COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—With temperatures soaring into the 90s and the sun shining brightly over Colorado Springs, it wasn't exactly the type of weather you'd expect to test Goodyear's latest-generation wet-weather tire, the Aquatred 3. But then, maybe that was the point.
For while Goodyear's own tests show the Aquatred 3 offers significantly improved handling in the wet vs. its predecessor, the Aquatred II, it's also a better performer on dry pavement.
That, Goodyear officials said during a press conference June 8 at the Cheyenne Mountain Conference Resort and the nearby Pike's Peak International Raceway, makes the all-season tire "a true all-around performer."
"The tire does everything well," said Bob Toth, Goodyear's marketing manager for auto tires, noting the tire maker struggled with whether to retain the Aquatred name, since it's more than a rain tire.
But in the end, Goodyear stuck with Aquatred's already healthy brand equity, and will communicate to consumers and dealers that the new tire "is a versatile all-season tire that has strengths that are unique in the wet," said Marco Molinari, vice president of sales and marketing.
The Aquatred 3 is the third reincarnation of the tire, the first version of which Goodyear introduced in 1991.
The latest rendition features a wider footprint, directional tread design and two aquachannels that displace 18 percent more water than its single-aquachannel predecessor, Goodyear said.
It also comes with a longer treadwear warranty—85,000 miles—than the Aquatred II, which was covered for 65,000 miles.
Goodyear gave tire and automotive journalists and a few select dealers the chance to test for themselves the premium tire's characteristics—both on the track and over a three-hour drive through the Pike National Forest.
"As far as the ride-and-drive, I thought they (the new tires) were quiet," said Kurt Hegemier, president of three-outlet Hegemier Tire Service, based in Wapakoneta, Ohio. "We treated them like an Eagle tire and they responded."
Mr. Hegemier described the tire's wet handling as superior to any other broad-market tire, including the Aquatred II. "I'm sold on it, as long as it delivers the mileage and wears uniformly," he said.
The Aquatred 3 comes with a T speed rating (up to 118 mph), a 640 UTQG treadwear grade and an AA grade for wet traction.
Production of the tire, which is available in 18 60-, 65- and 70-series sizes, began in April. Goodyear is making the tire at plants in Gadsden, Ala., Union City, Tenn., and Lawton, Okla. The company began taking dealer orders June 15, although Mr. Hegemier said he already has a few in his showrooms.
Goodyear said introduction of the Aquatred 3 completes the transformation of its broadline passenger tire line, which has been reduced to four lines from eight in 1997.
The new lineup, headed by the Aquatred 3, includes: the Club, a 40,000-mile, entry-level tire introduced in January of this year; the 50,000-mile Integrity original equipment and replacement line introduced in 1998; and the 75,000-mile Regatta 2.
These lines replace the Aquatred II, Infinitred, Regatta, Intrepid, S4S, T-Metric and Decathlon.
Goodyear said it will promote the new Aquatred 3 this summer during the Olympics as the official sponsor of the U.S. swim team.
Mr. Toth said buyer loyalty to the Aquatred line already runs high. Nearly 65 percent of Aquatred owners, he said, replace their worn tires with new Aquatreds vs. the industry average of about 40 percent for other tires.
The Aquatred 3's advantages meet the global climatic changes that affect motor travel, he added.
Studies by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, he said, show most of North America's rainfall is concentrated in heavy downpours between September and November.
While precipitation has risen about 1 percent worldwide in the last century, rainfall in the U.S. has increased by 5 percent, Mr. Toth said. Meanwhile, rainfall along the northern tier states and in southern Canada has swelled 10 to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To battle increased puddling on roadways, Goodyear said the Aquatred 3's features include:
A 10-percent wider tread footprint for improved wet and dry handling;
A special "touring" tread compound the company said helped the Aquatred 3 achieve an "AA" wet-traction rating—Goodyear's first broad-market tire to do so;
7.6-percent greater aquachannel groove volume than its predecessor, for improved water displacement;
An 8-percent improvement in wet-braking distance, which at 45 mph amounts to a reduction in braking distance of nearly 13 feet, compared with the Aquatred II;
Dry-traction improvement of 6 percent compared with the same tire;
About a 5-percent improvement in wet handling on a controlled course; and,
Improved steering feel, riding comfort and reduced tread noise.
Besides performance, the tire's appearance also is a selling point, according to at least one dealer.
"The tread reminds me of the Gatorback," one of Goodyear's high-performance lines, said Billy Gorman, vice president of Barnwell House of Tires in Ronkonkoma, on New York's Long Island.
"Compared to other broadline products, the (Aquatred 3's) tread has the look of a performance tire," he said. "And a tire's looks are 90 percent of the battle on the showroom floor when you're trying to sell it."