Getting Power to the Pavement

By Editors on October 13, 2009 12:24 PM

All most of us know about tires is that they're black and they're round. But as the only source of contact between your car and the road, they perform several vital functions. We recently had a chance to renew our familiarity with these critical concepts at Bridgestone's Drive & Learn "The Classroom Behind the Wheel" program. This program is a half-day session designed to educate dealers and members of media about tire safety, as well as evaluate a few of the offerings from Bridgestone's tire line. In the classroom, the instructors stressed that proper tire inflation and regular rotation will prolong tread life and help with achieving good gas mileage. Then, after a brief overview of tires that we'd be testing for the day, it was time to burn some rubber.

We had the chance to test a variety of Bridgestone tires on some 2008 BMW 328i sedans -- which was not only fun but instructive. Comparing tires in nearly identical conditions is virtually impossible for most drivers, but we had that opportunity. A wet autocross course was set up so that we could get a better understanding of how each tire handled when pushed to the extreme. While testing the Insignia SE200, Potenza G019 Grid, Potenza RE960 all-seasons and the Potenza RE 760 Sport tires, we noticed that each series gripped better on the wet pavement as we moved up the line. The Insignia SE200 tires made the car slide more in the turns, causing some understeer, which was expected as they were meant to everyday street driving purposes, rather than tight racetrack corners with quick acceleration out of turns. The G019 Grid tires kicked the traction up a notch, making the car more controllable in the corners and even giving it more traction when getting up to speed in the straights. The RE 960 all-season tires felt especially solid, keeping the car very stable and allowing us to gain noticeable speed in almost all areas of the course. Lastly, the RE760 tires made driving the BMW even more fun -- turning response, cornering ability and recovering traction were clearly improved, giving the car the utmost confidence on the course. Yes, there is a difference between tire grades.

In specifying tires for your car, you should keep in mind your driving style, because tires have different attributes. If you're interested in high fuel economy, your tire choice will be different from the enthusiast seeking the ultimate in grip and cornering. Simply paying more doesn't guarantee that you'll get the best tire for your purposes either.