Super 007 Agent

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There’s a new “007” in town, except unlike that famous British spy, this one’s got a licence to thrill. We’re referring of course to the S007A, the latest offering in Bridgestone’s high-performance Potenza range of tyres. Positioned as the company’s flagship performance street tyre, the S007A replaces the S001.

The official press materials depicts the new rubber fitted to an Aston Martin DB11, which should give you an idea of the sort of level the S007A can perform at. Indeed, the S007 – no “A” – is the OE (original equipment) tyre for cars like the Ferrari F12 and Aston DB11; the S007A is similarly targeted at other high-performance sports cars, ranging from the Volkswagen Golf GTI to the Porsche 911, via the BMW M, Mercedes-AMG and Audi RS series of cars.

As with any new product, the S007A is designed to perform better than its predecessor in every way, although Bridgestone claims the biggest improvements have been made to dry grip, stability in high speed cornering, and response to driver inputs.

Technical advancements on the S007A include a Kevlar “flipper”, which is a strip of material that spans the sidewall and tyre bead to reinforce the tyre interior and prevent excessive movement; chamfered tread block edges to resist deformation under braking and improve stopping distances; and 3D M-shaped sipes (little slits) which help the tread block resist deformation during cornering for added control.

To put these claims to the test, Bridgestone invited us to Sepang Circuit for a back-to-back comparison between the S001 and S007A across four exercises. 

As we learnt in primary school, experiment findings are most relevant when as many variables as possible are kept constant. To that end, Bridgestone was well-prepared, with two pairs of near identical cars (a Mk7 and Mk7.5 Golf GTI, and BMW 530e iPerformance) and similarly-aged tyres (all manufactured in 2018). Unfortunately, the heavens had other plans…

Emergency braking

A heavy downpour just before the event made evaluations in the first exercise, an 80km/h emergency stop, extremely tricky. The changing conditions meant that the parameters in each of our runs was subtly different (there was slightly less water on the track when we went out in the S007A), making it impossible to draw a definitive conclusion.

That said, both tyres were more than up to the task of this maneuver, hauling both GTIs to a quick stop with absolutely no drama – reassuring to know in sodden Singapore.

Emergency lane change

By this stage, the difference in track conditions between our runs with each tyre was even more varied, yet this starkly highlighted the S007A’s performance. Performing an emergency zig-zag in the GTIs at 75km/h without lifting off the throttle, the S007A remained predictable throughout, with just a slight amount of sideways push during the change of direction.

Incredibly, despite the advantage of the track drying for an extra 30 minutes, the S001 had more lateral movement, sliding perhaps half a metre or so wider into the next “lane”.

High speed cornering

It was quite hard to feel the difference in the Golf GTi, but on the heavier 530e, the S007A fitted example felt a lot more planted and predictable especially when we were laying down the power mid-corner. With the tyre age  factor out of the window, the S007A is a smidge more progressive than the older S001, giving us quite a fair bit of warning as it reaches its limits of grip. 

Wet slalom

The last exercise for the day was a tight 45km/h slalom – not an ideal scenario for the 4.9m, 1.8-tonne 530e. Watered down with trackside sprinklers, the slalom allowed the S007A to shine once again. Here, the S007A carved a neater line through the cones, while the S001 exhibited more understeer and scrubbed more speed at each direction change. 

It should be noted that the changes are incremental and generally extremely slight; without experiencing them back-to-back, it would be impossible to accurately determine any differences in performance, let alone feel and feedback. Modern cars (and especially their electric power steering systems) are so good at insulating occupants from the outside world that in all honesty, it’s near impossible to accurately discern any feedback feeding through the steering wheel or through the seat of your pants.

The Bridgestone S007A is on sale in Singapore now. There are 45 sizes available, for rims ranging from 16 to 20 inches in diameter, and in tyre profiles of 30 to 55. Prices inclusive of GST but without installation fees start at $156 for a 205/55 R16 tyre, to $430 for a 295/35 R20 piece. Visit www.bridgestone.com.sg for more information.

[Text]

Jonathan Lim

[Photos]

Jonathan Lim / Bridgestone

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