For drivers who value performance, purchasing tires isn’t simply about price, brand and tread life. Performance-minded drivers understand that tires are the critical link between the car and the road, and that different tire choices can have a huge influence not only on how well the car grips the tarmac, but also on how it feels behind the wheel when cornering and braking.
But unless you have a friend with an identical car, how can you compare one tire against another, except on their looks alone? Online research is one popular source of information (so good for you, reading this article), and a knowledgeable tire retailer can be another valuable resource.
To help get the word out on its new g-Force COMP-2 A/S ultra-high-performance all-season tire, BFGoodrich invited Canadian auto journalists and tire retailers to a performance driving facility in Pitt Meadows, BC and let them put the tire through its paces in wet and dry conditions against a top competing performance tire.
While tire manufacturers will typically choose the competing tire themselves, for this comparison BFGoodrich polled the tire retailers and asked them which tire they’d like to select as the challenger. The retailers selected the well-regarded Continental ExtremeContact DWS06.
Prior to letting the assembled retailers and journalists out for the hot laps, racing drivers Andrew Comrie-Picard and Mike Johnson gave some background on BFGoodrich (we learned that before pioneering radial tires in North America in 1965, BFGoodrich made the tires used for the first ever coast-to-coast drive across the U.S. in 1903), and they explained some of the features that differentiate the g-Force COMP-2 A/S.
Key amongst these features are the tire’s race-bred Performance Racing Core and g-Control Sidewall Inserts, which provide a reinforced internal structure that maintains ride comfort in straight-line driving while resisting lateral sidewall flex during hard cornering. By maintaining sidewall positioning during hard cornering, the g-Control Sidewall Inserts help the aggressive high-silica directional tread pattern stay more squarely in contact with the pavement. This reduces squirm, which in turn increases grip and reduces tire wear.
The cars used for the performance tire test were identically-spec’ed V6 Ford Mustangs shod with 235/50ZR18 tires. On the track, we were encouraged to drive a little spirited. “We want you to feel what the tire is like at the edge and when driven a little ragged,” explained Johnson. We were also encouraged to check the tire pressures. “We set them to match the door plaque, so any difference you feel is in the tire, not the tire pressure.” Checked and confirmed.
The track consisted first of an acceleration lane, followed by a wet emergency stop. Then, after accelerating from the emergency stop there was a sharp lane change manoeuvre onto dry pavement, and then a tricky decreasing radius turn that encouraged you to come in far too hot. This led into an S-curve and a slalom, then back to the pits. With two laps in each car, I chose to run my first lap fast and smooth, driving as I would in competition, and then follow up with a spirited second lap, deliberately pushing the tires well past their limits and getting a little sideways in the S-bends.
The first observation is that the retailers chose an extremely competent challenger. The Continental ExtremeContact DWS06 is no slouch, and both tires delivered high enough levels of performance and grip that their differences are subtle. I was easily able to discern the differences between mid-market sport tires we tested on Mazda3 sedans later in the day, but my seat-of-pants sensors aren’t quite so finely tuned as a race car driver’s, so I asked for extra laps in the Mustangs – including a couple with Andrew Comrie-Picard at the wheel – to allow a more thorough comparison of the high-performance tires.
In the emergency wet stop from 80 km/h, I ended up having to call it a draw. My first couple of laps were in the red Mustang running the g-Force COMP-2 A/S tires, and the stop pad had been freshly doused with water. By the time I ran comparison laps in the white Conti-equipped Mustang, the pad was noticeably drier, and my stopping distances were consequently shorter. When I did my extra laps with more evenly-distributed water, I missed the brake mark on my first run, so I only got one good stop in the BFGoodrich-equipped Mustang, versus two stops in the Conti-equipped car. Ignoring the bad stop, I got essentially identical distances with either tire this time around. Comrie-Picard then took me out for a couple of laps, and put in results that showed the g-Force COMP-2 A/S stopping about 10 feet shorter than the Conti in the wet.
In the corners on dry pavement there was a more noticeable difference, although it remained subtle. The g-Force COMP-2 A/S tires did seem somewhat less squirmy than the Continentals (so they provided crisper turn-in), and they were a little less abrupt on breakaway. Indeed, g-Force COMP-2 A/S really didn’t want to break away at all: it squealed less in the corners, and would sometimes hop fractionally sideways a few times at the back before finally letting go. When the rear tires did let go, bringing them back in line was reasonably effortless.
In comparison, the Continentals hung in extremely well, but they did seem to exhibit a bit more initial understeer in the S-bends, and they let go at the back a little more abruptly after they’d transitioned to oversteer, and they squirmed more in the slalom. This made steering the Continental-equipped car a little more of a busy exercise. However, I found that the additional feedback provided by the Continental’s fraction of squirm actually felt a little more comfortable to me in the slalom – I was better able to predict the car’s weight transfer and better able to get it into a rhythm. With Comrie-Picard behind the wheel the g-Force COMP-2 A/S definitely seemed the faster tire through the slalom, but in my less expert hands it was a tough call. I did prefer the driving feel of the g-Force COMP-2 A/S over the Continentals in the S-bends, however.
Where the difference between the two tires was perhaps most apparent was after the laps, looking at the tread. Both tires were in remarkably good shape considering the punishment that had just been handed out to them, but the Continentals had the noticeable beginnings of feathering on the outer tread blocks (a result of the tire squirming), while the g-Force COMP-2 A/S showed no such feathering. For drivers who give their tires an occasional workout, this alone might tip the comparison to the g-Force COMP-2 A/S’s favour, but the real decisive factor may be pricing: On Canadian Tire’s website the Continental ExtremeContact DWS60 shows a retail price of $218.99 each in the size tested, while the BFGoodrich g-Force COMP-2 A/S sells for $193.99 each in the same size. If you can get a good deal on a set of Continentals the ExtremeContact DWS06 is excellent tire, but the BFGoodrich g-Force COMP-2 A/S is at least as good – indeed in the testing I did it appears to have the edge in both performance and wear – and it retails for about 12 percent less