Bridgestone recently invited us to their Thailand proving ground that is situated about an hour out of Bangkok in a place called Nong Khae. Its always fun going on international assignments, but when a company like Bridgestone invites you to test their latest tyre on one of only nine testing grounds in the world in 3 days, you know its going to be more than just fun, its plenty of work too.
As a refresher, the new Bridgestone AR10 was recently introduced as a successor to the aging ER60 and promises increased safety in the wet with technology that decreases hydroplaning, it also promotes comfort with its low harshness and noise levels.
The Turanza Active Radial (AR) 10 is developed to better suit Japanese and other Asian models. That basically means that if you drive a Vios, Yaris, Altis, City, Civic, Jazz or anything in that category, Gen 2 and Waja drivers included, you should be paying attention.
At the proving ground we were given a chance to test the tyres in three different stages. The first and second stage was to test the noise & ride comfort; we personally didn’t drive through this stage, the Bridgestone test drivers chauffeured us through the test area in two Honda Civics that were to be our test-mules that day. One car was fitted with the new Turanza AR10 tyres while the other was fitted with the older ER60s.
The proving ground is littered with great roads and roads that you pray to never encounter upon but somehow always do. For the noise and ride test, the test area featured roads that Thais and Malaysians are accustomed to, rough asphalt, broken concrete surfaces, and of course pot hole ridden among others. We sat back, kept dead shut, listened and felt, and there really was a difference. The older ER60s had more of a droning sound than the newer AR10s, and also seemed to be less shock absorbent, I shit you not !!
Bridgestone developed eight new technologies (GUTT II, Super L.L. Carbon, AQ 2 Compound, Particle Z, Silent C.S.C., Dual Layer Thread II, Flat Force Block, O-Bead II) but among them only three are said to be the most important, well that’s what they tell us. To help increase cabin comfort, Bridgestone developed a softer rubber compound called AQ Compound 2, that is basically a development of the harder AQ compound. The softer feature of the tyre improves ride and feel of the car as well as maximises grip. What is truly amazing is the advancement of noise reduction technology in the AR10.
Bridgestone developed a feature called Silent Consistent Surface Contact (C.S.C.) to primarily improve dry and wet handling, reduce irregular wear and pattern noise, that results in better ride comfort. The C.S.C. rubber block works by rounding off the edge of the tyre and minimizing uneven pressure distribution, so there is less contact between road and tyre ultimately leading to noise reduction. And it works like magic, when compared in a back to back test, the technological advancement the AR10 has over the ER60 is very ‘non-audible’.
On to the third stage, the wet and dry test, after awesome Thai lunch, we got behind the wheel ourselves, the test was on. So the test drive starts first in the older ER60 tyres; good start, great to always have a weaker reference point, works for me at least. With Bridgestone’s finest test driver sitting next to me, I made way towards the east bank, built to test the cornering and steering control of the car. Entering the corner at over 100km/h I wasn’t too worried, I was on a track, what’s the worse that could happen? So with horns out and an evil grin I attacked the corner and the tyres held but were screaming for grip but yet I held on, making tiresome adjustments to the steering wheel while waiting for the exit. 120km/h at the main straight designed to test for straight stability, lane changing and slalom. The ER60s are holding up for the job and through the slaloms the tyres were screeching a little but we made it through fine and were making way to the west corner that tests severe cornering and sliding with a recommended speed of 30km/h. Yes we were over the recommended speed again and slid through the corner again and yes the gentleman sitting next to me was waving frantically to slow down, but again, we made it through fine.
Out onto the track again, this time with the AR10 tyres, we attacked the east bank at over 100km/h again and only midway through the corner did I notice that I had unconsciously maintained my speed where in the ER60 I had to slow down, and the tyres were not screaming, they seemed pretty happy doing what they did, in fact they could have taken more. We silently progressed through the main straight and came to the slalom, down to 80km/h from 140km/h and first cone, second cone, third cone, it was a breeze, the tyres held on, though screeching a little, the steering response was instantaneous and I was impressed, still am.
It’s in the wet where the difference between the two really becomes apparent, wet handling is one of the areas that Bridgestone developed extensively. To test this, they let us drive on a piece of the track called the steering road, it basically is a series of tight corners that you can have fun with at high speeds, but just to make things a bit more fun, there was an entire colony of sprinklers happily peeing tap water onto the track, it made things pretty scary especially in the ER60. In the older tyres you really have to lift off the pedal and make major adjustments to reign in the front end, but in those conditions the brakes is the one thing you want to avoid because getting on them would upset the balance of the car on roads that are flooded in inch deep tap water, do so and spin out.
On the same steering road but this time with the AR10s at the same speed with the same intentions, spinning out doesn’t scare me. So I entered the corner at 60km/h and I felt the front loosing grip, I was understeering. Well, the thing is, I was challenged to maintain my speed at 60km/h in both runs so that’s where the test really lays, when you need to maintain speed. In the ER60, there was no way you could do that and get away, you would eventually have to lift off, where else in the AR10, you still do have to slow down a little because you’re understeering but you’re able to modulate the throttle and keep a leash on the slide. With small quick adjustments to the steering and some modulation of the throttle, the steering road spat me out at 50+km/h. It was 40+km/h in the ER60. The difference between the two may not be vast but in real world situations, the improved grip level may just save a few lives and we could all do with more insulation when driving.
So what’s the secret? What does the AR10 have over the ER60? Well according to Bridgestone, its something called Particle Z. The tyre giants declined to elaborate on it, calling it a trade secret but what it does is it works to provide higher grip levels on wet surfaces than regular silica compounds can offer. The mysterious Particle Z is able to deform when cornering pressure is applied on the tyre, and as it does so, it expands to make even more contact with the road and if you haven’t already figured out, more contact with the road means better grip.
The AR10 has another trick up its sleeve besides the top secret Particle Z; its trade pattern. Look closely and you’ll notice an angled thread pattern parallel to each other and flow in opposite directions. The high and low angled slots help the tyre achieve higher water evacuation efficiency on wet surfaces. The winding grooves at the tip of the slots creates a more balanced speed of water flow between the grooves which achieves higher level of grip through the speed in which water is evacuated out of the tyre. The indentation at the tip of the slots is what Bridgestone calls the New 3D Design and aids in wet surface efficiency and its aesthetic appeal.
The advancement the AR10 achieves over it predecessor (ER60) is respectable, its good to know that technological advancements work so efficiently and consistently to provide us drivers with the highest levels of comfort and the one thing that we always take for granted, safety. The level of wet grip the AR10 attains has set a new stage for entry level tyres, and if you’re thinking these tyres are not for your big, grown up, macho car, the AR10 could aid you to keep those big money rim as new as ever. The tyre features a special rim guard that works to protect your wheels from the curbs, but sadly, its only for profiles under 55.
175/70R13 82H LI/SS
185/70R13 86H ”
185/70R14 88H ”
195/70R14 91H ”
175/65R14 82H LI/SS
185/65R14 86H ”
195/65R15 91V ”
205/65R15 94V ”
215/65R15 96H ”
185/60R14 82V LI/SS
195/60R15 88V ”
205/60R15 91V ”
205/55R16 91V LI/SS
215/55R16 93V ”
A very special thank you to the Bridgestone crew for the excellent hospitality and food.
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