Tire Tech: Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season
By Brandon Turkus
May 08, 2012
All-season tires aren’t generally the enthusiast’s choice for rubber, with many driver’s preferring dedicated winter and summer tires for maximum performance in each season (especially in the Snow Belt states). This isn’t necessarily a practical idea for everyone, though, and we have to admit that the idea of good year-round, do-it-all tire that can deliver an engaging driving experience is at least somewhat appealing.
With that said, we think Goodyear may be on to something. We just returned from testing the Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season, a new ultra high-performance (UHP) tire, designed for round-the-year use. While we’d still bet that there is dedicated seasonal rubber that can outperform these Goodyears, after experiencing the performance on offer we’d be quite comfortable putting these on our personal vehicles.
For the test, we headed to Kent, Washington and Pacific Raceways. Our conditions for this test were meant to be mostly dry, with only a section of the autocross being wet. Mother Nature apparently missed the memo and delivered a day of downpours, soaking car, tires, track, and driver (our driving shoes are still soggy almost a week later). First, the technical brief.
The Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season’s tread pattern is inspired by the Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2, a max-performance summer tire situated just below the top dog Eagle F1 SuperCar G:2. The outside shoulder features a modified dry grip area, for improved performance in regular driving. The inside shoulder utilizes Goodyear’s TreadLock technology, which improves water evacuation (something that would prove very important during our wet day of driving).
The tire features a tread compound that’s been optimized for both dry performance and increased grip in the wet, while a series of traction teeth deliver improved performance in snowy conditions.
To make sense of the many comparisons we made in our day of testing, we’ve split our review into segments. In each we’ll discuss the Goodyear and a competitive tire, first on the autocross where we tested the Michelin PilotSport A/S, and then on the road course where we were using the Bridgestone RE970AS Pole Position. Both of these tires are comparable UHP all-seasons.
Our test cars for the day would be BMW 328i Coupes, with automatic transmissions. Unfortunately, we were limited to using the tires in the settings indicated above, so we can’t draw very many comparisons between the Michelins and Bridgestones, as both tires were used in decidedly different driving situations.
VS: Michelin PilotSport A/S
Our first outing was on the soggy and rather basic autocross course. The majority of the course was tight, lane-change-style maneuvers, with quick left-to-right transitions. In the middle of the course was a long, wide, right-hand sweeper with a large runoff area. We designated this the drifting area, as we could safely push the tires as hard as we liked without any chance of damage to driver, car, tire, or cone (those poor little guys were abused enough).
We’d be running our BMW test cars without traction or stability control, in an effort to exercise the limits of each tire’s grip. We tested the Eagles first, followed by the PilotSports.
It should be noted that we were actively trying to break the tires loose at the autocross course to really understand the adhesion limits. This was not a time test but was rather an exercise in tire punishment, as we pushed both sets of rubber as far as they could go.
Off-the-line grip on the Goodyears was impressive, as our rear-drive BMW seemed to hook up with little protest, despite the extremely wet track. This was a pleasant surprise, as we expected a fair bit of wheel spin with the electronic nannies off.
Quick and choppy directional changes did little to upheave the grip of the F1s. More often than not, any hint of the backend stepping out was easily countered by keeping the throttle pegged to the floor.
Despite the wet conditions, the Goodyears also impressed on corner entry, as there wasn’t much of the scrub understeer that wet conditions and high-corner-entrance speeds tend to produce.
Lift-throttle oversteer and a wet track is an often messy combination, but despite our best (worst?) efforts, we had a hard time breaking the Goodyears loose. When they did finally let go, it was only after we made some hilariously bone-headed throttle inputs. The transition from gripping to not gripping was smooth and easy to interpret, thanks to the amount of feedback from the tires (most of which came through the seat of the pants).
It’s going to sound like we’re slagging off the Michelin here, so let us first say that these were some fine tires in their own right. Yes, the Goodyears were the better performers in the wet, but the Michelins weren’t so much worse that we’d rule them out, especially if there were a significant difference in price (no official MSRP for the Goodyears of this writing).
There was slightly more wheel spin off the line in the Michelins, but these tires were still quick to hook up, considering the waterlogged conditions. The PilotSports didn’t seem to handle rapid directional changes quite as well as the Eagles, and produced slightly more oversteer. Still, keeping the throttle pegged was more than enough to keep control.
Like the Goodyears, there wasn’t much in the way of understeer. We hit the big corner mid-way through the track at similar speeds for both tires, and neither one came out as a clear-cut winner.
Where the Michelin lost the fight was in the realm of oversteer. This tire gave the Bimmer a much livelier rear end, requiring greater steering corrections and extra throttle to keep the tail in line. It was faster to snap around than the Goodyear, although it still gave plenty of warning before that happened.
To be fair, either one of these tires would be a fine choice. Having been limited to wet driving, we can’t really elaborate on which would be our choice on a dry road. If you happen to live somewhere that sees a lot of rainfall over the course of the year, the Goodyears would be our choice, thanks to the extra grip, feedback, and controllability on offer.
VS: Bridgestone RE970AS Pole Position
After a day of rain, there was a lot of standing water on the track, most of which we’d be hitting at near highway speeds, making this the perfect test of both tires’ water-evacuation technology.
The track, Pacific Raceways, is a 2.25-mile, 10-turn road course with around 125 feet of total elevation change. We’ll have a full track report soon, but in the meantime, we’ll just say that this is a technical, fun-to-drive piece of asphalt.
Due to the higher speeds and limited run-off area, we’d be keeping the traction and stability control on and would have one of Pacific Raceway’s crack driving instructors in the car at all times, coaching us around the track.
After being shown the correct racing line, we were set loose to really get a feel for how the F1s and RE970s handled the higher speeds of the track. Starting off in turn 9 (our impromptu pit lane), we accelerated towards the start-finish line, gleefully splashing through puddles along the way. Turn 10 is a slight left-hand kink on to the main straight proper.
At speed, the Goodyears exuded confidence. Hitting the puddles at speed didn’t result in hydroplaning, even as we passed through turn ten. The Bridgestones tended to feel less stable through the puddles, requiring a steadier hand on the wheel, with a slight sensation of hydroplaning through the deeper puddles.
Turn 1 is a gentle, downhill, right-hander, taken at the peak of the straightaway speed. This leads into a downhill braking zone, which featured a fairly significant puddle at the start. The Goodyear’s handled this fairly easily, with only a slight squirm from the front end. The Bridgestones, on the other hand, elicited a, “Whoa!” from your author, as the nose of the car slid around under braking. The REs settled down quickly enough, but the overall experience hurt our confidence in these tires.
Our next adventure came in turns 3A and 3B, a tight pair of switchbacks that were designed to exploit the overeager driver. The Goodyears handled these quite well, even when we began taking them faster than our instructor preferred. Again, these tires needed a lot of instigation to really get out of sorts. Understeer on entrance in the late-apex 3A wasn’t an issue, while exiting 3B with a wide-open throttle didn’t result in any tail happiness. The Bridgestones tended to understeer more, scrubbing off speed as we pushed through the turn. The RE970s handled corner exit better than entrance, with only a slight flickering of the traction-control light.
The rest of the course had similar results, with the Bridgestones tending to understeer more and feel less stable through puddles. There just wasn’t much confidence to be had from these tires. The Eagles, on the other hand, delivered plenty of confidence, even when we began to actively aim for the puddles. Again, we can’t comment on which of these tires would handle dry roads better, but the Goodyears proved their talent in the wet.
After a day of driving, we feel quite comfortable ranking these three as follows: Goodyear, Michelin, Bridgestone. That being said, we didn't have an exactly equal test of all three tires, as both the Michelins and Bridgestones were limited to their respective activities. The Eagles were an excellent tire, delivering sure-footed handling on some very wet roads. They gave us a feeling of confidence that was simply absent from either of the competitor tires.
Michelin, for what it’s worth, was a close second. These tires lacked the outright grip of the F1s, under hard throttle and rapid directional changes. The result was a car that was twitchier and more of a handful. The Bridgestones had the opposite problem, as they tended to understeer when pushed, but delivered adequate grip under hard corner exits.
Goodyear has made a fine tire here, blending dynamic ability with wet-weather security and year-round usability. The Eagle F1 Asymmetric is proof that all-seasons can really bring something to the table for the driving enthusiast.