Burning Rubber in San Antonio: Why Tires Matter

I really wanted to test drive the boats on the San Antonio River Walk.  They look like a lot of fun… except for that awkward steering.

Left is right and right is left?  Ain't nobody got time for that...

Left is right and right is left? Ain’t nobody got time for that…

My lesson on the mechanics of Starboard and Port Tiller Steering would have to wait.  It was time to head to The Cooper Tire & Vehicle Test Center for day #2 of the Cooper CS5 Media Ride-N-Drive. (Read about Day #1 here if you missed it)

A group photo as we arrived.  Can you tell which one I am?  That's right.  The bonehead with the long sleeves on in Texas.  Well, in Michigan our seasons are different with winter running from January to June, then summer is from June to July and winter returns from August to December.

A group photo as we arrived. Can you tell which one I am? That’s right. The bonehead with the long sleeves on in Texas. Well, in Michigan our seasons are different with winter running from January to June, then summer is from June to July and winter returns from August to December.

Cooper Tires is headquartered in Findlay, Ohio and employs 13,000 people, some of whom I was privileged to meet.  Cooper bands include Mastercraft, Starfire and Mickey Thompson, among others.  Truck fans know the latter quite well.  In 1952, Cooper debuted the Weathermaster and they are still sold today.  Cushion Ride, a tubeless tire, was released in 1954 and nearly 50 years later, the Zeon surfaced.  I will explain what those do on a Corvette in my next installment!  Oh baby…

Yet, the star of the show is the new CS5.  Cooper unveiled these to commemorate 100 years and I took a century of design and innovation and forced it to the limit.

Ariel view of the Cooper Tire and Vehicle Test Center located south of San Antonio on Interstate 35.  Note the wet track - the black square in the upper left corner.

Ariel view of the Cooper Tire and Vehicle Test Center located south of San Antonio on Interstate 35. The Wet Vehicle Dynamics Assessment Pad is the black, 14 acre square in the upper left corner. The Dry Handling Circuit begins at the large oval, just behind the central building.   There is also a two mile race track and an off road test course.  The facility totals 1,000 acres.

The Dry Handling Circuit

Don't hit the cones on this road course...like I did.

Don’t hit the cones on this road course…like I did.

I took my initial run in one of two 2014, 3 Series BMWs.  One equipped with Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring tires and the other with  Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires. The size was 225/50R17.

The BMW equipped with Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring tires.  The Cooper Tires Team (seen in the background) attended to the cars and track after each run.  The red 3 Series, also seen in the background, had the Pirelli  Cinturato P7 tires.  This experience reminded me of something out of National Geographic.  The second an animal is born into the wild, predators arrive.  The CS5 is like that – released into the wild and already Pirelli looks to attack.

The red 3 Series, seen in the background, had the Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires. This reminded me of something out of National Geographic. The second an animal is born into the wild, predators arrive. The CS5 is like that – released into the wild and already Pirelli looks to attack.

As a result of my dealership background, I am very familiar with the 3 Series.  Since I have much experience with this particular car, I felt very comfortable behind the wheel.  And I wanted to, for the sake of really testing the tires, use that to my advantage.

Me taking a run in the 3 Series and making the tight turns as laid out by the cones.

Me taking a run in the 3 Series and making the tight turns as laid out by the cones.

The brake/throttle combination was key on the Dry Handling Course.  As I approached each corner with the CS5 tires, I felt them pull me back to the ground, in light of the car’s momentum.  The Pirelli tires on the red 3 Series, during my second run, were nice but more prone to excessive sway.

The CS5 tires absorbed the movements in the corner much better.

The Cooper CS5 did a better job accentuating the suspension and handling, a powerful selling point of the BMW brand.  During my time at Luxury Automall of Sioux Falls, I heard many customers comment positively on the ride of their BMW.  These were not race car drivers with access to tracks like Cooper’s Dry Handling Circuit.  They were everyday consumers but with power; power to change the entire auto industry in how they spend their dollars.

Putting a less capable tire on a BMW they purchased (and willingly paid more for than the average vehicle) would compromise the ride quality they so deeply desired.  Dry Handling Course aside, the tire I would recommend in this case is the CS5.  In addition, any driver, regardless of car, will be much better off with a tire, like the CS5, in the event of an evasive maneuver.  Now we are not only talking about a tire supporting the ride but the traction control system, specifically designed to lessen yaw, roll and pitch during such situations.

A paramount distinction.

Me making a run in the BMW 3 Series with Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires.  Notice the cones just ahead that are knocked over...

Me making a run in the BMW 3 Series with Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires. Notice the cones just ahead that are knocked over…

During my run in the red BMW, with the Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires, I spun around completely and destroyed several cones.  The tires did not handle the way I needed and it should be noted: my knowledge of the BMW 3 Series didn’t prevent me from spinning out.  That said, the right tires are a critical piece of the puzzle.  What if I had suddenly needed to make that evasive maneuver to avoid, say a child running after a ball rolling into the street?

It’s an unpleasant but necessary consideration.

On a softer note, one of the reps from The Zimmerman Agency decided to ride with me for this run.  I don’t think she was ready for the little twisty twister incident we encountered.  Sorry Christa… I didn’t mean it.  I still hope we are friends?

Wet Vehicle Dynamics Assessment Pad

After lunch it was time for round two…

The Cooper Team studies a number of things, including hydroplaning and the characteristics of it, on the Wet Vehicle Dynamics Assessment Pad.  The water flow is uniform  and the tracked is slightly inclined to recycle it, via the drains at the bottom of the photo.

The Cooper Team studies a number of things, including hydroplaning and the characteristics of it, on the Wet Vehicle Dynamics Assessment Pad. The water flow is uniform and the track is slightly inclined to recycle it via drains at the perimeter.

We made this run in Ford Mustangs, the pride of Flat Rock, Michigan.  One Mustang was up fitted with Cooper CS5 Grand Touring tires and the other with Hankook Optimo H727 tires.

The silver Mustang with Cooper CS5 Grand Touring Tires, size 215/65R17.  A black Mustang was parked not far behind this one with Hankook H27 tires.

The silver Mustang with Cooper CS5 Grand Touring Tires, size 215/65R17. A black Mustang was parked not far behind this one with Hankook H27 tires.

Like the BMW, my dealership experience allowed me special insight into the Ford Mustang.  At one time, I used to sell them and when the 2011 5.0 arrived at Sioux Falls Ford, I spent extensive time studying and driving the car.  I know how it behaves and handles.  I know the amount of work Ford has done over the years to get the Mustang to its current stature

And I know a less than perfect tire will hinder the performance.

Just like the BMW 3 Series, the Ford Mustang is also subject to this rule.

Here I am, making a run with the Hankook H27 tires in the black Mustang.  I struggled, despite knowing the car as well as I do.  At the end of this straightaway, the the sharpest corner on the entire pad presents itself and it was nearly impossible to make without the help of the CS5 tires.

Here I am, making a run with the Hankook H27 tires in the black Mustang. I struggled, despite knowing the car as well as I do. At the end of this straightaway, the the sharpest corner on the entire pad presents itself and it was nearly impossible to make without the help of the CS5 tires.

When it came to wet driving, even though I was in a controlled environment, I felt much safer with the CS5 tires.  They filtered the water better and did not slide as easily.  I gained more trust in the Cooper CS5 tires than the Hankook Optimo H727 tires.  Since driving on a wet track will automatically reduce confidence, I was really looking to the tires to compensate and the Cooper CS5 filled that void admirably.

Why Cooper CS5 Tires?

The Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring, as equipped on the BMW 3 Series.

The Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring, as equipped on the BMW 3 Series.

The CS5 endured the mileage equivalent of driving from New York to Los Angeles 400 times during development. Over 1,100 batches of silica were made for a total of 270,000 lbs. of tread compound, all to fabricate the tire pictured here. The right balance of silica was essential to Cooper engineers who ultimately subjected their laboratory creations to over 20,000 individual tests. The final result is a CS5 tire with 4 times the amount of silica than its predecessor, the CS4. That spells better handling in both wet and dry conditions, more gripping ability and better fuel economy.

While I may have visited the Cooper Tire and Vehicle Test Center, not everybody gets a chance to compare competing tires like this.  When I was a Service Advisor, tires were the biggest confusion for my customers.  When I took over in management, I subsequently noticed tires where the biggest confusion for my Service Advisors.

Everybody was trying to make sense of a myriad of rubber circles on the wall that after awhile, all looked the same.

When that happens, the ones with the biggest rebates gets sold, regardless of if that set of tires is actually the best for that customer.  I wish I had this experience with Cooper Tires even just a year ago.

It would have changed how I approached this issue.

Roberto_LAM

Tires are one of the most routinely serviced parts of any vehicle, from rotation and tread depth inspection to overall replacement. Roberto Ocampo, pictured here, was one of many technicians I counted on to help educate customers on the importance of tires.

As part of a dealer group, I found everyday people have a different definition of “shop talk” than us car buffs.

The engine and transmission need no other features, outside of dependability.  A car, to most, requires safety, affordability and fuel economy to justify purchasing.  Burning rubber is left in a distant fantasy because keeping the kids safe is priority.  Green light drag racing machines are nice but having one sends family finances into the red.

This is car talk for everyday people.

And it sounds like this specifically: “Mr. and Mrs. Customer, the Cooper CS5 is going to give you maximum traction in all weather conditions, especially if you have to make an unexpected maneuver or swerve out of the way of traffic.  I believe it to be one of the best tires out there for the money and I would trust it for my family as well as yours.”

The Cooper CS5 Grand Touring as equipped on the Ford Mustang.

The Cooper CS5 Grand Touring as equipped on the Ford Mustang.

With regard to the photo above: The 3D Micro Gage-Grooves allow the tread to interlock while turning corners and driving curvy roads. This means more control, increased safety and overall improvement in how the tires respond on wet and snowy surfaces. The 3D Micro-Guage Grooves are then partnered with Stabiledge, located at the edge of every CS5. Small bumpers keep larger grooves open which translates to greater response and a more steady feel, especially around corners.

The Cooper CS5 Media Ride-N-Drive was organized, promoted and sponsored by Cooper Tires and The Zimmerman Agency. However, the thoughts and opinions of this series are my own.  While there are some universal truths to all dealerships, I acknowledge my experiences in the car business may not be shared by others who held (or currently hold) similar positions as I did.  I am open to healthy and mutually beneficial discussions on this and the other topics I have presented in this piece, via e-mail: [email protected]

In my next installment:
The people behind Cooper Tires.
Recap Video.
And…
Running hot laps in a Corvette with an IndyCar Series driver.

Zeon Corvette


Categories:: BMWCar OpinionsCar TechDriving TechniquesEditorialsFeatureFordMustang


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