Tyres are one of the most misunderstood and least appreciated components of a car.
Surprisingly, considering they are the only part of a car that is in contact with the road, they are often known as a “stress purchase” – usually driven by necessity rather than desire.
Yet your choice of tyre and how it’s maintained can affect everything from handling to economy, and stopping distance to comfort and refinement.
So we accepted an invitation from Goodyear to an event launching the brand’s the Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV – an “ultra-high-performance tyre for SUVs”.
The venue was the global tyre giant’s 5.3-mile Mireval test track (one of four worldwide) and proving ground near Montpellier in France.
Our aim was to unlock some of the mysteries of tyres, because there’s more to them than meets the eye.
Goodyear gave us the chance to drive Range Rover Velars in four workshops – dry handling, wet handling, slalom & braking and wet braking, plus an insight into the construction of the new tyre.
Already fitted as original equipment (OE) to the Jaguar E-Pace, Alfa Romeo Stelvio and DS 7 Crossback, the new Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV is aimed at the flood of SUV buyers – the fastest growing light vehicle segment in Europe.
In the past five years vehicle manufacturers have introduced 64 new SUV models, says Goodyear, with a further 40 already scheduled for launch.
Goodyear reckons its new Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV tyre meets the needs of SUV/4×4 owners by offering confident braking and handling, making SUVs safer and more like driving regular cars. A feat that’s easier said than done because they are heavier, higher and have to be able to tackle a variety of surfaces.
The three key features of the new tyre are:
- ActiveBraking Technology for “shorter braking distances on dry and wet roads”
- Grip Booster Technology for “excellent grip for braking and handling”
- Optimized Construction Technology for “stable handling at higher speeds”
The slalom and braking test in a Range Rover Velar 300 diesel (fitted with Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV – 255/50R20 109 Y XL tyres) demonstrated the stability the new tyre can offer a vehicle like the Velar, which is no lightweight.
The Range Rover seemed surprisingly agile, while the stopping distance at the end of the high-speed sprint was equally impressive.
Next up was the wet braking test in which we pitted the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV tyre against a competitor brand (Michelin Latitude Sport 3) in an artificially flooded straight track complete with hi-tech measuring equipment.
Again using a Range Rover Velar 300 diesel, in our tests, the new Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV stopped around 1.5-2.0 metres shorter than the competitor tyre. It was also noticeable that the Goodyear-shod Velar came to a halt relatively effortlessly, while the other Velar fitted with the competitor tyre pitched slightly under heavy breaking.
“Braking is one of the most important aspects of a tyre, especially on wet roads,” said Goodyear’s Mike Rytokoski. ”
“That’s why we are delighted that tests show that our Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV has such a significant shorter braking distance on wet and dry roads compared to our main competitors.”
Our third workshop took us to the dry handling circuit. This time we drove the more powerful Range Rover Velar 380 petrol.
The Velar isn’t a natural track car, but stiffened up in Dynamic Mode it seemed planted with excellent traction – quite a feat considering the tricky track layout which included sharp corners, chicanes and multiple elevations.
The final and most impressive test for me was on the challenging inner wet handling circuit. This time we dropped down to the lower-powered Range Rover Velar 240 diesel, which was just the right amount of power to exploit the new tyre’s superb grip, handling and wet braking characteristics.
The amount of confidence the car/tyre combo offered was astonishing. For instance, the final straight puncutuated by a kink could be taken on full throttle in the total wet.
Science behind the tyre
So how did Goodyear do it? Well, tyres aren’t just moulded rubber with a hole in the middle.
Starting with the compound itself, there are more than 20 ingredients including natural rubber, silica, resins, polymers and carbon.
The Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV’s clever Grip Booster Technology features an adhesive compound which actively increases stickiness and contact with the road’s surface.
SUV Optimized Construction delivers a more robust and lightweight tyre thanks to a new tread pattern and UHP Cool Cushion Layer to improve handling and reduced rolling resistance to enhance fuel efficiency.
Look at a tyre’s cross section and you will see steel belts (to reinforce strength and provide rigidity), plus cords for added strength, puncture resistance, and durability.
The new Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV features new cords (some made of Kevlar) in the various layers of construction to improve tread wear, cornering stiffness and handling at higher speeds.
Verdict: As with most products, if you opt for one of the premium brands it will cost you more, but with tyres especially, you get what you pay for.
The RRP of the smallest sized Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV tyre (235/65R17 104W EAG F1 ASY 3 SUV AR) is £198.99 each. The RRP of the 255/50R20 109 Y XL fitted to the Velars we tested is £312.99.
This may seem a lot, but perhaps the fairest way to look at it is to consider how much you would consider paying for an optional extra on a car which may only enhance its looks and have no effect on safety, handling and economy?
The new Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 3 SUV was certainly impressive during our tests, adding a whole new level of confidence and engagement to the Velar’s already involving driving experience.