The cars used for this test were Mazda3s running 225/50R17 tires on Enkei alloys, and inflated to the manufacturers specifications on the door plaque. “This is probably one of the most common tire sizes out there,” Comrie-Picard told us, “with something like 200 replacement options on the market, so an incredible range of choice.”
The track was a mirror image of the performance tire track we’d driven in Ford Mustangs earlier in the day. It consisted of an initial acceleration lane, followed by a wet emergency stop. After accelerating again 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, and then back to the pits. Water from the emergency stop had worked its way onto a portion of the slalom, giving us a chance to experience wet handling as well as dry handling.
With two laps in each car, I used the same strategy as I had when testing the ultra-high performance tires on the Mustangs: I ran my first lap in each car driving smoothly and quickly, pushing but not exceeding the tires limits. I then followed up with a deliberately high-spirited, ragged-edged second lap, pushing the tires past their limits and demolishing pylons willy-nilly.
Where the differences between the ultra-high performance tires on the Mustangs proved to be fairly subtle, the differences between the Advantage T/A Sports and the Yokohama AVID Ascends were more clear-cut. Both tires turned in strong performances, but in the wet emergency stop from approximately 70 km/h, the Advantage T/A Sports stopped consistently about two metres (six feet) shorter that the Yokohamas.
On my smoother, more competitive laps both tire brands comported themselves well, and both gave plenty of warning as they started to near the limits of adhesion. The Yokohamas seemed well-matched to the Mazda3, with clear and consistent feedback that made it easy to get the car into a neutral attitude with all four corners at the limits of adhesion. The Advantage T/As, meanwhile, offered an edge in terms of steering feel and crispness and seemed a little grippier, but without a stopwatch to time the runs it would be difficult to declare a hands-down winner.