CarBlog Tire Review: BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport
BFGoodrich has a new product out: it’s called the Advantage T/A Sport; “A tire with a mission for daily fun,” as it’s being marketed. Before BFGoodrich invited me to NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans to test out their new tires, I would have scoffed at a mission statement like that. I can make any tire fun with nothing more than a simple burnout. This statement is mathematically sound, too. The amount of seconds a burnout lasts before a tire pops is directly proportional to how fun I think it is.
But that’s only one way to have fun with tires, and it marginalizes the thought that goes into the four rubber hoops that connect our vehicles to the road. Tires are probably the most underrated pieces of equipment we use as drivers. Even as a car enthusiast, I am also guilty of sometimes taking for granted the extensive engineering that goes into tires, but my time testing the Advantage T/A Sport against its competition would change that.
My first test of the day was to drive a pair of Honda Accords up to and beyond their limits of lateral grip on a wet skidpad. One Accord was equipped with the new Advantage T/A Sport tires. The other was shod with Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires. The differences were astounding.
Up to and exceeding the Accord’s limits of lateral adhesion, the Advantage T/A Sports were very predictable. Traction breakaway was smooth and progressive, and once I exceeded the traction circle, with a slight lift off the throttle I was able to smoothly guide the Accord’s understeering nose back along its intended course nearest the skidpad cones.
Had I not experienced the competing Fuel Max tires, I would not have been staggered by the T/A Sports’ performance. With the T/A Sports, a modern midsize sedan behaves like you’d expect, but with the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Maxes, the Accord was agreeable in name only.
The Goodyear tires turned the Accord into a possessed Tickle Me Elmo trying to vibrate its way out of my hands. At the limit of adhesion, the front end started to howl—not the tires, mind you, but the entire front suspension and subframe began to howl because of the tread blocks deforming at the limit. Traction breakaway was very abrupt, too, and then when I would ease the throttle to bring the nose back, it would snap back in, almost making me oversteer into the cones.
You don’t just lose traction with the Goodyears when you surpass their limits; you lose control. In the real world, the BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sports versus the Goodyears could mean the difference between a slight loss in traction or hitting the outside wall of a wet, looping onramp.
After this disaster on Goodyear’s part, I wondered whether the BFGoodrich tires would crush the competition as dramatically in the next two tests. Thankfully for the sake of the competing tire manufacturers, the results weren’t as night and day.
Test No. 2 with the Mazda 3 on the autocross would pit the BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport against the General Tire AltiMAX RT⁴³. I’ve always looked at General Tires as a cheap brand for consumers who don’t care about performance for their throwaway four-wheeled appliances, so coming into this test, I was expecting the Generals to perform worse than the Goodyears.
To my surprise, the AltiMAX RT⁴³ was actually a nice tire, and to be honest, I couldn’t tell any difference between it and the Advantage T/A Sport. My shotgun-riding pro driver told me I was sawing away at the steering wheel more with the Generals than I was with the BFGoodrich tires, so take that for what it’s worth, but with an autocross comparo between tires, it’s difficult to name a winner. On a skidpad, a tire only has one job, and thus a limited amount of ways to behave, so there aren’t many things to evaluate when you’re inhabiting one area of a tire’s traction circle.
On an autocross circuit there are slaloms, emergency lane changes, decreasing-radius corners, steady-state corners, plus left- and right-handers of various sharpness, which has you all over the traction circle. That autocross course was more like 30 miniature performance tests rolled into one, and with both manufacturers’ tires crossing the finish line with similar performance, I’d call the results of the autocross test a draw.
The results weren’t necessarily a draw when it came to test No. 3: braking in the wet with the Subaru XV Crosstrek. Here the Advantage T/A Sport competed against the Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus. Once again we were back to testing a specific region of tire performance, thus it was much easier to weigh the comparison between the T/A Sport and the Cinturato P7.
Just as they had on the wet skidpad with the Honda Accord, the Advantage T/A Sport tires performed beautifully in the wet braking test. I was allowed four stabs at the braking course per tire, so I varied my braking styles each time to see how the tires would work at various levels of provocation. First I slammed on the brakes. The next time I squeezed them into full-force braking. In my third try I implemented threshold braking, using the maximum pedal force I could before activating ABS. My fourth try was just for fun.
Whether progressive-footing the brake pedal or trying to shove my foot through the Subaru’s firewall, the braking always felt behaved. The brake pedal would pulsate when ABS activated, and the XV Crosstrek would come to a stop. Pretty “cause and effect”. On top of that, the Advantage T/A Sports stopped the Subaru the quickest when the pulsation of ABS wasn’t thrown into the physics equation.
The Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Seasons weren’t as drama-free. When I activated ABS with the Pirellis, the pulsation moved beyond the Subaru’s brake pedal. I could feel the front tires sending shockwaves through the struts and into the chassis. The BFGoodrich folks told me this was the result of the Pirelli’s tread blocks giving way under braking forces, thus changing the tire’s traction characteristics multiple times per second.
Because the Pirellis weren’t as consistent with their grip under ABS-engaged braking, braking distances were slightly lengthier than those of the Advantage T/A Sports. Threshold (non-ABS) braking with the Pirellis took longer as well. I was fascinated with these differences, and wondered how they’d look from outside the car.
In the following video, the first two runs are with the BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport. The final run is with the Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus. This is by no means a scientific comparison. Each run was performed with different drivers at the helm, but I will testify the differences you see here reflect the differences I felt between the BFGoodrich tires and the Pirellis. Also take note of the choppiness and elongated stopping distance in the third run.
Were the Pirellis bad tires? No. They simply did not perform as well under wet braking as the BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sports.
Were the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires in the first test bad tires? Yes. If a tire is going to perform that badly at the limit on the skidpad, it’s best to make it part of a racetrack’s crash barrier where it will save lives instead of endangering them. Keep those Goodyears off your car. Please. For the sake of your safety as well as the safety of your fellow motorists.
After putting the Advantage T/A Sport through its paces, I can confidently report BFGoodrich has achieved its mission of being a fun tire for your daily driver. The Advantage T/A Sport is being marketed to mainstream buyers, however. We’re taking Honda Accord, Ford Focus and Toyota Highlander folks; “Point A to point B” people who don’t really think about driving fun.
Is this tire really for them? Yes. Non-enthusiasts want their cars to perform well, and if these non-enthusiasts with limited driving skills are caught driving too fast, they need a tire that will not only perform better, but also make the car handle more predictably. The better a car is at doing its job for non-enthusiasts, the more they can focus on what they actually love doing, whatever that is: sheep shearing, crocheting, I don’t know.
But if an enthusiast gets behind the wheel of a car wearing Advantage T/A Sports, they are going to have fun. With all the engineering that goes into modern suspension systems, enthusiasts will appreciate a tire that is designed to match the engineering that goes with the rest of the car. If they intentionally take a turn fast, they will love the confidence-inspiring feeling the Advantage T/A Sport delivers, especially beyond the limit.
No matter who you are, BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport tires offer more daily fun. More driving fun for enthusiasts, and for non-enthusiasts (a.k.a. boring consumers) more time to think about the fun that happens after driving.
Check out the promo video and gallery below to see what Advantage T/A Sport tires look like in action. Also, just for fun I’ve thrown in some Porsche photos from NOLA’s mini Porsche museum.