Writing about the Bridgestone Potenza RE001
Driving on a combination of roads
for 27688 spirited
Background: I am one of these guys that most would consider to be "crazy", in the sense that I started my driving years by buying from my Mum, a 1992 Mitsubishi Magna 2.6 auto that she bought new, and, liking its refinement and practicality but wanting better cornering, bought and installed a full Whiteline "the works" suspension kit (i.e. springs, shock absorbers...back when Whiteline still sell those! Plus rear swaybar, front strut brace, various alignment parts, etc.), and upgraded the tyres from 185/75R14 Bridgestone B249's to 225/50R16 Dunlop SP Sport 3000A's to suit, when most people would just use the money to buy a better car to start off with. So in summary: this review is given from the point of view of someone who likes his creature comforts, but still values above all, cornering performance. I love having that extra grip reserve and using them, taking corners smoothly at a higher speed than others (but still within the speed limit), and yet without losing tyre grip (and therefore, shortening their longevity).
Long story short: I eventually bought a 2003 Holden Astra TS SRi Turbo (aka Opel Astra G OPC) second hand. The Toyo Proxes 4 that came with it, with 20% tread depth remaining, were OK but could not handle any amount of torque once the turbo started kicking in, especially on any surface that is not completely dry. With 10% tread depth left, I had them replaced with new RE001's at 116,397km (mine were made in Japan, not Australia...not sure if that makes any difference!), and immediately noticed these were quieter, which I did not expect. Ride was a little harder, but the car was more responsive to steering inputs, which I prefer.
After 500km of gentle running to ensure I have scrubbed off all the slippery stuff on the tyres (used to help them to more easily pop out of their moulds during their construction), I came across a right-hander in an unfamiliar road one night in the rain that turned out to be a lot sharper than what I was expecting. I quickly and smoothly dialled in more steering lock, hoping the car and tyres would respond in ways that I thought for sure was not possible, and braced myself for what I thought would be the inevitable impact, and possibly me becoming a statistic. But the RE001's just pulled the car around the tighter arc as if it was on rails, as if I had always meant to take that corner that way that night. It was at that exact moment that I realised these RE001's were actually still working well within their limits, and are much better than most tyres have any right to be. My expectations and confidence were raised quite dramatically from then on.
The car was eventually mildly modified with Eibach Pro Kit, Koni yellow shock absorbers, plus the full suite of Whiteline suspension parts. I've also swapped the factory alloys for the same size (17"x7.5"), but what seemed to me to be lighter, FOX R5 wheels (I think these are called FX5 in Europe). The changes, although by now making the ride more terse than I would like, have fully exploited the potential of these RE001's. To illustrate, there is a 3-lane 90-degree off-camber turn (for those in Sydney who are interested, it is the downhill left-hander on Victoria Road near the ANZAC Bridge if you were city-bound, and especially the uphill right-hander in the opposite direction) that most motorists would exceed the 60km/h speed limit on their approach in order to pass me, only to have to slow down significantly more than me by the time they hit the corner, allowing me to pass them easily as I take them anywhere from 40km/h+ in the wet to 50km/h+ in the dry, depending on my mood. All I have to do is to smoothly dial in as much steering lock as I need, and to try to keep the changes to the forward/backward momentum to a minimum throughout the turn. I have yet to meet a car and driver who can, or dare to, take that corner at anywhere near my speed. These people would then exceed the speed limit in order to pass me afterwards, but I see no intelligence or skill required in going fast in a straight line, with so many demerit points and penalty fees that can be accrued!
In terms of braking, I have only ever done one ABS-enabled stop with them from about 40km/h. It was in the dry, and it stopped the car about one car length sooner than I expected. My mechanic used the "Brake Testa" every year before the car's registration gets renewed, and it delivers maximum braking force of more than 1G every time. This was on standard brake lines, RBF600 brake fluid (good), RDA slotted disc rotors (very nice) and RDA brake pads (not very good). [It would brake even better with braided brake lines and QFM brake pads, but the former is a bit of an overkill for street use I think!]
So these tyres fit my driving style perfectly, especially when they are kept at a pressure of 36-38psi (a little less at the rear unless I was carrying loads). Perhaps because of this, with the Astra having travelled 160,956km as at today i.e. 44,559km or almost 27,688 miles later, with rotation at every service, the fronts still have 10% tread depth, and the rears still have 20%. I find this especially remarkable for an ultra high performance summer tyre. Compared to new, the noise did not seem to have worsened, and even the grip hardly reduced in the dry. In the wet, though, I have to be mindful these days of gentle understeer if I enter a sharp corner at a speed that is slightly ambitious. In these instances, I do not use the brake or accelerator during the turn, and the RE001's are still very forgiving, including no hint of any snap oversteer. I have yet to aquaplane/hydroplane these RE001's in the straights, even at these tread depths. Bridgestone claims the RE001's are designed to offer grippier compound as the tyre wears out, and my observations seem to uphold their claim. In fact, these worn RE001's are definitely better than the similarly worn Proxes 4's that I had, in all areas.
I have since put new RE001's on my Mum's Mazda6 and my sister's Holden Barina XC (aka Opel Corsa C). That was 2 years ago, and both are very happy with their upgrades. So as long as you drive gently for the first 500km or so, and not drive like an absolute maniac all the time after that, I would not recommend any other tyre. What you trade off in slightly worse ride comfort, you get back in dry and wet grip, perhaps in tyre life and even in low running noise, as well as a level of confidence and assurance not many other street tyres can provide, through the RE001's extra safety margin that is readily available in any emergency situation.
I have made many mistakes in my life (and most likely will make some more!), but definitely not when it comes to buying these fantastic RE001's, especially as they have saved my life at least once. The only reason I won't be buying these RE001's again, is because the newer (and according to Bridgestone's claims, even better) RE002's are now available!