Auto Service World
Feature   August 1, 2013   by Jim Anderton, Technical Editor

An Eagle for All Seasons

There was a time when European sport sedans carried unique fitments that essentially forced owners into high-performance tires. Premium tires on competent sedans have always been a good mix, in both consumer satisfaction and dealer margins....

There was a time when European sport sedans carried unique fitments that essentially forced owners into high-performance tires. Premium tires on competent sedans have always been a good mix, in both consumer satisfaction and dealer margins. Today, the environment is a lot more crowded. Not only is the owner of a small Mercedes or BMW able to source cheaper import alternatives to OEM rubber, but it’s frequently possible to “trade down” to tires with a lower than OEM-spec speed rating, even from Big Three manufacturers. For the dealer, they still look round and black, so Goodyear’s new premium touring entry, the Eagle Sport All Season is a welcome answer for dealers looking for a way to push back against commodity thinking (and pricing) in the showroom.

Positioning the new product within the Eagle brand is a smart move for Goodyear, making it easier for dealers and consumers to visualize the tire as a significant step up from mainstream low profile offerings, including some fitments from Goodyear’s own Assurance line. That’s especially important today as the spread of low profile tires to relatively pedestrian vehicles like Toyota’s Camry and the Honda Accord creates a possible size overlap with similar sized, but more upscale, European and Japanese touring cars. A distinctive tread pattern helps on the tire wall, but the ability to strongly differentiate the Eagle from other fitments will help in front of the consumer.

This segment doesn’t sell on price and Eagle Sport All Season tires are no exception; so Goodyear has engineered the product with an array of technologies. An asymmetrical tread pattern is almost mandatory for very high-performance tires these days and the new Eagle is no exception, with aggressive, angled tread blocks and sipes that extend to full tread depth. Tread compounds are the “secret sauce” of the tire industry, but Goodyear will state that the tread contains significant amounts of silica allowing a reasonable tread life in a sticky, performance tire. An interesting design attribute is a footprint optimized for light vehicle loading. Since very little spirited driving happens with passengers and a full load of luggage, this would seem like an obvious win, and Goodyear has factored this, along with much reduced vehicle weight due to smaller engines and lighter materials, into a touring car product with strongly sporting pretensions.  A beefy rim protector acknowledges the other reality of the premium touring segment: alloy wheels which can cost more for a single replacement than an entire set of tires.

So how does it drive? SSGM wrung out the Eagle Sport All Season at the fabled Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Phoenix, in Audis and very fast Cadillac sedans, typical fitments for the tire. Bob Bondurant himself (a Le Mans winner and Ferrari Formula One driver), was there for moral support, but mercifully didn’t stick around to watch the circus. Instead, the journalists were teamed with Bondurant instructors, but in the hands of both professionals and rank amateurs, the new Eagle was grippy in the wet and dry tests and significantly, didn’t mind whether the front or rear wheels were driven. As the test vehicles were high-end machines, terminal understeer wasn’t designed into the suspension geometry, since sophisticated stability control was available. Turning the fun killers off, however, showed that the tire turned in crisply with no appreciable squirm, in part due to short, stiff sidewalls. There’s plenty of lateral g-force available for the talented, but even when provoked with late braking, missed apexes and injudicious use of brake and throttle, the Eagle Sport All Seasons kept the action on the asphalt. Even with wide runoff areas and a flat circuit, there’s more ultimate grip available than almost any driver will use, even on a road course. Unlike Ultra High Performance rubber, the ride was comfortable and quiet; the combination of a silica-heavy tread compound and deep, complex sipes even generated a little tire squeal on severe low speed maneuvers on the damp surface pad, a sure sign that the tread is reaching down to find grip. Goodyear claims enhanced ice and snow performance as well, which is OK in Virginia, but in Canada no one owning a vehicle that can properly use these tires should be winter driving without dedicated rubber on a second set of wheels. That doesn’t mean that the low temperature flexibility is wasted however, as the cold/wet grip will come in very handy in early spring and late fall. The new Eagle is available in 47 sizes with V and W-speed ratings and carries Goodyear’s 80,000 km limited tread life warranty. For the driver who wants much of the performance of a UHP tire but drives the car every day, the Eagle Sport All Season will be a good fitment for sports sedans and coupes and, with 47 sizes, has upsell possibilities for many mainstream sedans as well.

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