Always better yourself.
That is what Bridgestone wanted to do when they set out to develop a new model of any tire on their line. From Ecopia to Dueler, Bridgestone finds all kinds of ways -both big and small- to improve upon already great products.
But what do you do when your tire, like the ultra-high performance (UHP) rated Potenza S001, has set the standards so high? How do you improve on something that is already impressive on every front?
That's what we're going to find out in Bridgestone's proving ground in Italy as we try the new Potenza S007A.
The naming is unconventional, if not confusing; I mean, how do you justify jumping almost directly from S001 to S007A?
Truth be told, the Potenza S007 was first developed to be original equipment for the Ferrari F12berlinetta super grand tourer in 2013, dismissing the common misnomer that its name pays homage to fictional British MI-6 spy James Bond otherwise known as '007'. It was not until 2016, that Bridgestone announced that it will be fitting the Aston Martin DB11 with the S007 tire.
Bridgestone's new S007A takes a further step with improved features to deliver the same kind of the performance for super sports cars drivers to performance models from Audi RS, BMW M, Lexus F Sport, Mercedes-AMG, and Porsche.
The promises of the new Potenza S007A are not easy to achieve. They needed better responsiveness, increased stability for daily driving conditions as well as high-speed driving, better grip and cornering, improved braking, and better wear life compared to its predecessors.
To deliver on those targets, Bridgestone developed many key features for their new S007A; features that use phrases such as kevlar flipper, hybrid spirals, and 3D M-shaped sipes. There are more, but it's so technical that we'd rather put it to the test than explain it without context.
And what better way to prove those claims, than on a series of challenging tests on the company's proving ground to push the envelope of the S007A.
Bridgestone's European proving ground is located in a 144-hectare property in Aprilia; about 30 kilometers south from Bridgestone Technical Center Europe (TCE), near Rome. The facility allows for “precision testing on all types of surface”, and so the global tire manufacturer tests everything here. Since it was opened in 2004, Bridgestone has added more features to be able to test new-generation tires for passenger cars, commercial vans, trucks, buses, agricultural vehicles, and motorcycles.
The primary feature of the proving ground is a 4 kilometer oval with a northern straight that is 15 meters wide with four lanes and southern straight that is 35 meters wide with nine lanes. The banked curves have a maximum angle of 37 degrees to test for high-speed roadholding, which is a primary requisite for ultra-high-performance tires such as the S007A.
Within the oval is a 9 hectare “black lake” for dynamics testing of acceleration, braking and cornering in a variety of vehicles to verify data obtained from Technical Center Europe modeling and simulations software. The dynamic square and oval are also connected to allow for performing all the maneuvers they may need to get the most complete information from the track. Also part of the site is a dry handling track 4 kilometers long and 8 meters wide.
The complete track offers a range of high-, medium- and low-speed areas with different corners, radiuses, and slopes so drivers can check all areas of dry handling performance such as lateral stability, steering precision, load transfer, and grip. The facility has one of the most advanced wet testing facilities which consist of a skid pad area, a 'pool' with an automatic water sprinkling and recuperation system, dry and wet braking lanes, tractor circles and a wet handling track.
A separate 3.9-kilometer soft handling track simulates countryside roads. Different asphalts, allow drivers to evaluate both comfort and handling performances in a 'real world' conditions.
Being based in Europe, the proving ground also has a testing area for compliance with EU directives and ECE regulations on tire/road noise. The NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) tracks, each 400 m x 3.2 m, with a capacity of up to ten.
It's hard to think that there's such a high tech tire testing facility so close to one of the world's most renowned capitals for culture and history.
While we conjure images of testing the new tire with super sports cars and hypercars in your head, Bridgestone officials were quick to remind us that the cars we will be driving will be a bit more realistic. No Ferraris or Aston Martins just yet, but we will be able to extract the abilities of the new S007A from a variety of more affordable performance models.
For the wet handling test, we had a pair of Volkswagen's Mk7 Golf GTI to try out. One was fitted with a set of Potenza S001, while another with the new Potenza S007A.
In a tropical country like the Philippines with only dry and rainy seasons, wet road performance is a definitely important characteristic of a UHP tire like the S007A. Compared with the S001, you just feel more confident taking corners and obstacles at speed. On the simulated 'damp and dirty' section of the test, it still held on with ease.
Bridgestone also prepared a pair of the Audi TTS for the dry handling test sessions. As with the wet handling test, one car was fitted with the S001, while another with the S007A so we can see a significant improvement.
We performed tests ranging from high-speed cornering, sharp turns, slaloms, and evasive maneuvers; in all the exercises, the S007A simply outclasses the S001.
No wonder Bridgestone executive proudly declared that the difference of the S001 and S007A is not just a drastic name change but a serious jump in performance from level 1 to 7.
Given the danger of high-speed driving maneuvers and need for absolute precision and driving skill, on the high-speed track, we were only allowed to experience the tire aboard an F80 BMW M3 driven by former Formula One driver Stefano Modena. Modena actually joined and won a race at the former JRC Kartway during his early racing career here in the Philippines.
High-speed lane changes between 170-190 km/h were done with absolute ease on the wide southern straight of the oval, while the tires held the car on the banked corners with ease at high-speed.
A serious leap ahead
Having succeeded the Potenza S001 eight years after its debut in 2010, the S007A's arrival in the UHP tire market does represent a serious leap ahead in providing performance tire customers a great new product. Clearly, the S007A scores high in both wet dry and wet conditions, all while providing comfort and long term durability.
“We’re very excited to bring our latest Potenza tire to the Asia Pacific region and believe that it will fulfill premium sports cars owners’ high expectations on the ride performance of their vehicle,” said Mr. Mitsunobu Tokuya, General Manager of Bridgestone Asia Pacific Sales Marketing Division.
As a product aimed at replacement tire customers who demand that extra level of performance and confidence, the Bridgestone Potenza S007A does all that.