RUBBER SOUL SEARCHING
Pirelli vs Yokohama vs Bridgestone
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Oct 3, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by John Grafman
The world of tires is a bit like the latest, trendy beverage. There’s a whole lot of hype, and you don’t really know what you’re going to get until it’s too late.
Oh sure, there’s reviews from those that plunk down good money to put some new rubber on their baby. Typically, these reviews are coming from a consumer that only had a well-worn set to compare it to. So, most of the time the new set by default will be a step in the right direction, and that throws any hope of a helpful review out the window.
Of the several worthy brands on the market, we gathered a set of three curiously interesting tires. Pirelli came to play with the P-Zero Run-flat tires. Yokohama is touting its new Advan Neova AD08 R. The final player is Bridgestone with the RE-11.
And, in an effort to provide full disclosure, the tires evaluated for this article were all provided to the staff of LA Car (as they are to many enthusiast publications) directly by the manufacturers for our direct back-to-back comparisons of their products. The full results and our real world driving observations follow.
To keep this as fair as possible, we use the supremely competent installation of CEC Wheels in Los Angeles. Claus Ettensberger and his team have been working on some of the most elite automobiles since 1990. Furthermore, you won’t find anyone more enthusiastic than Claus, regardless of the car, from Mini to Maserati.
Just to prove the point, we once again enlist a trusty Mini Cooper as our test mule for the tire evaluation. The Cooper has several things going for it. Besides the fact many Angelenos find this to be a wonderful commuter car, the go-kart like handling allows us to get some decent feedback on each set, without the expense of a Lotus, Ferrari, or Porsche.
Plus, we won’t have the temptation to fling the car about at hypersonic speeds, thereby requiring us to be dodging the long arm or the law, or fretting over bent sheet metal or fractured carbon fiber. We are also plenty confident that the Stoptech brakes and the Escort Passport radar detector will allow us to conduct business unfettered.
Each set of tires is the same size, 205/45/17, which is the factory optional size wheel and tire combo. Unlike virtually any other tire test, this isn’t a contest, and we won’t be awarding any gold, silver, or bronze medals here today. Instead, we want to simply and honestly uncover the benefits of each in real world driving situations.
Just as no parent says they favor one child over another, we really didn’t have any expectations coming into this, thus we could have three outstanding products to compliment, or three duds.
Each tire is being put through its paces with rigorous daily driving activities, from running errands, to extensive freeway driving over various surfaces. Plus, we use our secret spot in the Malibu canyons to really push these tires as hard as we dare. And speeds range from slow crawls to closing in on significantly higher speeds on open highways. And, the results actually surprised us.
The first set CEC Wheels installs is the Pirelli P-Zero Run Flat.
Yes, we are letting the cat out of the bag. Forget everything you’ve been told before about run-flat tires, or at least as it applies to the Pirelli and the P-Zero, as these are simply amazing!
Common wisdom concerning run-flat tires is, stiffer sidewalls allow these to run on little to no air will in turn lead to a rough and noisy ride. Well, the P-Zero is an uncommon tire. It didn’t take long to realize that the Pirellis were the quietest tires we’ve ever had on this Cooper. Ever! Certainly, the Italians did their homework. So, how could this be possible?
On close inspection we do notice these are constructed with a sidewall visually differs from the other tires in our group. In profile, the sidewall is not a flat, vertical section, but has a rather curved section to it. Aside from that, only the wording on the tire itself set it visually apart from most tires.
When driving over less than ideal surfaces these tires absorb sound more. Even roadways with bumps and holes it won’t transfer the irregularities into the passenger compartment. Or, at least it keeps it to a bare minimum.
The special silica and carbon black tread rubber compound seems to absorb sounds that would also be noticeable. Special nano-composites in the compound below the tread also prevent the casing from deterioration. According to Pirelli, the P-Zero Run Flats have twin steel belts reinforced by polyamide cord plies and an integration of nylon and aramid cord that manages tire profile deformation and stabilizes the tread area to enhance high-speed capability and handling.
The Mini does have a somewhat stiff suspension, and it isn’t at all uncommon to have noise issues. The P-Zeros are clearly special, but these Pirelli run-flats are actually even more unique. The sidewall is embellished with a star designation. Those denote a special series that BMW approves for its cars. We can’t say that those without the star symbol are dramatically different, as we don’t have a set for comparison. Nevertheless, the Pirelli P-Zero Run-flat rides totally counter to the negative stigma associated with run-flats.
Now, the ride quality in itself is reason to rejoice. But the good news doesn’t end there. Pirelli endows the P-Zero with performance characteristics that are not lost on the Mini Cooper. Taking this on tight, little explored canyons off of Mulholland Highway in Calabasas and Malibu instills a sense of confidence.
Over more than 700 miles, the rubber is squealing only on the rarest of occasions and only slightly gives up its hold. However, over a lengthy period it became obvious that the curved section also allows for a slight amount of roll. The tire tread pattern does have a bit of squish, so steering input isn’t as crisp as some other tires. Nevertheless, the P-Zeros are substantially better than we could ever have hoped for.
Steve Carpino, VP R&D of Pirelli NAFTA Region, tells us, “Poor ride comfort was one of the major obstacles to acceptance by the OEMs to the use of run-flat tires. This was the situation 10 years ago, with only limited usage of run-flat tires on the market.
“As a supplier to BMW, we continued to develop our tires in several key areas to meet the requirements of the BMW and their customers. The existing materials technology did not allow a design with a comfortable ride, while maintaining the run-flat mileage required by BMW.”
Steve continues, “This constraint was the driving force to develop new and innovative materials with different properties that could be used in a new generation of tire designs.
“We use these new materials to develop new compounds which allow us much more flexibility to change the internal tire design (sidewall thickness/profile/etc), and tune the overall performance of the tire in a way that was not previously possible.”
But, don’t just take Steve Carpino’s word for it, or ours. The Tire Rack’s web site does offer a rather comprehensive review of tires from consumers. Oddly, or maybe not, responses to the P-Zero’s are all over the map. While the average rating, based on over a half-million miles, gave the Pirellis the highest ranking of Superior in Cornering Stability, Dry Traction, and Steering Response. It only achieved an Excellent ranking of 7.5 (on a 10 scale, the second highest level on Tire Rack) in both Noise, and Ride Quality. Of course, these reviewers rarely have the same comparison opportunities we are privilege to have.
Here’s just a few of the many comments on the Tire Rack web site. “There is little road noise, wear has been good, and handling is good, but I have never driven the car with any other tires.” claims a spirited Albuquerque, New Mexico driver of a BMW 435i M Sportline with 17,000 miles on his set.
And, a 2007 Mini Cooper S driver in Plano, Texas also says, “Very quiet ride. Super-smooth tires. I couldn't be more pleased!”
On the other side of the coin, a nameless Atlanta driver with a 2013 Mini Cooper S Roadster and 5,500 miles on the P-Zero states, “They work wonders as far as stickiness to the road. Only complaint that I truly have is the noise levels.”
Given enough respondents it’s not too difficult to find at least a couple reviews that contradicts the others.
These run-flats do have one small problem. The latent issue involves cold weather uses. The Pirelli P-Zero tires, as well as other summer performance tires, don’t like temps nearing zero degree, and this can lead to damaging the rubber itself. Hardly an issue right now, as the heatwave in the Western USA doesn’t want to relinquish its grip on. However, as we all know, everything changes given enough time.
After a few months, the P-Zero feels like a blend of performance and all-season tires. As horrible as the roads are in Los Angeles, it’s easy to fall in love with these Italians.
Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 R
We have to yield the Pirelli P-Zero Run Flat for our next set - the Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 R. We say good-bye to the amazing Pirelli P-Zeros a bit misty-eyed.
Claus at CEC Wheels is here to oversee the comparison. As before, the install is smooth as silk. While the install takes minimal time, there’s barely enough time to full appreciate the various and impressive wheels in stock in his upscale Santa Monica Boulevard facility.
CEC Wheels, in business for 25 years, bears little resemblance to an average automobile tire and wheel retailer. Claus Ettensberger is one of the leaders that brought the industry out of the dark, rough, and frankly scary shops that had a trustworthy factor that was about on par with used car dealers and slippery, local politicians. All hail Claus!
The Yokohama also had a surprise for us as well. In the past, the Yokohamas S-Drive tires we’ve tested gave up their grip early. Sure, the predictability of those would have been nice for drifting. But, drifting in a front-wheel drive car isn’t a good idea, unless you wish to test the understanding of your insurance company.
The holding power of the Advan Neova AD08 R left a smile on our face from ear to ear. Yes, this is what the doctor ordered, especially if the doctor is a card-carrying member of the SCCA.
Take a good look at how these are constructed. Unlike the typical block tread pattern, or some deviation of that, these look more like a tire on a concept car where the tread pattern was milled out of the rubber, rather than molded into it. On first blush you question the methodology and presentation of the Advan Neova AD08 R. But after a few minutes with these, they might just change your mind.
According to Yokohama, the AD08 R are an amalgamation of twin steel belts reinforced by polyamide cord plies and an melding of nylon and aramid cord that controls tire profile deformation and stabilizes the tread area, enhancing high-speed capability and handling. Twin circumferential center ribs and extra-wide Uniblock shoulders are engineered to increase cornering stability and steering response. An autopsy of the Advan Neova AD08R would expose an internal structure that includes two wide steel belts reinforced by spirally wound nylon to provide strength and high-speed capability. The sidewalls are reinforced with steel cord inserts to resist lateral deflection and enhance control and cornering stability.
“The ADVAN Neova AD08R tires are the third generation of ADVAN Neova tires in the USA. From the ADVAN Neova AD07 through the AD08 and now to the AD08R, Yokohama has advanced street performance to incredible levels.” according to Bob Abram, Yokohama Product Planning Manager.
Bob continues, “The tread and construction is an evolution of the original AD07, designed to achieve even more speed and grip. The latest key upgrade is the new MS Compound 2R which uses: more Carbon for dry grip, Micro Silica for improved wet grip, Orange Oil which enhances surface adhesion and a Macromolecule Blended Polymer for improved rigidity and resistance to wear.
“These improvements sacrifice nothing in comparison to past max performance tires, however in comparison to more traditional tires, the ride will be firm and the longevity will be commensurate with the level of grip.”
After numerous jaunts over the same hills of Calabasas and Malibu, the Yokohamas keep feeling better by the mile. In fact, we continued to push these for over 1,300 miles (in part due to a delay mid-testing, necessary for a transmission replacement and a new clutch. A well-known weak spot in the Mini in combination with hard driving). These simply have no squish and the tire response is nearly immediate, minus anything caused by the steering system.
The lack of a clear, linear strip of rubber and groove that circumnavigates the tire surface means that there is very little resistance to turning. On the other hand, these lack the ability to stay on center. Fortunately, these don’t wander aimlessly in either direction. Our impression is, if you aren’t looking for that on-center feel, you may not even notice.
Roll, what roll? Isn’t that something you find at a deli? These Yokohamas are solid confidence builders. There is no outer-limit to what these can handle. On street surfaces these hold on for dear life and never give up (no tracks are involved with this test, as really so few drivers have access to that). It’s almost impossible to get these ultra-stickies to break loose on any road we encounter, and the warning lights for ABS or traction control never once suggest we cool it.
On the other hand, these amplified the road. Sections of smooth, asphalt freeway produce pleasing results. Concrete creates a notable drumming sound. And, as road conditions depreciate, so does the ride quality. And, relatively minor bumps and potholes result in bangs and unhappy sounds.
But, the deficiencies are easy to overlook in the Cooper as the fun-factor is off the chart. These beg to be driven hard. Really hard! We drill-on. These Yokohamas don’t buckle or get squirrelly under pressure.
The virtues of the AD08 R really come to the forefront in the canyon portion of the Las Virgenes Road - on the way from the 101 (Ventura Freeway) to Surfrider Beach in Malibu. With an ambulance meaning business, hot on the heels of the Cooper, and with no turn-offs available, the only solution is to put the pedal to the metal. At least this legally unacceptable behavior is undertaken for the benefit of the EMT. Needless to say, it only takes a couple turns before a sizable gap begins to open up between us.
To put it mildly, the Advan Neova enhances the already kart-like handling of the Mini. The transformation with the AD08s reminds me of slot cars for grown-ups! Granted, the Cooper has a hamster on a wheel in place of where a motor should be. Yes, the Mini Cooper with the base powerplant could use more juice. However, the grip in corners with the Yokohama AD08 R tires means less braking and being able to maintain momentum. This allows the coupe to come alive.
The reviews on Tire Rack are again subject to debate. The rankings show that after 80K miles on various cars the ADVAN Neova AD08 R are superior in the same categories as the Pirellis are, plus Wet Traction. Also, steering response is rated at 9.4 out of 10, which is damn impressive for a street tire.
One spirited driver of a 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STI with 1,200 miles on his set of AD08 R on Tire Rack site boasts, “Looks amazing on the Car. Great feedback. These might be over kill since I do not track or auto cross them. But in twisty central PA back roads, these are just amazing in the summer tires.”
Another reviewer in Washington from the same website coming claims, “Bought these tires to replace my old AD08's. They are a definite improvement over the older version. I track and auto-x and can say you can't go wrong unless you go to a true R compound.”
Similarly, a Sunnyvale, California owner on with a 2014 Subaru BRZ Limited that uses the Yokohamas for tracking and auto-crossing exclaims, “I got a pair of these tires after some Michelin Pilot Super Sports. In comparison, these tires are amazing on the track”. Surprisingly, that’s his or her review after 5,000 miles of pushing the Advan tires hard!”
The bottom line is you have to take the good with the bad. No, the Yokohamas don’t do everything right in terms of ride comfort, but when it comes to performance driving the Advan Neovas will never be an issue.
Bridgestone Potenza RE-11
Back to CEC Wheels for the final install. I can see that Claus is just as interested in hearing how the trio shapes up as much as we are. Again, the change-out is quick and error-free.
We’ve seen knuckleheaded installs from shady tire dealers before. This is in direct contrast to the expertise at CEC with the prior sets and the new set of Bridgestones. Perhaps it’s not brain surgery, but, it’s nearly as critical.
We’ve been smitten with the Bridgestone Potenzas RE-01 tires in the past, and our RE-11 are the evolution of those. The RE-01s from a few years back struck a cord with us for the blend of handling and comfort. So, the expectation is, these should fare well.
The last time we faced-off the Bridgestones against two other brands (BF Goodrich and Yokohama), it was easy to fall for the ’Stones. But, this time it’s a tough call with heady brands and tires in the comparison.
The Potenza RE-11 tires do recall some of the goodness of the RE-01. These are summer performance tires that transfer less noise than the Yokohamas. Drivers can push these Potenzas as hard as they dare, and not a peep! The RE-11 tires are providing the confidence that any enthusiast would find gratifying.
This pilot is experiencing neither howling nor faltering grip while going gonzo in the canyons. Also, the amount of noise or hum on all road surfaces is less obvious than the Yokohamas, but distinctly more than the Pirellis. Of course, every driver has his or her own threshold of pain. And, the Mini doesn’t exactly have the Get Smart “Cone of Silence” feature when it comes to the interior. What is obvious in the Cooper might be dumbed-down in many other cars, but still exists.
Bridgestone reveals the secrets behind the RE-11. These are the first Potenza street tire that uses Bridgestone's 3D Seamless Stealth technology originally found in its Formula 1 and GP2 racing tires. The Potenza RE-11 has, like the others in this comparison, an asymmetric tread pattern, but this combines massive outboard independent shoulder blocks interlocked with a notched circumferential intermediate rib. In other words, the RE-11s are providing the lateral stiffness required to enhance steering response and improve dry cornering grip. Two wide steel belts reinforced by spirally wound nylon work in tandem offering strength, uniform ride quality, along with the ability to exercise high-speed performance.
While it isn’t obtrusive, these Bridgestone tires provide more straight-line stability than the Yokohamas. The difference is minimal, but it’s there.
Tire Rack’s ratings on the Potenza RE-11s amazingly reflect over two million miles of use. The performances in dry conditions are phenomenal with ratings of 9.2-9.5 for Cornering, Traction, and Steering Response categories. Noise and Ride Quality are both excellent, and each score 8.2 on the zero-to-ten scale. In comparison, the Yokohamas only managed an 8.0 in Ride Quality, and 7.6 for Noise.
Back on Tire Rack, a fellow Mini pilot with a Cooper S in New Jersey with 12,000 miles of spirited motoring declares, “These are the grippiest tires on dry roads I have ever owned. They were great for my everyday driving, and back road jaunts, as well as in Auto-X and several road rallies including one on US-129 (the Dragon) where they refused to let go of the road... My last tire was the BF Goodrich G-Force T/A KDW and although I liked them at the time, they are not even in the same league as this tire... I think I am Bridgestone (convert) for life!”
And the RE-11 will handle power too, as expressed by this review on Tire Rack by this 2009 Aston Martin Vantage owner in Canada with 2,500 miles traveled. “Impressive tire. Soaks up lots of track abuse, on a heavy car, and comes back for more! I imagine the gains with R compounds over this tire would be marginal. Yet it is perfectly drivable on the street (if you can live with the noise). As of today, probably as close as you can get to the perfect tire for a dual purpose street/track car.”
The Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 does provide a more conventional tread design, and able to handle less than track-like conditions. The se-sawing effect of onshore and offshore wind is causing small amounts of dirt to come sliding off the step and barren canyon walls.
Nevertheless, coming into this from around blind corners didn’t freak out the Potenza or this driver. The Potenzas are compliant with last second changes in direction to avoid road debris.
Sadly, the weather is uncooperative with this testing, to say the least. The lack of rain isn’t allowing us to test these in the wet. Both the Bridgestones and the Pirellis have a tread pattern that appears to be useful in the wet. Alas, we won’t know until maybe later this year, if and when the drought abates. However, The online reviews on Tire Rack from those in damper climates could offer a few clues.
This grouping from Bridgestone, Pirelli, and Yokohama doesn’t have any losers, and depending on the situation we’d definitely consider installing any of these on our cars on a permanent basis. What this really shows is, there is no perfect tire anymore than there’s a perfect car for all occasions. But, the right choice can turn a good car into a great ride!
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For more information about Pirelli products, go to pirelli.com/tires
For more information about Yokohama products, go to yokohamatire.com
For more information about Bridgestone products, go to bridgestonetire.com
For more information about Tire Rack, go to tirerack.com
For more information about CEC Wheels in Los Angeles, go to cecwheels.com