Mid-market all-season street tires must meet many conflicting objectives: Excellent wet and dry traction is key, but durability, a quiet and comfortable ride, low rolling resistance, crisp steering response and even an aggressively sporty look are all in the mix too.
The Advantage T/A Sport simplifies BF Goodrich’s tire lineup, replacing the Advantage T/A and g-Force Super Sport tires with a single high-performance passenger vehicle tire.BF Goodrich recently introduced a new tire to provide what it calls “everyday performance” across a wide range of vehicles – from sporty coupes to family sedans, minivans to CUVs. The Advantage T/A Sport simplifies BF Goodrich’s tire lineup, replacing the Advantage T/A and g-Force Super Sport tires with a single high-performance passenger vehicle tire. To help spread the word about the new tire, BF Goodrich invited tire retailers and journalists to test it on the track against a top competitor.
In a twist on the usual formula, which sees the tire manufacturer select the challenger, for this test BF Goodrich asked the participating tire retailers which tire they wanted to compare against, and the retailers selected the popular Yokohama AVID Ascend, a tire that uses orange oil compounds to better bind the its rubber compounds together, allowing improved tread life and lower rolling resistance. (For an ultra high-performance tire test we carried out earlier in the day, the retailers chose to pit BF Goodrich’s g-Force COMP-2 A/S against the Continental ExtremeContact DWS06.)
Before letting the assembled tire experts and auto journalists loose on the track, professional race car driver Andrew Comrie-Picard outlined the key features of the new tire. The T/A name goes back a long way, and BF Goodrich goes back even further: it pioneered the production of pneumatic tires in North America, and provided the tires for the first-ever coast-to-coast drive across the US back in 1903. It became the first US tire manufacturer to make radial passenger tires back in 1965, and won Watkins Glen in 1970 running Radial T/A street tires on a race-prepared Pontiac “Tirebird”.
In the new Advantage T/A Sport, BF Goodrich has brought to bear innovations developed both on the street and the race course. These include the company’s advanced tread formulations, Next Generation ETEC (Equal TEnsion Containment) system that keeps the tire footprint stable and optimized around corners and at high speed, g-Wedge sidewall stabilizer that resists lateral sidewall flex during aggressive cornering while maintaining a comfortable straight-line ride, and locking 3-D Active Sipe Technology. This last innovation features a wavy sipe cross-section that’s trickier to mould than a straight sipe, but which locks together to prevent tread distortion when cornering. (Fun fact: sipes are originally a shoe technology, familiar to boaters in the soles of their deck shoes. But sipes weren’t invented for anything as enjoyable as yachting. Instead, they were first created by a slaughterhouse worker named John Sipe, who cut slits into the soles of his shoes so he wouldn’t slip when there was blood on the floor.)
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Following Comrie-Picard’s tire technology talk we headed out for some laps around the advanced driving facility at B.C.’s Pitt Meadows Regional Airport. The test was set up to include wet pavement braking and dry pavement cornering, with tanker trucks providing the “rain” on a beautiful sunny day. And this wasn’t a gentle parade around the pylons – we were encouraged to push the cars up to and past the limits of adhesion so that we could feel how the tires behaved at the edge. “Every driver is a performance driver once in a while,” explained Comrie-Picard, “even if it’s just that one time that a car suddenly pulls out in front of you, or a child darts into the road chasing a ball. It’s on those occasions that you really need your tires to perform.”
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.
It was on my more aggressive, ragged runs that the differences between tires were most apparent. Going too hot into the decreasing radius turn the Advantage T/A Sports struggled and fought for traction, but never descended into terminal understeer, so I only flattened a few pylons near the corner’s exit. At the same excessive speed the Yokohamas transitioned abruptly to terminal understeer, causing me to plow off the course in an early and spectacular display of tortured rubber and flying pylons.
In the slalom, the Advantage T/A Sports put up a fuss when flung around violently, but the steering feel remained crisp and the tires recovered traction quickly enough after breaking loose that I was able to stay on course despite my best efforts to overcook things. The Yokohamas didn’t fare so well, suffering significantly more sidewall distortion and tread squirm when pushed too hard. This gave them a mushier steering feel than the BFGs, and meant they had a harder time recovering traction after they broke loose, with the result that the car’s electronic stability control nannies stepped in and shut down the fun before I reached the last gate.
The final test for a mid-market tire is always at the cash register, and here things get a little complicated. The Advantage T/A Sport is a new tire and not yet listed on retail websites, but it’s expected to be priced close to the tires it’s replacing. In the size we tested that shows as between $157.21 each (at Kal Tire) and $163.02 each (tiredirect.ca) for the outgoing Advantage T/A, and between $165.08 (Kal Tire) and $166.32 (tiredirect.ca) for the outgoing g-Force Super Sport.
Depending on where you shop the Yokohama Avid Ascend may be cheaper ($157.50 in the size tested at tiredirect.ca) or more expensive ($217.11 at Kal Tire). In terms of treadwear, BF Goodrich offers a 100,000 km treadwear warranty for V rated tires, while Yokohama goes with a four-year unlimited mileage warranty.
During our brief, subjective testing both tires performed well when driven within or near the limits of adhesion, but BF Goodrich Advantage T/A Sports did appear to have the edge when pushed hard to perform – and even if you only need it once to avoid an accident, that extra margin performance may be priceless.