An autocross course has a way of unwinding the most sorted chassis, while simultaneously uncovering any weakness a tire might have, despite the best attempts of marketing jargon.
Unlike road courses with smooth transitions, autocross tracks can best be described as busy; with constant and aggressive throttle, braking and steering inputs required to navigate the tight course at a high rate of speed. But things get interesting when the course becomes wet and dry, you're suddenly asking the tires to keep pace while transitioning between adhesion extremes. And that's when it's true character comes to light, good or bad.
The clock hands still hadn't touched noon and the searing Arizona heat at the Bondurant School of Performance Driving was already hot enough to cook an egg on the tarmac. But it didn't deter us from making hot laps around the autocross course in a new Audi A4 2.0T quattro.
We were despatched in the aforementioned A4s shod with either new Eagle Sport All-Season tires (a new high-performance (HP) all-season tire slotted below the Ultra High Performance (UHP) Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season).
We first experienced the Eagle's performance around the track, before jumping into identical cars shod with the Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval AS tires.
The track had low- and high-speed slaloms along with decreasing radius turns and a threshold-braking area intermingled with wet and dry tarmac.
The first few laps on the Goodyears were remarkably fun, as the car stuck well in the dry and hung in there like a champ in the wet. Inevitably, understeer set in at the limit, but there was some lift-off oversteer only an ankle wag away.
In all honesty, we'd forgotten we were on an HP tire rather than a UHP variant, until we hopped into the cars fitted with the competitor tires. Within three corners we'd already blown two apexes, nearly clipped several cones and, while it was admittedly fun to slide the Audi around, the first wet turn induced so much understeer we slid to the outside of the turn and almost through the cones. If this was a public road, we'd have been across the yellow lines and in trouble.
And then we were reminded that we weren't testing max-grip tires here, but rather all-season rubber made for every day and every season. The fact that Goodyear was able to make its tires perform so well meant we'd forgotten their price-point, which was impressive in itself.
The new Eagle Sport All-Season replaced the Eagle GT and while they performed well at the limit in the wet and dry, it's important to remember they're an HP tire akin to the Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval or Bridgestone Potenza RE97AS, rather than Michelin, Pirelli or Continental all-season products that the Eagle F1 Asymmetric was built for.
While UHP all-season tires are considered the highest performers, it's no secret they give up some winter traction for better rain and dry adhesion. But Goodyear was willing to sacrifice outright numbers for ice and snow performance with its Eagle Sport. The tread design is tangible proof of that, with full-depth sipes for snow and ice. In fact, Goodyear will offer nearly 50 sizes and expects to see them in OE applications, as an idea of the intended use.
It's well known that tires are more complicated than simple hoops of rubber. In fact, the technology of the latest products is mindboggling. Some of the highlights of the Eagle Sport include TredLock, TripleTred and ComforTred, designed to give optimized traction across wet, dry, snow and ice conditions. While the Canted Grooves slant the tread-block walls for stability under high cornering and braking loads, providing confidence and remaining communicative in the corners, yet quiet on the highway.
Other noteworthy tidbits include a new blend of silica-enhanced rubber with an even greater tread-wear warranty, which means these high-performance haulers carry a 50,000-mile warranty.
Building a competent HP all-season tire can be a daunting task because it has to be a master of everything, such as a good ride and competitive price-point in addition to its performance. Although our test regimen was limited to the autocross, we can vouch that the performance limits are remarkably high. While road noise and NVH might be more pronounced than the OE tire on your daily driver, you might want to consider trading some comfort for better all-season performance. After all, you want the tires to work if you ever need to make a panic stop.
Pricing wasn't available, but visit goodyear.com for info.