Last month in preparation for the trip to the Southern Ohio Forest Rally, I got new tires and wheels for the Mazda5. After the Cruze’s tire failure last time I attended a rally, I decided to be very proactive for this trip. This was all the pretext I needed to upgrade (this will be a theme). I kept the factory tire size at 205/50/17 and the 17x7.5 Enkei M52's bumped up the wheel width a half inch over factory. While both the Yokohama AVID Ascend and the BF Goodrich g-Force Comp-2 A/S were rated the same, the tread width is noticeably wider on the BF G’s. some of it can be chalked up to the wider wheels but.... when I autocrossed there were rumors that some tire companies fudged their high performance tire’s width ratings to skirt around regulations. I find the idea that drivers would pay for extra performance beyond strict rules hard to believe and, frankly, offensive. And that tire companies would cater to this base desire in the name of profits? Get real.
Obviously, since I threw in two variables, I can’t compare the individual pieces but only as a system. I also can’t really judge the wear rates since ive only put a couple thousand miles on the new ones, but I’ll use super scientific measurements on the ride, grip and noise.
Ride- This is a bit of a toss up, which is a compliment to the Ultra HP all seasons compared to the grand touring marketed Yokohamas. Maybe the lighter than stock wheels help smooth things out a bit, less unsprung weight and all. I’m going to toss in my mpg averages in here too. The stickier wider tires should have had a noticeable effect on economy, but the 5 is still firmly in it’s 25-28mpg range with 2 consecutive tanks being outliers, 29.4/24.1. This is a win.
Grip- These tires are on a different planet. I’ve read so much about how modern cars perform and blah blah blah. I’m now convinced it’s 90% tires. I think I’ve almost kinda ruined the street playfulness with these. The limits are so high that I’m waiting for an autocross in the region to fully press it. It is made up for by knowing that I only need to slow down to maintain appearances rather than a physical need, and that is it’s own sort of fun. In the wet these really shine comparatively. Any aggression or clutch mistake in the rain used to be announced with a one wheel peel and flashing DSC light, not anymore. There’s no more voice of paranoia in the back of my head wondering if maybe I don’t have the wet grip to perform a needed defensive maneuver.
Noise- I really expected these to be noisier just because of the assumed compromises of a high performance tire. Once again I was pleasantly surprised. Certainly the new wheels may help contribute to the noise damping but the car rides much quieter over 10mph. Under that you do get the lint roller sound, which is, you know, sweet. Anyways, on the highway I used to listen to music on 10 and now I can listen on 8. I don’t know the dB differences, but it’s an improvement.
I’ve been pretty amazed at the improvement in all the other phases of the car besides the obscene grip. The best part is that these tires just aren’t all that expensive, particularly for the class of tire. They were about $100/tire and the whole setup including TPMS transfer/balance/installation was less than $1200 at my local tire shop. The cliche about wheels and tires being the best performance (and aesthetic) upgrade for the money is holding so true for me. Even if the other shoe drops and these wear out quickly I still feel they’re a great value. Hopefully not too quickly.
As to what’s in the mail:
The generally agreed upon weak point of the Mazda5 is the suspension. It just wasn’t upgraded from the 3 to handle the extra weight of the van. This seems to be universal from Consumer Reports and enthusiast forums to random jamokes complaining in online reviews. Personally, mine’s been alright as far as I can tell, with some occasional squeaks/groans from the rear suspension and a worn out RF LCA bushing. The car is nearing 85k miles and I don’t get the feeling the previous owner did any suspension work. Since the oem parts catch so much crap, I went above and beyond
reason and got the koni yellows/ H&R sport spring kit. You know, because Race Minivan. I’ll also be taking this time to change the serpentine belt and the front bearings/rear hubs as these are becoming more prevalent than they ought to be and I’ll be in the neighborhood.
Note: These new tires and a case of rally fever have completely sated my desire for a new(ish) car. I’ll be doing the proper thing and window shopping cheap manual transmission cars.