Bridgestone Potenza S007A - Sticking harder and lasting longer

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Words: Nile Bijoux
6 Dec 2018

While tyres and their development aren’t something we’ve covered in great detail before at NZ Autocar, they’re somewhat crucial to the optimal running of all vehicles. No time like the present to go in depth then, with the launch of Bridgestone’s new high performance hoop, the Potenza S007A. We were at Phillip Island to check it out.

Bridgestone’s newest Potenza, the S007A, is designed for high performance, on road and track. They tell us that its predecessor, the S001, was a good all-rounder but customers complained about premature wear. And so Bridgestone reckons it has improved this aspect in the S007A and also worked to advance its performance in other key areas.

Jon Tamblyn, Bridgestone’s Commercial Sales Manager for both Australia and New Zealand, said that the new rubber would help improve lap times by around 2.5 per cent compared with the same vehicle running on S001s.That’s based on the fact that the S007A can generate more cornering force at all steering angles than the S001. He also mentioned that turn-in, high speed stability, and dry grip were improved, though wet weather performance had made only slight gains.

Sounds good on paper then but what about in reality? We attended a test session in Australia comparing the old with the new. Never having driven around Phillip Island race track before, we’d be learning a lot not only about Bridgestone’s new tyre but also about one of the world’s best race tracks.

There’s nothing quite like being thrown in at the deep end, and we soon found ourselves slotted into a Potenza-shod BMW M4, heading out onto the fast and flowing circuit for the first time. Three sighting laps following a BMW Experience driver helped calm the nerves and sort the right lines. So then we could hook into it a bit. Even at moderate speeds we could feel the mechanical grip the new tyres had to offer.

Other activities planned to highlight the capabilities of the new rubber, including weaving through a slalom course and practising our emergency stops, during which we could compare the old with the new.For the crash stops, Bridgestone had us piloting an M240i, two actually. One was fitted with S001s and the other with the new S007A. Pulling a hard braking manoeuvre from 80km/h the M240i with the newer rubber managed to haul up half a car length sooner.

Even a BMW X3 running Bridgestone’s SUV-specific Alenza 001s managed to stop better than the M240i on the S001s. That’s down to the newer tyres - Bridgestone released the Alenza’s last year while the S001s came out back in 2012.

Next we had to swerve through a gap in a line-up of cones while braking. Attempting the manoeuvre at the same speed in each M240i, the car shod with the S007As reacted more quickly and consistently. There was no question - it was easier to thread the car through the gap with the S007As versus the S001s.

Interestingly, the new tyres would generate the odd puff of smoke when coming to an emergency stop, which a Bridgestone spokesperson explained to me was due to the tyres working the ABS system harder.

Moving onto the slalom, and it was into an M2. While there was no other car to compare this with, the goal was to slot the car between six cones, turn around, do it again on the return run, and hard brake into a coned “garage”. Time to beat: 22.13 seconds. My time: 23.36sec. Close enough. Fastest (only) Kiwi there; I’ll take that.

After a gratuitous skidpad donut session, just because, we were given our final laps of the circuit. It was a chance to exploit some newfound Phillip Island confidence. We were following a BMW Driving Experience instructor and he set a pretty blistering pace. Or, at least, it felt blistering. Having a better appreciation of the track lines allowed us to push the slightly tortured tyres a bit harder than before, and with the inherently good balance and steering of the M4, the limits of the S007A’s grip were soon quite easily found.

We noticed the car squirrelling about a bit under heavy braking, and submitted to mild understeer on some corners but then it’s a stock standard road car, pushed hard on a race track. What was surprising was how little traction control intervention there was. Powering on smoothly lets you feel how much raw grip there is in the new rubber. Leaning into a corner with enough speed will literally hurt your face.

Obviously there will be some drivers uninterested in the racetrack experience but seeing how the tyres act when pushed hard indicates how well they will work on regular tarmac. Time will tell if Bridgestone’s efforts at giving the S007A a longer drive life have paid off.


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