Product review: Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres for Honda S2000
Let’s get it straight right off the bat that we aren’t equipped to do conclusive tests on tyres. Everybody has their own opinions on which brand is better or worse, but most of them are just hearsay and conjecture. We’ve always had an open mind about tyre brands, which is why we’ve used everything from Made-in-Germany to Made-in-China rubbers, depending on the car, none of which really failed us. So when Bridgstone approached us to try out their all-new Potenza S001 flagship tyres on our Honda S2000, we were wondering how we’ll compare it to what we already had on. But then we took a look at the stock tyres, and it seems the S2000 came with Potenza RE050 rubbers, Bridgestone’s previous flagship. We only had 15,000 km on them too. This was going to be easier than we thought.
However, our 2007 Honda S2000 is five years old, and so are its tyres. Still, the car spent almost its entire life in the shade, and the existing RE050 tyres had held up remarkably well. In fact, even though they are technically “expired” as per local law, it passed the last annual check by authorities because they were in perfect condition, with almost full tread depth still there.
Of course, the tyres probably weren’t going to pass the test next year for the same reason, so we had to get new rubbers anyway. But before we went in for the tyre change, we gave the car one last wring.
The five-year-old tyres still offered great grip. In fact, we couldn’t make the car drift at all. The torqueless engine in combination with grippy 245-width rear tyres meant that the rear refused to step out at all, unless we did something really drastic. We only broke out the rear by flooring it from a standstill while executing a tyre-spinning U-turn, or occasionally felt a twitch in the rear when hitting a dip on a curve or a roundabout. We believe you have to be an expert in weight-shifting to get this car to drift, and that too at very high speeds, something that our test venue didn’t have the space for.
The more we pushed it in tight turns, the more it understeered and crept wider, although not by a whole lot. Grip was still impressive, but we weren’t sure if this was as tight as a sports car should be. This was confirmed when we got a lowly Renault Duster the following week, and that tall little thing was almost capable of the same corner-entry speeds as our S2000!
Ironically, the tyres were still grippy enough to afford us some proper launches during 0-100 kph acceleration tests. Even when dropping the clutch at 5000 rpm, the rear tyres never broke loose, bogging the car down initially before taking off towards its first gear change. This is probably more due to that torqueless engine again, rather than the tyres. We did manage to make the rear rubbers spin a couple of times by launching at 5500 rpm, although that didn’t really help our times much.
And then we headed to Bridgestone’s Middle East headquarters at Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai, which also happens to be a tyre shop. On the way, driving on the highway, we kept complaining about how loud the tyre noise was, but then again, everything with the S2000 is loud, thanks to that tissue-paper roof.
The Bridgestone Potenza S001 is labelled as an “ultra high performance” tyre, with improvements such as “reducing the main grooves down to three to enable a larger block on the tyre’s outside edge; enlarged and reinforced outside block; a slick-style centre rib; and block sipes positioned at a 60-degree angle.” If you didn’t understand any of that, it’s okay, because we don’t know how those things improve the handling either, but apparently they do.
The crew there readied our set of S001 tyres, two 215/45 ones for the front and two 245/40 ones for the rear, to replace the RE050 rubbers on our 17-inch alloys. Prices weren’t set in stone at that time, although it was estimated at Dhs 950 for each of the front ones, and Dhs 1150 for each of the rear ones. That’s roughly a total of Dhs 4200! They cost even more for larger sizes. For that much dough, we were expecting miracles.
Heck, after the tyres went on, the car felt miraculously tighter, even more than we expected. While the previous tyres offered enough grip to feel comparable to a hot hatch like, say, the Volkswagen GTI, the fresh tyres moved the S2000’s stickiness to a level akin to the Nissan GT-R! It really does feel like an all-wheel-drive car now. This is probably how Honda wanted the car to be like all along.
Helped by its 50:50 balance, light weight and small size, our S2000 can now charge around off-ramps and slip through curves almost as hard as any modern McLaren-like supercar, provided that the turns are sufficiently tight and we’re brave enough. End up on a longer corner though, and the supercar can just use its power to pull away. Of course, we’ve yet to come across a supercar driver who does more than 5 kph on any corner.
The rear tyres will still give a little twitch sometimes on slippery surfaces when on tight turns, like if you violently swing at the steering wheel on a sandy road, or like on a puddle during rains, or even on those stupid brick roads in “posh” areas, so we know the tyres are not excreting glue all the time.
As an unexpected bonus, the new tyres are a fair bit quieter on the highway than the old ones. This is probably more due to the age of the old tyres than anything else, as Bridgestone never claimed the new S001 is quieter than the RE050.
Bridgestone does claim that grip levels are higher with the S001s than the RE050s, both in dry and wet conditions. And while we can’t conclusively prove that, we can definitely say that these S001s are ridiculously good in its own right. That’s probably why it is used as standard equipment on Ferraris.
The tyres on a Mondeo cost more….a lot more… >_<