Project Ecowagon: Goodyear ‘EfficientGrip’

Tyres are the only point of contact with the road surface and it can’t be stressed just how much a good (or indeed conversely a bad, or worn) set of rubber can affect your car’s handling, grip, poise, balance and ultimately, safety. They are arguably the most important part on your car… and certainly worth investing good money into.

So, whether you’re aiming for maximum traction on a pair of race slicks/wets/intermediates in circuit tracking, ‘knobblies’ for gravel rallying, semi-slick ‘cut’ track day tyres, performance car road tyres or – as here in the case of Project Ecowagon – for excellent economy, all-surface grip, safety and refinement, the right tyre for your car and planned driving use is critical.

Having never had or run a ‘green’ Project car before, this opened up a whole new world of ‘eco tyres’ for me. I’m used to looking at tread patterns with a view to maximum grip levels for whatever the given surface. But Project Ecowagon doesn’t travel as fast as my usual vehicles, or go out on track, or compete in motorsport, or drift – so maximum grip or slip is less of priority than usual. The things I’m after for this vehicle are:

  • Fuel-saving through a low rolling resistance
  • Long lasting & durable
  • Stable braking on wet roads
  • Quiet, comfortable ride
  • Good grip in all conditions/on all surfaces
  • Some tread! The tyres I bought the car with are barely legal up front, and something I think is almost worst – mismatched, with rapidly balding factory Dunlop BlueResponse (OEM choice) up front, and some dreadful, never heard-of-the-brand budget tyres on the rear.

Searching the internet for customer and media reviews quickly led me to a brand I know well for its performance tyres – Goodyear – and specifically their fresh, high-tech range of ‘EfficientGrip’ rubber, as advertised on TV right now.

This relatively new and rapidly expanding Goodyear range (they have 39 sizes available, with another 29 on the way, for SUV’s and cars) now includes EfficientGrip Compact (for 14-16-inch wheels), all of which come with a European tyre label B for wet grip and a C for rolling resistance in 85% of the total range. Some, like my 205/55×16 size come with an even better A label for wet grip and B for rolling resistance – which makes mine one of the best eco tyres on the market – so they should be impressively quiet, safe and grippy in the average UK grim conditions then.

Enabling it to meet some of Europe’s highest new label grades meant that the new EfficientGrip Performance is packed with advanced technology. Amongst these is the company’s ‘WearControl technology,’ which manages a balanced wear across the tyre, delivering a more optimized wet grip and rolling resistance through-out the tyre’s life – impressive! Low rolling resistance, and thus lower fuel consumption is also driven by the tyre’s unique compound formulation, which reduces heat in the lower side-wall, reducing resistance between tyre and road. And an advanced CoolCushion Layer also ensures heat is managed and reduced across the tyre’s surface area, adding to the overall success of the tyre in achieving its high label grades. Finally, an optimized shoulder-block arrangement and extra-thin shoulder grooves deliver additional noise reduction to the tyre, which should make it nice and quiet too.

“When we develop a tyre, we want to deliver a quality product that will continue to perform throughout its life”, comments Hugues Despres, Brand Director EMEA for Goodyear. “Thanks to technologies like WearControl, the new EfficientGrip Performance can deliver optimum wet grip and rolling resistance balance over the entire life of the tyre.”

Building on Goodyear’s drive for improved safety, the EfficientGrip tyre design also includes Goodyear’s advanced 3D Block design technology called ActiveBraking. The technology enables an improved contact with the road and the tyre blocks during braking, shortening the required distance. The use of continuous circumferential ribs increases cornering stiffness, which translates into excellent handling and vehicle control.

“Our engineers also developed a new chafer compound formulation optimized for low rolling resistance that result in reduced fuel consumption. And with the ActiveBraking Technology, we succeeded in increasing the contact of the tyre with the road under braking. Performance is very important, but our driver’s security is our DNA, and we will not compromise on this. We’re really thrilled by the jump in performance, economy, comfort and security of the new EfficientGrip Performance”, adds Hugues Despres.

All of this sounds very impressive, and perfect for the aims of Project Ecowagon – but what are they like, how do they feel, what does the car handle like now, are they better or worse than the standard Dunlop BlueResponse fitted as standard and safer, quieter etc.?

One way to find out… travel 1,000 miles on them (after they’ve been scrubbed in for 200 miles, naturally) and feedback:

Our test route took us from the far east to the wild west of the UK – Norfolk to Devon and Cornwall – on a mix of motorway, A, B and crazy tight, narrow, bumpy back roads (full of pot holes and loaded with loose gravel), and in mixed wet, very wet and bone dry (but cold) conditions. The total journey miles racked up was just over 1,000 in all weathers, which is a decent test for any part… and the Goodyear EfficientGrip rubber shone through the lot, with flying colours it has to be said.

The first thing that struck me was the lack of noise and reduction in NVH levels across the car – even on the M4’s notoriously noisy surface. And the new boots dealt with standing water at 70mph on the motorway with no fuss, or dangerous aquaplaning too – providing excellent feedback levels through the steering wheel in the process, in all conditions and on all surfaces, which really adds driver confidence, for safe family transport.

The lack noise and excellent all-surface grip hallmarks of this tyre continued onto smaller and smaller, more rutted and bumpy back roads in the South West too – proving this is more than a motorway cruising tyre. As did it’s stunning ability when the car is under hard braking – avoiding mad Devon drivers coming round bends on the wrong side etc. – never feeling like they will loose traction, even with a full load and hefty application of the middle pedal.

And, when I did push on (all relative in Project Ecowagon, but you’d be surprised how useful 185lb ft can be in a Golf), the grip levels are excellent, really enabling me to make the most of the Golf’s great FWD handling – most especially in the wet, where this tyre is at its best, really searching out grip and providing great feedback.

So far, I’ve yet to find fault with the Goodyear rubber: It’s awesome!

Available from 14″ to 18″, the new EfficientGrip Performance is offered in 39 sizes in Europe, the Middle East and Africa as of March 1st 2014, with more sizes on the way. And, based on our experience with Project Ecowagon to date, we’d thoroughly recommend the brand, and this new breed of eco tyre. Go get some fitted to your family wagon, or SUV today. You will not be disappointed. What is it folk say…? You get what you pay for: Very true in this case.

Fitting @ STS Tyre Pros

We fitted the Goodyear new boots at STS Tyre Pros (Wymondham, Norfolk branch, run by Simon & David), but STS has branches right across the UK.

Now, I’ve had rally cars, track cars, project cars galore and as such, have been through a LOT of rubber in my life. As a result, I’ve been to many tyre fitting centres – but none as pleasant, fast, efficient, modern, well-equipped, neat and knowledgable as this brand (who pride themselves on top customer service), and specifically, this branch.

The whole place was cleaner than most vets, the customer waiting area (transparently open to the workshop) was warm and loaded with a plasma TV, fish tank, magazines and an awesome hot drinks vending machine, to amuse while you wait. But, best of all, the chaps doing the fitting inspire confidence with their expertise and warm, open, friendly customer service; not to mention being fast enough to qualify for jobs in a World Rally service area: Consummate professionals, taking pride in their work.

They even filled the fresh Goodyear rubber with Nitrogen – motorsport style – creating less corrosion (because Nitrogen has no moisture, unlike air) and suffering a slower rate of pressure loss (Nitrogen molecules are larger than Oxygen): Good pub talk! And they fitted snazzy chrome caps too, which look far nicer than the horrible OEM plastic jobbies: Nice touch.

Following the speedy and efficient tyre fit, we made use of the next great STS Tyre Pro facility– a state-of-art Hunter wheel alignment machine bay, for the perfect wheel alignment and tracking, for the full and proper fitting service. The lads did a great job getting the geometry spot on according to factory settings (which are quite aggressive on the negative camber front BTW) and Project Ecowagon drove away feeling tip top and razor sharp, and all at a very affordable price too. Thanks STS, you offer a rich, rewarding “one-stop-shop” tyre fitting experience.

STS Tyre Pros has over 40 centres across England and offers all major tyre brands, from budget to premium, with a wide range available for both cars and 4x4s.  The staff pride themselves on offering expert advice and quality service, including laser alignment at all centres. For your nearest location and details of any special offers, visit Highly recommended chaps.