Goodyear's new Eagle Sport All Season intends to be many things to many people. Slotting into a performance category just below their F1 Asymmetric All Season, the Eagle Sport is designed as an HP rather than a UHP tire, meaning that it gives up some pure performance and grip for a smooth ride and some winter capability. This puts the Eagle Sport into a category with tires such as the Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval AS or the Bridgestone Potenza RE97AS, and replaces Goodyear's former offering in this category, the Eagle GT. Although pricing is not yet available, it should be priced considerably lower than the F1 Asymmetric.
Goodyear flew me and quite a few other people out to Arizona to test their new tires at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. As I always say, it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it. The Bondurant School, just outside Pheonix, means 3 things; hot cars, a hot track and OMG it's just bloody hot. With temperatures climbing quickly into triple digits, we were all unreasonably keen to climb into air-conditioned Audi A4's to try the tires on an nicely differentiated autocross course with both dry and wet sections, low-speed and high-speed slaloms and an area for hard braking. On the whole, they performed quite admirably.
- Crisp and precise handling.
- Tremendous lateral thrust.
- Very good acceleration and braking.
- Arizona is not the best place to test winter grip.
- TripleTred Technology:
Three tread zones – Water, Dry and Ice – deliver a wide range of traction in changing conditions:
- ComforTred Technology:
A softer layer of rubber under the tread itself helps make the ride smoother.
- TredLock Technology:
Goodyear's version of 3D self-locking sipes, in which the sipes have an internal topology that locks together under pressure to prevent the tread block from flexing too far, which would increase treadwear.
- Canted Grooves:
This is an idea that I have only seen before in BFGoodrich's street/track hybrid, the G-Force Rival, in which the circumferential grooves are cut at an angle, such that the walls of the grooves are not straight up and down at 90 degrees, but rather slanted. This seems to do a lot for lateral handling by preventing the tread blocks from moving too much laterally under cornering pressure and evening out the contact patch. The idea seems to be catching on.
- A brand-new silica-enhanced rubber compound that increases tread life.
- Full-depth sipes that do not lose their biting edges as the tire wears down.
- Open “blades” cut into the center ribs and tread blocks to give increased snow and ice bite. Obviously, testing winter grip in Arizona was not going to happen, but Technical Project Manager Tim Lovell assured the group, “We are significantly better in the snow than the competition. I guarantee that.”
My first thought upon entering the slalom portion of the course was that these tires are very, very crisp. They respond immediately to steering inputs and generate a surprising amount of lateral thrust when you turn the wheel. I suspect that this is due to the canted grooves supporting the tire under lateral pressure, a technology that may have just succeeded beyond the design team's wildest dreams. The effect is extremely noticeable – when I took a second run with ESC (Electronic Stability Control) turned off the tires turned like they had jet engines attached to the sidewalls, generating such unexpected power and lateral force that I nearly lost control of the car. Fortunately, the tires are also very precise and controllable.
The tires are quite zippy under acceleration, catching and holding the pavement well even under full power from a standing start. While the lateral grip is not up to the standards of the F1 Asymmetric, I must say it is pretty darn good for an HP tire, coming in somewhere below the Potenza RE97AS and above the Firehawk Wide Oval. The tires lose grip slowly and predictably in most cases, although I noticed a slight tendency to understeer, or “push” without a lot of warning on wet pavement. Braking grip, however, is both excellent and very controllable in both dry and wet conditions. The Eagle Sport's ride is much smoother than the F1 Asymmetric, as it should be, but it's definitely on the harder-edged side of things.
The Bottom Line:
It's tough to be all things to all people. A lot of what being an HP All Season tire is about is that it wants to have the grip of a UHP, but the ride quality of a Grand Touring tire, while adding in some winter capability. This is pretty much impossible, so the question becomes what tradeoffs to make and where the tire will fit in between these three poles. The Eagle Sport leans towards performance, while making some real, but rather minimal concessions to ride quality. What you're getting is a good performer that's a bit harsh, but a lot of fun to drive at what is expected to be a pretty good price. If that's essentially what you're looking for in a tire, then overall it's an excellent compromise.