As regular readers of this site well know, tires are much more than just four rolling rubber donuts that dent our bank accounts when it comes time for a replacement. Companies shovel cubic acres of money into the corporate furnace in an effort to design and build rubber with ever-increasing levels of grip for their intended purpose.
Case in point: Bridgestone will have replaced or significantly upgraded the entirety of their portfolio by the calendar year 2020. Given that the big B has a myriad of offerings, this is a big deal. We had an opportunity sample a trio of new tires from the Bridgestone/Firestone empire. Let’s find out how the rubber meets the road.
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Bridgestone Turanza QuietTrack
Serving as the company’s flagship touring tire, this new design replaces the Turanza Serenity Plus. Only fans of old Seinfeld episodes are likely to be upset at the name change, as integrating the word ‘track’ into the tire’s name allows the company to market this type of tire in ways it has never done so before.
In an effort to prove a touring tire can hold its own not just in terms of ride comfort and road noise, these hoops were placed on brand-new BMW 330i sedans which were unceremoniously flung onto a damp autocross course. This, of course, far exceeds the demands most customers will place on this type of tire and speaks to the confidence the company has in tire’s abilities in conditions beyond the day-to-day commute.
Shod with fresh QuietTracks at the beginning of each session, the Beemers were set solidly to sport mode and had their DSC turned off. We drove the new tire and the one from the Bridgestone family it replaced back to back and the differences were clear. Where the old tire fought for traction on corner exits and produced some entertainingly lurid slide jobs, the new QuietTrack offered up a much more planted feel, allowing your author to get back on the throttle earlier in order to attack the next corner.
Acceleration in a straight line on the damp pavement was also noticeably improved compared to the old tire. This aligns with the company’s claim of a 20% improvement in wet traction over the previous generation Turanza Serenity Plus. It’s not going to perform alongside the performance-oriented Potenza line, but customers will be gratified to know this rubber will perform well if pressed into a panicky emergency situation.
You know how it’s possible to cut a tree in half to reveal its age? Turns out it’s also fun to cut a tire in half to reveal its tread depth. Utilizing twin processes called HydroTrack and EdgePerformance technology, this new tire’s tread runs the depth of the tire’s surface, allowing the company to peg its lifespan at 80,000 miles. That’s a lot of trips to Disney World in the family car, so ahead and take that road trip.
The tire is available in no fewer than 37 different sizes, meaning they fit well over 80% of vehicles on the road.
Firestone Destination A/T2
This line of tires from Firestone is a familiar sight for many off-road gearheads, playing in the same theatre as off-road focused rubber from companies like BFGoodrich and Goodyear. Like it or not, appearance matters quite a bit to most customers in this segment, as a milquetoast set of tires will neuter an otherwise impressive off-road rig faster than a cat being fixed at the vet.
Going forward, the A/T branch of the Destination family will all be sized P-metric. Don’t worry – Firestone isn’t getting out of the LT game, we’ll simply get to those tires in a minute. By separating the A/T line from light truck duty, it freed engineers to focus their efforts toward baking in a few positive on-road characteristics into this rugged tire. Not everyone spends most of their time off-road, y’know, strange as it may sound.
Featuring an all-new tread compound and an aggressive tread design complete with stone rejecter technology, the Destination A/T2 is crafted for snow traction and carries the three-peak mountain snowflake certification. Consider it a choice for drivers who trek to the cottage from time to time but do the majority of their driving on pavement. Wet or snowy conditions don’t faze these drivers but they’re not tackling the Rubicon any time soon.
Sampling the tire on a new 4Runner, first on pavement then on an off-road course, it’s clear what the Firestone engineers were thinking when they split up the Destination line. Without having to wholly impress off-road, the A/T2 performed far better on a wet Texas road course than one would expect of such an aggressive looking tire. Hanging on to 40 mph in a fast right-hand sweeper was decidedly not a hair-raising experience, something which cannot be said of most rubber with off-road pretensions pumped up to 30psi as were these tires.
Thanks to a stiffer sidewall, it gave up grip more gradually than one would expect from a tire of this type that generally rolls over and plays dead when shown a corner. Without doubt, this will become the brand’s volume off-road tire as it has better characteristics for all-around driving duties. Look for it to appear at retailers in August.
Firestone Destination X/T
Those of you who’ve been looking for the burly LT-metric tires in this story have had their patience rewarded. It’ll not escape your notice that the X/T has a far more aggressive tread than its A/T2 cousin. Utilizing some of the same technologies as its lighter weight compatriot, such as full depth interlocking 3D sipes, the X/T is designed to tackle the tough stuff off-road but not beat you up on a drive home from the trailhead. It’s also capable of carrying heavier loads and able to run a higher inflation.
Staggered shoulder lugs and an aggro off-shoulder tread design provides extra biting edges, especially in slightly aired-down situations. The extra rubber also theoretically provides a bit more protection in that area against sharp stones or sticks tearing into the sidewall, acting as a deflector. Most purchasers will just think it looks baller. They’d be right, too.
Pushing an X/T equipped 4Runner up a roughly one-third grade comprised of gravel and loose stones, it was possible to come to a complete stop mid-climb before cresting the summit. This speaks to the X/T’s grip level in off-road conditions, attributes which were magnified when your author stuffed the Voodoo Blue 4Runner into a muddy track at angles not approved by Aikido Toyoda. The X/Ts chewed through the muck and spit it out during a high speed run on the other side, neatly clearing the deep voids between the aggressive tread lugs. Keep in mind the brand has an M/T for mudding, too.
On pavement, it was easy to determine which 4Runners were shod with A/T2s and which ones had X/Ts. In fact, it didn’t even require looking. From behind the wheel, the X/Ts emitted a more pronounced hum at speed on pavement than the A/T2s, which is to be expected of an off-road tire. Outside, the X/T tire gave off a subtle high-pitched zing as it drove past at 35mph. Again, this is neither surprising nor disappointing, given the X/Ts capability off-road. What it does drive home, however, is just how quiet the new A/T2s are on the macadam.
The more rugged X/T will appear in stores this August in sizes ranging from 16- to 20-inches. This covers the ever-growing wheel size on HD pickups. Flotation sizes will also be on offer, all the way up to a 33-incher on a 20-inch rim.
Our Final Verdict
With all these options, it’s clear the R&D crew at Firestone will have a tire for just about every driver. You know which one I’d select. To the trailhead!
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