by Hib Halverson
Text and Imagery by Sharkcom
©2005 Shark Communications
No use without permission
I don't use a Corvette for daily transportation and I’ll bet the majority of the Corvette Action Center members are the same way. Most likely, a Vette is your recreation and your daily driver might be a Ford minivan, a Buick Regal or a Toyota Camry. Whatever you drive during the week still needs tires. Some of us can be pretty thrifty when we buy tires for daily drivers. Why pay top dollar to put rubber on an ordinary car, right? Well...maybe wrong.
Statistics show that you stand more of a chance of being in an automobile accident during weekday driving within five miles of home than you do driving your Corvette on weekend outings. Add inclement weather to this equation and the stats stack-up even more against you.
In many cases of impending traffic collision, an emergency evasive maneuver, such as swerving around another errant driver who's cut you off or using full ABS braking to get stopped before hitting someone who runs a red light in front of you can make the difference between wrecking and driving on with nothing more than a pumping heart. Traction—regardless of road conditions—is what you need to maintain control of the vehicle in situations like that and how much traction you have is greatly influenced your tires, a fact which may give pause to some who believe buying cheap tires for everyday, high-risk driving is a smart thing to do.
To date, my tire tests have been of ultra-performance radials on Corvettes and other performance cars or off-road tires on trucks and SUVs, however, I became curious about tires on passenger sedans when my fiancé, the Fairest Sandra the Red, needed new tires on her 1996 Toyota Camry.
Goodyear's new Assurance. For a daily-driver tire, it looks pretty sexy—somewhat like the tires used on C5s and C6es and a lot like Goodyear's benchmark, aftermarket ultra-performance tire the F1 GS-D3.
Image: Aaron Vandersommers/Goodyear
I decided to try a set of Goodyear Assurance "TripleTreds" on her car. Assurance is Goodyear’s premium, broad-market, replacement tire. While it commands more than an entry-level price, the cost doesn't seem out of line with similar products from other major tire companies, as I learned in talking with Goodyear dealer, Tucker Tire Sales in Azusa, California.
Mounting and balancing tires on daily drivers demands much of the same care used to put them on Corvettes. While this Camry has steel wheels, today, many daily drivers have aluminum wheels so modern, "wheel-friendly" tire mounting equipment is advised.
With any car, care must be used in installing tire/wheel combos. Our Camry has steel wheels and, with them, many technicians use impact wrenches to tighten the wheel nuts. This is not recommended for aluminum wheels and can be iffy for steel wheels, if the impact gun is not adjusted properly. One of the causes of warped brake rotors is overtightened wheel nuts. When impact guns are used, they must be adjusted not to overtorque the nuts and should be used to tighten in a star pattern.
In April of 2004, the Assurance replaced Goodyear's previous, premium tire, the Aquatred 3. I asked why, after marketing Aquatred through three product life-cycles, the Akron, Ohio company, which is the world's largest tire maker, discontinued a name which was familiar to consumers. Goodyear's PR Manager, Jim Davis, told me that, because some customers identified Aquatred as a rain tire, the company believed, if it changed the name, sales of its high-end, broad-market products would improve in areas where regular or significant wet weather was unusual.
The author, caught by photographer, Aaron Vandersommers, at a tire test in Florida in early February of 2004. Looking at the car's lack of roll stiffness, clearly, Buicks are not great slalom cars but they are very typical of daily driver sedans.
Image: Goodyear/Aaron Vandersommers.
The tires being compared were the Michelin HydroEdge and the Assurance
. Image: Goodyear/Aaron Vandersommers.
One reason the Assurance works really well during emergency evasive maneuvers on wet surfaces is the TripleTred Technology. The tire's Wet Zone, channels water out and away from the contact patch and the Dry Zone offers high lateral grip and improved steering response.
Image: Goodyear/Aaron Vandersommers.
The autocross environment is a reasonable test of a tire's ability to handle well during low-speed, emergency evasive maneuvering on the street. In the Buick shod with Assurance, the Author was incrementally quicker on this slalom course than he was in the same type of car fitted with Michelins.
Image: Goodyear/Aaron Vandersommers.
Goodyear claims Assurance's wet-handling capability carries on where Aquatred left off. That belief is seemingly supported by wet driving comparison tests between it, the previous Aquatred and tires made by competitors which I conducted in a test track environment in Florida when I attended the tire's media launch in early 2004.
The company's research also shows many of its customers still want good, wet traction and hydroplaning resistance, so the "rain tire" issue remains important, however, this new tire, through its so-called "Triple Tread Technology", is also better on snow and ice and has improved dry handling without compromising its capabilities in the wet. I guess you could say this new tire is an "any-weather" tire, rather than just a wet weather tire.
What is "TripleTred Technology"? This version of Assurance (there is another, less-expensive iteration called "ComforTred") has three "zones" spanning its tread width, each having specific tread configuration and compounding which Goodyear says enhance the tire's traction on different surfaces.
Assurance's Ice Zone. The interlocking tread is pretty obvious. What's not is the special tread compound which contains pumice and glass fibers.
At the center is the "Ice Zone". It's key features are an interlocking tread and a tread compound which has a mix of ground pumice and glass fibers blended into it. The pumice gives the surface of the tread a rough, texture. As the tire wears, the grit works out of the tread compound leaving tiny cavities. The very thin layer of water which covers ice when the temperature is above or near freezing migrates into these cavities allowing the tread to better contact the ice. In addition, the cavities serve as "traction edges" which further increase grip. The tiny glass fibers protrude from the rubber, making a sort of "stubble" which "digs into" the ice, aiding traction even more.
The Wet Zones work like the tread on Goodyear's benchmark F1 GS-D3 to force water out and away from the contact patch.
On either side of this Ice Zone are "Water Zones," the design of which is a little more traditional. Influenced by the tread configurations of some of Goodyear's Ultra-Performance tires, such as the F1 GS-D3, the F1 GS EMT (O.E. on C5) or the F1 GS EMT-2 (O.E. on C6), the Assurance Water Zone consists of, so Goodyear says, "...deeply-carved Aquachutes..." which force water away from the tread as it rolls on wet surfaces. This water-channeling action has been a key feature of Goodyear's racing rain tires and performance street tires for more than 20 years. Proof that racing technology improves tires we use on Toyota Camry’s and other daily drivers is that kind of special tread grooving has been common on Goodyear's up-level, broad market tires for more than ten years and, also, has been used by several, other tire companies.
The Dry Zones have a reinforced shoulder and use a tread compound derived from that on Goodyear's F1 Supercar tires used on C5 and C6 Z06es.
he outside edges of Assurance are (what else?) Dry Zones which feature reinforced shoulders for better dry traction during aggressive maneuvering around curves, potholes, unexpected road debris or stupid drivers cutting in front of you. In addition, Assurance is the only broad-market Goodyear to use a derivative of the tread compound on the F1 Supercar (on 01-04 Z06es) and F1 Supercar EMT tires (on '05 Z51s and which will be on 06 Z06es). Lastly, the mold shape of the Assurance is taken from Goodyear's ultra-performance tires and is particularly obvious when looking at the edges of this new tire.
Based on several months of subjective testing with Sandy's Camry this past winter, I think the Assurance, is a pretty darn good all-weather tire, however, the first thing I noticed after I installed them and went for a drive was nothing related to handling though it does relate to technology transfer from ultra-performance tires which I spoke about earlier. It was immediately obvious that this Assurance is noticeably quieter than the tires we replaced, a set of three-year old Aquatreds.
Our Assurance-shod Toyota Camry "at speed".
The owner of the car, Sandra the Red, is pretty-much a layperson when it comes to subjectively analyzing tire noise, but she, also, noticed this difference right away, terming the new tires, "...a lot quieter." Because the noise difference between the old Aquatred and the new Assurance was so significant, I decided to investigate a bit with an interview of three Goodyear engineers, Sam Landers, Walt Allen and Karl Sundkvist.
"One of our objectives was to reduce noise—this needed to be a quiet tire, as well as having ultimate traction," Sam Landers told the Corvette Action Center. "That came from a combination of fine-tuning of the tread design and the tire structure." More specifically, Landers said that a key enabler of this reduced noise was "...a pitch sequence which is the next generation in that technology and came from the (Eagle) F1 program."
This is one of the 195/70R14s on the Camry. Look close at the arrows which show the varied pitch sequence of the tread blocks. Each of those three blocks is a different length. That reduces annoying tire noise.
Use the term "pitch sequence" and you'll be talking like a tire deep-geek. Imagine a tire tread laid out flat. The tread blocks are such that, when the tire rolls, their length and spacing emit sound of a certain pitch. If the length and spacing, or "sequence", is the same; the tire makes a lot of noise of a certain frequency or pitch and that noise will be very noticeable. Conversely, if the pitch spacing is varied, by making the blocks and the spaces between them different lengths, the sound has a variety of pitches and sounds more like "white" noise rather than a whine, hum or rumble.
Sophisticated computer modeling and analysis are used to design this pitch sequencing and are backed up with laboratory and proving ground testing. The result is tire noise which is more like "...a waterfall or background sound which can have more (acoustic) energy," Goodyear noise expert, Karl Sundkvist elaborated, "but be less annoying than a whine with the same amount of energy. The pitch sequence was designed specifically for (the Assurance TripleTred). Because the (latest ultra-performance tread designs) are newer, we studied them more and applied some research techniques to look at what was causing the noise. From that we learned and improved the Assurance design as we were developing it."
"Contrast the TripleTred vs. the Aquatred 3," Walt Allen stated, "and you'll notice there are a number of construction features that are different and play a part in making the tire quiet. The hard apex affects that. Also, the belt wire is larger and this tire has an overlay which the Aquatred 3 did not have."
Sam Landers added, "We were trying to get that tread area, the foundation of the tire, as stiff and as stable as possible. That improves handling, steering response and it also improves the noise. If you make the tire structure stiffer the tire vibrates differently—has a different resonance. There isn't as much noise transmitted. You have two steel belts which are at slight angles—five degrees or around there—relative to the tire centerline. The overlay is at zero degrees. It's wound circumferentially around the tire. The belts are steel and the overlay is nylon. It acts as a restrictor layer which is normally put on high-speed/high-performance tires. It's stiffens the crown area, reducing noise, and makes the tire more responsive to steering input."
The business end of the Assurance showing the F1 GS-D3-like tread. Under that tread is the nylon overlay which stabilizes the the tire making it more rigid and less likely to transmit noise of the pitch that is annoying.
It’s pointless to drive a base-level, Toyota Camry to the same limits to which I’d test a set of performance tires like I’ve reviewed elsewhere on the Corvette Action Center, but in brisk driving around town, the Camry felt more responsive to steering input and had more lateral grip in turns than it did when shod with Aquatred 3s. These new tires noticeably improved the car’s dry handling because some their Eagle F1-derived features are valuable in many ordinary driving situations.
Where Assurance also shines is in bad weather. The winter of 2005 brought a deluge of rainfall to Southern California–so much rain that eight-months into the July-to-June, "rain year", we'd had almost three times the rain than we get in an average year and were in-reach of the all-time record, 38-in., set in 1886. In late-February, the third major winter storm blew in off the Pacific bringing 15-in. of rain to certain areas of Southern California. My fiancé lives in the seaside town of Goleta about 10 miles west of Santa Barbara. When it rains in Southern California, Goleta can get drenched and this storm was a soaker. What better time to go wet test these new tires?
I jumped on US 101, headed west, along the coast, towards Gaviota and cruised at the speed limit for a while. In spite of a constant, moderate-to-heavy rain, the car felt like the road was hardly wet. Then, I decided to take it up to 80. At that speed, the car still felt pretty good. The tires were doing an excellent job of channeling water away from the contact patch. While I felt the car slow—then I just gave it more gas—when the strongest downpours put a thick layer of rainwater on the road; I felt no hydroplaning. Even through shallow standing water in some spots or drainage flows across the highway, these tires seemed to cut through the water, and stick to the road like glue. In fact, I became more concerned about the Camry’s overworked windshield wipers, which were making a furious attempt to keep the windshield partially, clear than the tires hydroplaning.
Besides having a tread that works quite well on any road condition, dry, wet or frozen, as we said before; the Assurance looks really sexy, with it's deep, angled, Aquachutes and performance tire, mold shape. Goodyear tells us, this is one reason for its big sales success.
The storm became a pounding deluge. Offshore, to the south, I saw lightning strikes on the water. Wind buffeted the car back-and-forth across lanes. Rain and even a little hail rattled on the windshield and the top. This became more a loosing battle for the wipers against an ever-increasing torrent of rain and, with visibility getting pretty bad so I lifted bit and reestablished a 60-mph pace.
I reached Gaviota, turned around and, on the drive back to Goleta, continued severe weather kept me at about 60 because of the visibility. As I rolled along with the wipers on high, I thought about these tires. Goodyear backs the Assurance with an 80,000 mile tread life, limited warranty and a 30-day, no obligation "trial period".
This warranty, the trial period and that Assurance is seemingly an “any-weather” tire, seems to appeal to consumers buying premium, broad-market, replacement tires. Supporting that belief is that Goodyear's Jim Davis stated in a follow-up interview just before this article was posted on the Corvette Action Center that actual sales of the Assurance, since it was launched in the early Spring of '04, are twice what the company projected. Goodyear's dealers can get enough of them and Goodyear's plants are working overtime to meet demand.
While the TripleTreds didn’t turn this Camry into a Corvette—although the weather tried to turn it into a submarine—it sure did improve its handling in the wet and the dry such that anyone driving feels more confident. Plus—they are quieter.
If you've got a passenger sedan as a daily driver, you're going to be safer if you have the Goodyear Assurance with TripleTred Technology.