Getting to grips with Firestone's longer lasting Roadhawk
How much extra protection does a bit of rubber offer? Phil Huff finds out...
What’s the difference between a good tyre and a great tyre? Firestone is convinced that its new Roadhawk tyre is top of the class, so set up a series of tests to compare it to a close rival, the Uniroyal Rainsport.
This was no timed hot-lap Top Gear style shoot out, but a replication of conditions we all find in the UK on an all too frequent basis, using a perfectly ordinary diesel powered Volkswagen Golf.
Some emergency braking from around 60mph highlighted the extra grp offered by the Firestone, with the Roadhawk shod car stopping in around 38.4 metres. That’s some 16.6 metres less than the Highway Code suggests it’ll take, but it was also around two metres quicker than the Uniroyal managed.
There was a similar difference on a roundabout that’s been created for us and then soaked by water jets running constantly. Firestone had worn both sets of tyres down over 12,500 miles of real-world driving, to better represent performance of year-old tyres. Again, the Firestone tyres edged ahead, gripping the surface at higher speeds before breaking away gradually.
A more disconcerting test was carried out on track, where a fast, sweeping bend had a stream of water running across it, something that can happen on virtually any road. While travelling at around 60mph, both sets of tyres gripped well, but once they hit the water the difference was marked. The Uniroyal tyre almost gave up, sending the Golf drifting wide and leaving me unable to make the lane marked out with cones. In contrast, while the Firestone’s were affected by the water, extra steering lock was all that was needed to get the car back on line.
The marketing team at Firestone will be happy with the results, but it’s always entertaining to speak to the engineers instead. Reassuringly, while the tests were clearly geared towards a favourable result, they were all very real, but what is interesting is the relative performance; after being worn down by 12,500 miles, there was less tread depth on the Uniroyal tyre which goes some way to explaining its poorer performance in the wet. However, when new the performance is almost identical, and that holds true mm by mm of tread. The real difference is in wear rates, and that’s where the Roadhawk excels.
It’s not a tyre to tackle a track day, but for an ordinary touring tyre at a sensible price, the Roadhawk is a class leader in terms of grip, costs no more than its rivals, and wears out more slowly. The difference between budget and premium brands is marked, but Firestone is blurring the lines in the middle ground.
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