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Triple Play: Around the World with the Yokohama ADVAN Sport V105

October 24, 2013

The critically-acclaimed ADVAN Sport V103 has served as the choice for enthusiasts who wanted to get the most out of their high-powered premium cars. So it’s no surprise that Yokohama Tire Corporation would choose the world’s most demanding race track, the Nürburgring Circuit, as the research and development base for the tire’s successor, and subject it to an unending barrage of torturous tests in the quest for “high speed, high comfort.” The end result is the ADVAN Sport V105 – a tire that delivers superior driving performance over its predecessor with improved comfort and safety. And just like the V103, the new V105 is fitted as original equipment (OE) on a number of sporty high-end luxury cars, among them those from Mercedes-Benz, who assisted in the tire’s development.

But instead of listing the numerous benefits and virtues of the V105 here, we thought it would be more fun to help you experience the tire in its environment. In a special feature called “Triple Play,” we evaluated the V105 on three different continents, three different driving venues, fitted on three different high-performance vehicles. So come along as we set out for a trip around the world, leaving an abundance of tire marks in our wake.

First Play: Europe and the Audi R8

Nestled in the Andalucían countryside in southern Spain is a small, private racetrack called Ascari Circuit. A few miles from Malaga, Ascari Circuit has become a popular test site for car makers around the world. The 3.37-mile layout features an array of tricky corners and numerous elevation changes, making it a challenging course for even high-level racecar drivers. Created to be a country club for driving enthusiasts, Ascari has approximately 30 or so members from all over the word, many of them leaving their prized mounts in the facility’s garage. Presently, there is everything from a race-prepped Mini Cooper to a Ferrari F1/87 Formula 1 machine from 1987.

It was an ideal place to experience the new V105s at their absolute limit. For our test car, we chose the Audi R8, with former Formula 1 pilot Ukyo Katayama behind the wheel. As soon as the “go” signal was given, the all-wheel-drive sports car took off from a standstill like a slingshot, with all four tires biting the tarmac simultaneously. Going into the first sweeper at well over 80 mph, Katayama delicately clipped the apex with minimal steering input. Where it seemed as if he would drift through the corner, Katayama took the quickest driving line.

“It’s really easy to control the car at high speed with this new tire. With other tires, if you slid the car’s rear end out, you don’t know where that slide will end; but with these tires, it’s easy to know because the tires provide constant feedback. And are they sticky! Even when you feel they have exceeded their limits of adhesion, they’re still stuck to the driving surface. Amazing!” he said.

That the V105 displayed noticeably better grip than the V103 was obvious, but how did Yokohama achieve such drastic results? According to the engineers, the difference comes in the form of a myriad of new technology. Among them are a new tread design, which we will address later, and the “Matrix Body Ply” structure, which improves rigidity in the circumferential direction through a double structure that crosses over from the sidewall to the shoulder. This means that if side rigidity is high, the tread and bead can roll in the proper direction, thus creating precise steering response without diminishing ride comfort. It’s easy to see why, through tight chicanes and tricky esses, the R8 remained composed and never once got out of shape.

On the high-speed straights, the V105s showed amazing stability, thanks in part to the “mound profile.” The cross-sectional shape of the new ADVAN Sport is flatter and each block has a slight “R-shape.” The R-shape on the five circumferential ribs is nominally different depending on location from shoulder to center. This profile precisely controls the ground contact pressure of the blocks, improving stability at high speeds by enhancing the tire contact patch.

As Katayama kept lapping, the tires seemed to be getting stronger, hardly losing their adhesion even after a full day on the track. Part of the credit here goes to the high-rigidity rayon carcass material that’s more heat resistant than customary body ply and has minimal effect on carcass properties.

As the test session ended with the Audi R8 running as strong as when the day started, Katayama said the V105s seemed to be made especially for the R8, making the car’s excellent chassis shine brighter than he had ever expected.

“I realize that another manufacturer helped Yokohama develop the V105, but they work on the R8 extremely well. Grip through corners was excellent and traction when braking was phenomenal. It just goes to show how well-balanced V105 are,” he commented.

Now, it was time for us to see how well the new V105s performed on public roads where most V105 customers will find themselves. So it was time to head back to North America to evaluate the V105 on a winding mountain road near Los Angeles, California.

Second Play: North America and the D3 Cadillac ATS

Angeles National Forest, near Los Angeles, California, is home to arguably the most challenging roads in the State of California. It serves as an ideal place to sample and test the touring values of the V105. Our vehicle of choice was the Cadillac ATS, with slight modifications by D3, an aftermarket specialist in Signal Hill, California. D3 installed its custom race suspension with thicker anti-roll bars both front and rear, significantly improving the car’s ability to take corners aggressively. The tires were fitted to 19-inch TSW Interlagos wheels, which made the ATS look ready for a day at the track.

At daybreak, we took to the hills in this elegant sports sedan, which came powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that produced 272 horsepower. The combination of the rear-drive car’s rigid chassis and the sticky V105s was remarkable, as the car displayed neutral handling through every type of corner the 35-mile road had to offer. The car turned-in with amazing crispness, with no understeer as the front tires gripped the driving surface with tenacity. Through the exit of tight corners, the rear end always stayed put, even when getting aggressive with the throttle pedal. But where the tires’ effectiveness was most noticeable was when approaching blind corners, and you’re forced to brake harder than you want…or risk going over the edge of a cliff. The V105s, when paired with the ATS’s excellent braking system, brought the car to halt in a snap.

While most of these attributes were on display at the race track in the R8, one thing new we noticed was how effective the tires were in the wet. When compared to its predecessor (and competing brands), the level of grip on wet surfaces of the V105s were on an entirely higher level. The car virtually behaved as if it were in the dry, even in deep sections of water. Where other tires would cause the car to understeer heavily through slow corners, the V105 guided the car precisely where it was steered, with good turn-in feel to boot. When the speeds increased, the tires seemed to get better, actually making it hard to get the car sideways on purpose. Some of the credit here can be attributed to the innovative new asymmetrical tread pattern of the V105 that features a larger inside groove area to resist hydroplaning at high speeds. Also, playing a vital role is the new compound of the V105.

The compound of the V105 can be classified into three distinct groups: the filler, which consists of micro silica and a silica- dispersing agent; the polymers, which consists of a polymer highly reactive to silica, a polymer for high wear resistance and a polymer for high wet grip; and orange oil. With increased volume of micro silica, Yokohama used a silica dispersing agent for the first time, helping the micro silica disperse more easily and evenly, further improving the already high wet-grip performance. The combination of polymers do the unthinkable: It enhances wet grip without increasing rolling resistance. And one of the polymers improves the wear resistance of the rubber. The orange oil, which has become a trademark product for Yokohama, improves the tire’s pliability, which in turn helps adhesion. Currently, tires with orange oil technology are supplied to the FIA WTCC, IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohamaand other motorsports series, displaying their talents in big-time racing events.

Among the test drivers of our ATS shod with the V105s was Formula Drift star and 2013 Champion, Michael Essa, who tried to wring every bit of performance out of the car and the tires. We found it odd that he wasn’t executing four-wheel drifts through every corner, but instead took a clean-yet-aggressive driving line, like that of a seasoned road racer. When asked why he wasn’t doing what he does best in this sporty car, he said simply: “I tried to drift the car, but these tires have too much grip, so it was very difficult getting the rear end to break loose.”

High praise indeed…and from a professional drifter no less. Now it was time to travel across the Pacific Ocean to test how the V105s fared in a crowded city environment. Our destination was Tokyo, Japan, home to Yokohama Rubber Co. and arguably the world’s most congested roads.

Third Play: Asia and the Lexus GS 350

For our city drive, we chose to mount the V105 on the Lexus GS 350. The exciting Japanese sports sedan comes equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 with VVT-I (Toyota's valve timing technology) that produces 306 bhp at 6400 rpm and 276 lb.-ft. of torque at 4800. The shifting duties are performed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode, and although the hardware is basically carryover from the past model, new features have been added to make the driving experience sportier. But as sporty as the GS350’s specifications are, the rear-drive sedan is a capable touring machine, with a remarkably comfortable cabin that accommodates five people.

Through the crowded city streets of Tokyo’s Asakusa District, the Lexus GS 350 exhibited a silky smooth ride, with the tires and suspension soaking up road irregularities in a very efficient manner. The new matrix body ply structure gives the V105 high side rigidity that provides highly efficient rolling qualities, so the tread and the bead roll in proper positions. This also sharpens the car’s steering response, which was very helpful when weaving through heavy traffic.

It wasn’t until we found ourselves on the Tomei Expressway that we realized how quiet the new V105s were. As the car reached a cruising speed of 130 km/h (about 80 mph), the cabin of the Lexus GS 350 remained eerily silent. Engine noise was just above a whisper, and road noise was virtually non-existent. Some of the credit here goes to the V105’s asymmetrical pitch variation that optimizes pitch on the inside and outside of the tire to achieve both enhanced maneuverability and quietness. Also, Yokohama’s silent sipe technology, which is incorporated into the tread pattern, plays a big role, too. The silent sipe consists of thin slits positioned on the inside of the ribs to suppress external vehicle noise.

After our experience in Europe and North America, we knew that the V105s were very capable when hard driving was the order of the day, but we were quite impressed on how civil these tires could be when the driver just wanted to relax and cruise on the open freeway. The sharp steering response the V105s provided was a welcome trait on both the race track and crowded metropolitan roads. What’s more, the ADVAN Sport tire is more fuel efficient than their predecessor, the V103. Not only has rolling resistance been decreased as mentioned before, the tire weighs 4.6 percent less than the V103s, all while improving stability. True to Yokohama’s motto regarding the ADVAN Sports, these tires were definitely “comfort even at high speed.”

Triple Play

Three different continents on three different driving venues with three different vehicles: It was a fun and educational trip, one that revealed the versatile nature of the new Yokohama ADVAN Sport tires. The Triple Play convinced our testers that Yokohama’s new flagship tire is ideal for driving enthusiasts of all levels in any setting imaginable, and can be called the best road tire in the world.