric grooves was interesting, let’s be honest: most of us are not thinking about those things when buying tires. That's just the magic that goes on behind the scenes. What matters is how the tire drives. So the real test was on the track.

Goodyear-Eagle-Event-at-BondurantKnowing this, Goodyear brought us out to the incredible facilities at Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix, Arizona, for a day of driving to feel how these new tires handle in aggressive wet and dry driving conditions and to compare them to another tire in the same category. The tires were mounted on the very enjoyable to drive and sporty Audi A4 Quattro and we ran the test course a few times on both the Goodyear Eagle Sport and one of its competitors, the Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval.

According to Goodyear’s testing, the Eagle Sport outperforms the Firehawk (defined as an improvement of 5-10%) in dry handling lap times, dry stopping, dry handling lateral acceleration, evasive lane change speed, and wet handling. It significantly outperforms (greater than 10% improvement) in wet handling lateral acceleration and ice stopping.

Bogi-goodyear-actionNow, keep in mind I'm definitely not a trained performance driver, nor am I a seasoned tire reviewer. But I do love the driving experience, and in my day-to-day life I'm probably pretty close to the target audience Goodyear has in mind for these tires. While it wasn't as dramatic as I've felt in other comparisons of tires in the high-performance category, the improvements were definitely tangible. I felt more comfortable maneuvering through the wet and dry portions of the track at greater speeds because I could feel the tires gripping and felt more in control of the Audi. Even with all the screeching around corners at speeds I would never attempt on the street, I felt more secure in the gripping power of the Goodyears than I did on the Firestones. And even after all the abuse we put those tires through, the ride (when not screeching around corners) was still quiet and smooth.

I do wish we had the opportunity to do more testing on a wet track and testing specifically focused on wet and dry braking. I was also disappointed that we only compared the Goodyear Eagle Sport against one of their competitors and not some of the others in the same category. It's a pretty competitive category, and coming from a long line of statisticians in my family, I was left craving more data and points of comparison. However, regardless of how it may compare to the other tires in its class that we didn't test against, the difference between the Goodyear and the Firestone was tangible. And after a day of learning and driving I do feel that Goodyear did in fact accomplish their mission. This is a tire that, as they say - allows us to "Own the road - all year long."

Bogi-Lateiner-goodyear-photo-collageWhile the new Goodyear Eagle Sport All Season may not be your tire if you drive a race car, or live somewhere that suffers a long hard winter (no all-season tires are designed to be able to perform well in anything more than light snow), I would say it could a top choice for the rest of us who want our tires to last, at an affordable price, while also being able to safely perform in all types of weather and road conditions and promise superior handling when evasive maneuvers are needed to keep us and our families safe on the road. Plus, because it is a performance tire it can even satisfy the needs and wants of those of us who, like me, love the driving experience and want the grip that will provide a sportier feel and handle more "spirited" driving. Maybe even the occasional screech around a turn.

 

Bogi Lateiner is a master mechanic and shop owner in Phoenix, Arizona. After cutting her teeth working for BMW for six years she opened 180 Degrees Automotive, an award-winning full-service repair shop that specializes in educating customers and creating a comfortable, customer-focused automotive repair experience. She regularly teaches basic car care classes for women at the shop as well as at independent shops and dealerships across the country. She also appears as one of three hosts on the national television show All Girls Garage on Velocity channel. Find out more about Bogi and her shop @ www.180auto.com

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