CHANDLER, Ariz.—The official introduction of the most recent additions to Goodyear's tire lines—the Wrangler AT/S and Eagle F1 GS radials—took place Feb. 10 during the company's national dealer meeting in Orlando, Fla. But two months earlier, the tire maker previewed the new tires to a group of more than 40 members of the tire and automotive trade press at a gathering in Chandler, where Goodyear took full advantage of the facilities of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving to put the tires through their paces.
In the case of the all-terrain Wrangler AT/S, this meant negotiating a mud course, experiencing ``hot laps'' of an off-road course with racing legend Walker Evans behind the wheel of one of his Dodge Ram pickups, and driving some nearby highways to check on-road noise levels.
The journalists had a chance to drive the ultra-high-performance Eagle F1 GS—primarily on the Bondurant fleet of Ford Mustang GTs—on an autocross course, comparing its performance with the Eagle GSC, on an accident avoidance course, and on the school's main race course, where they also were driven on ``hot laps'' by members of the Bondurant staff.
A unique feature of the Wrangler AT/S is its tread design, which incorporates dual traction lug channels whose self-cleaning characteristic improves off-road traction, especially in mud and snow, while reducing noise when on the road.
Compared with the Wrangler AT it is replacing, the Wrangler AT/S (``S'' stands for successor) offers improvements in traction of 5 percent, 12 percent in treadwear and 10 percent in noise reduction, according to Mike Kolowski, Goodyear's chief engineer for light truck tires.
The Wrangler AT/S has virtually eliminated irregular wear, he said, and its tri-radius mold shape results in a virtually identical footprint regardless of load.
The result is not only longer wear, he said, but a tire that retains its excellent traction characteristics longer. When 75-percent worn, the Wrangler AT/S still has 85 percent of its numerous block and blade edges, Mr. Kolowski said.
The new tire is available in 13 sizes: one P-metric size—P235/75R15; nine LT-metric sizes— seven for 16-inch rims; and three flotation sizes—all load range C for 15-inch rims.
The Z-rated Eagle F1 GS, with its aggressive directional tread design and twin aquachannels, was derived from Goodyear's Formula 1 racing rain tire and is the first Goodyear tire to carry the federal government's new ``AA'' traction rating, said Bob Toth, marketing manager for high performance tires.
``The tire uses a hybrid triple polymer tread compound system that includes two exclusive Goodyear polymers,'' Mr. Toth said. ``The compound, code-named AATRAX, maximizes wet and dry grip without trading off treadwear, snow (traction), noise or rolling resistance.''
According to Warren Croyle, senior engineer for passenger tire programs, the Eagle F1 GS was designed with unique tread block geometry that increases lateral and circumferential tread stiffness, thereby improving handling. The tire also features a decoupling blade in each shoulder element.
``In laymen's terms, the shoulder decoupling blade provides a lateral edge to improve wet handling and reduces tread noise by softening the tread block and reducing impact energy,'' Mr. Croyle said.
The bottoms of the aquachannels feature serrations to protect them from stone penetration, he added.
The Eagle F1 GS—in an ``extended mobility'' or run-flat version—debuted earlier this year as original equipment on the 1997 Chevrolet Corvette: size P245/45ZR17 89Y for the front wheels; P275/40ZR18 94Y for the rear.
In the aftermarket, the newest Eagle will be available in 12 sizes initially, all with aspect ratios of 55 or lower.
Besides the Mustang and Corvette, target vehicles include the Toyota Supra, Dodge Stealth, Camaro Z28 and Mazda RX7.