Friday, April 5, 2013

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

The saying refers to putting your money where your mouth is, a gut check, a decision to put up or shut up. It's especially fitting when choosing performance tires. Are you willing to spend the money for your self perceived driving style? Will you give up some tread life, some comfort, and about $50  per tire for ultra high performance? Well, it turns out, yes. There was a sale.

Tire buying didn't start with the need for tires, it started with the slightest dissatisfaction with the GTI, spurred on by details of the new Mark VII GTI, which, among other things, has bigger brakes. Why? Because this car needs bigger brakes. It has a poor stopping distance. Those on the forums will howl in derision at me for making such a heretical statement. It's not that the car is really bad, like the Dodge Magnum I used to own that would lead to seat wetting. No, it's just not on par with the performance of the GTI. Volkswagen knows this. The MKVII is 50 pounds lighter than the current generation GTI, but has bigger brakes. I wasn't the only one thinking that.

How do you make yourself feel ever so slightly better about your MKVI GTI? You spend a little bit of money to fix its flaws, and no better time or justification to your wife (chill, I know the demographics for this car) than when parts need replacing. It didn't start with tires, however. Brakes are also due soon, so I picked out some good Hawk XPS street pads and started researching "larger brakes" for the GTI. Holy Jeebus. Good sets are thousands of dollars!

The alternative is to work around the edges, with things like pads, and, you guessed it, better tires.The stock tires are rated for mud and snow. You know, they're not bad, but they're likely a big culprit in understear and poor braking and I would never drive this car in snow. Surely you would work on a tire upgrade before you jumped to the black magic of a new braking system

If I'm seriously interested in better braking, a couple hundred bucks extra for the best tires is a small price to buy, even if it's essentially "renting" them for two years, as they'll be gone in 30,000 miles, which is actually very good considering the history of performance tires. So rather than spend $2000 on a brake kit, rather than pine over the MKVII or the sure-to-brake-my-heart-and-the-bank 128i, just spend a bit more on some tires and let it go. At the very least, the fever might brake and I'll happily drive this car for another 100,000 miles or so, as planned.

As will happen with daydreaming about cool toys, I ended up buying the tires an hour ago. Tire Rack has a special through the 14th that makes the Michelin Pilot Super Sports just expensive and not crazy expensive, offering a $70 rebate. Decision made. I'll wait on the pads for a couple months. It will give me time to consider ceramics, and I do love a research project. I'm just worried the ceramics will leave me in my neighbors living room with their longer warm up time and my steep driveway.

Twaron, Son of Aramid (A solid hook for you Lord of the Rings fans)


  1. Good choice (Pilots)...looking forward to your impressions/reviews.

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