Back in the day, there were only a handful of tire manufacturers on the block. If you were a red-blooded American with anything that put power to the pavement, you likely ran the same thing the boys at NASCAR ran—something with a winged foot on the sidewall. These days there are more tire brands on the market than doughnut varieties in the back of a county mounty’s cruiser, forcing companies like Goodyear to up their game to stay competitive. How have they done that? By putting the full brunt of their corporate presence behind research and development of tire technology, they’ve managed to produce rubber that provides performance head and shoulders above the new comers for a fraction of the coin. The newest example is the Eagle GT, an all-season performance tire. Before you go wincing away at the thought of an M+S label on your sidewall, read on for our first impressions. You just might end up as surprised as we were.
Goodyear was kind enough to put us behind the wheel of three BMW 328i’s for purpose of comparison. The first rocked Kumho’s Ecsta ASX (white), the second wore the previous generation of the Eagle GT (black) and the last was shod in the newest incarnation of the tire (red). I currently run Kumho AST’s on my daily driver/track flogger, so I was interested to see how the ASX’s held up against the Goodyears. The test track consisted of an autocross course with a series of slaloms, chicanes and sweepers, the latter of which was flooded with a light covering of water courtesy of the test tracks irrigation system (damn cool).
While our hosts recommended we leave the traction control in place during our jaunt, we figured relying on electronic nannyism on any level would dilute discoveries about each tire’s limits capabilities. Push the button, traction control off. Hands down, the Kumho’s were the most fun. In someone else’s car. On a track with at least 100 ft of run off/spin off room. With a helmet on. Even with the near-anemic straight six under the hood of the Bimmer, the tires gave up the ghost almost on demand, lending themselves to ass-out hooning on dry portions of the tarmac. On the wet, the car might as well have been wearing ice skates. Regaining control and getting the car pointed in the right direction required multiple steering, throttle and brake inputs, giving me the work out I needed to work off the burger I had on the way to the track.
Similarly, the previous generation GT’s were easy to break loose in the wet. They allowed us to carry a little more speed through the course, keeping the rear in check through most of the slalom/sweeper segments, but in general, they were on par with their Kumho competition. With any abrupt throttle or braking, wallowing slides at speed were all but inevitable.
The final ride carried the company’s newest roller. The tire utilizes a number of tricks to help keep the car planted on the pavement. Using an asymmetric tread pattern, the Eagle GT manages to combine both all-season tread blocks to handle wet and snowy conditions and a performance tread pattern with large blocks of rubber for better grip in the dry. The two are separated by uninterrupted groves that wrap around the whole tire to evacuate water as quick as possible. The coolest part of the tire is Goodyear’s Tredlock, which uses interlocking teeth between blocks of rubber. The effect is an added channel for water to escape through in a straight line and a locked, larger block of grippy goodness under lateral load (cornering).
Yeah, yeah, you can read a press release. How does it handle? The difference between the newest GT and the other two cars was impressive. The newest GT shod Bimmer stubbornly refused to give up its grip on the tarmac in the wet or dry. When it did, getting the car back under control was as simple as letting off of the throttle enough to lose some speed. The tires did the rest. For folks like me who have to deal with a rainy, slushy Virginia winter, these are a great weapon against slick conditions. They could also be a decent alternative to pricey rain tires on track days. Still, with the all-season segment of the tire nestled where high-camber tires suffer the worst abuse, we wonder how well the tire would hold up over the long haul. No worries, we’re working on a long-term test. Stay tuned.
The fine folks at the winged foot also let us play in some more entertaining vehicles. Check the gallery for shots of the hoonage.