while driving a
(225/55 R16) on
mostly country roads
First of all, I'm comparing these primarily to the Kumho HM KH 31 (older HP summer tire), Bridgestone Turanza T005, Nexen N'fera SU4 and Continental WinterContact TS850P (winter), which all have been fitted to the same car before.
The new Kumho Ecsta HS52 have been fitted to the car for only about 200 miles now, which were mostly windy country roads (in the dry and wet), but also a bit of motorway and town, no city driving so far. Of course, I have no idea how these will last over the long term, but I'd like to give some first impressions on this fairly new tire.
The Kumho Ecsta HS52, at least in 225/55R16 for the European Market, are made in China, and this is the first set of tires out of Chinese production (that I've driven), that I would definitely buy again and recommend without doubt to everyone looking for a good set of balanced summer touring tires (on a low to mid budget) ready for some spirited interludes.
All of the following statements are, of course, just my own subjective impressions and are based on a comparison with the tires mentioned above:
The grip in the dry, laterally und longitudinally, appears to be upper mid class. Especially laterally, the tire feels close to a HP tire, which I assume is due to the quite wide strip of positive tread on the outer edge, that most touring tire don't have to offer.
The grip in the wet is about mid class, which is all you could wish for at the price. However, the relation between the maximum possible lateral and longitudinal acceleration changes compared to dry grip. Now, while the lateral grip is, as mentioned, mid class, the longitudinal grip exceeds the lateral. While this phenomenon is quite common, especially among touring tires (and tuned like that on purpose by the manufacturer), on this tire, it seems to be a lot more distinct in the wet. So, this tire seems to ensure the ability to come to a sudden stop in an emergency, even when under intermediate lateral acceleration. Kamm’s friction circle mutates to a rounded rectangle, if you know what I mean, which gives you a lot of extra safety in the wet.
I don’t have a lot of information about aqua planing yet, as I only found a few puddles in the last days, but so far they seem to behave well enough.
All in all, wet grip is comparable neither to the wet performance of a real cheap budget tire on the low end, nor to an expensive premium tire on the top end. So, they still cannot compete with the likes of a Bridgestone or Continental here, keep that in mind.
Something, that Kumho is good on, and what I really liked about the HS52, is a quite nimble and precise feel in the steering (for a touring tire, but even compared to some HP tires at 55% HTW ratio). Every small steering input will immediately result in a change of direction, which gives you a good track guidance on the highway/motorway, and which is a real joy to cut corners with. Steering response is relatively strong, talking about lateral forces, but feedback from the road surface or potholes is neither too intense nor precise.
Cornering at the limit, there is a fair amount of understeer. The warning about reaching the limits sets in in form of low frequent vibrations induced in the vehicle body, maybe also a bit in the steering column. The warning happens quite early (lateral acceleration approx. 5-6 m/s^2) and lasts until the real limits are reached. Then, the reactions are easily controllable at every time. That said, the tires still never really feel soft, and maintain a relatively high lateral stiffness (again, for a touring tire). That’s why I did not perceive the “understeer budget” the vehicle is given as annoying or disappointing, because it’s only prevalent at higher Lateral accelerations you usually don’t reach on the road, and it doesn’t feel any soft before. That might be a different case with a FWD vehicle that has more load on the front and no need for a high understeer budget. Lateral tread shift also feels to remain small, so generation of overturning torque is a very small issue here.
On the brakes, the car always feels safe and settled. There is very low noise or vibrations on a full braking maneuver (as opposed to the vibrations when cornering), the whole chassis remains relatively quiet and calm, the tires just do their job to stop it. As for braking distances, again, subjectively these feel like upper mid class, cannot compete with specialized tires like UHP, track or rain tires, but for what they are, they didn’t disappoint me so far. Like in lateral direction, the longitudinal stiffness also appears to be quite high (for a thin-walled touring tire), so trailing arm bushings have a lot to absorb when applying the brakes, coming to a stop, or hitting bumps on the road.
Especially for owners of older BMWs: Tested on a 2003 530d E39 sedan, I felt like the characteristics of these tire are as close at gets to the ones BMW tuned and adjusted the behavior of the ESC (DSC) with in these days. The same goes for the ABS. On all tires I’ve driven this car before, I never liked the tuning of the system, killing the “joy of use” by intervening a lot too early, but not hard enough if really needed, and for too long on some instances, when one axle lost traction. With the Kumho Ecsta HS52, it’s a completely different story, the control unit has a real idea about the characteristics of the tires, the inventions are on point, safe, and don’t prevent you from having some fun….
You could guess from the distinct stiffness in both, longitudinal and lateral direction, that these tires are not the most comfortable ones. So, also vertical stiffness is relatively high. At least, suspension comfort does not seem to be worse than on some older Kumhos, so they’re working on it. Having a really comfortable suspension of the BMW E39 sedan as a basis, I can’t complain, but would not recommend fitting these tires to a vehicle with stiffer suspension for travelling or the daily commute, unless you really want to feel the road. Noise comfort, measured subjectively, is very good, which stands opposed to the EU-label stating barely average noise comfort at 72dB. I may add, that I evaluated noise comfort not only based on straight-line rolling noise, but also based on “cornering whine” and “full braking squeal”, which both barely seem to exist on the HS52.
Tread depth on a new tire in 225/55R16 is not that much at 6,9…7,0 mm, but on par with many competitors in the segment, so lets see how long these will last.
There is no sidewall or rim protection at all, but from previous incidents with older Kumhos I can tell that the sidewalls themselves are quite durable when mated with a curb even at higher speeds, so I’m optimistic about these as well…..
I wasn’t able to really test rolling resistance, but judged by the speed loss when coasting and the heat they generate on the highway, it seems to be okay and the EU-label “C” could be correct (Which should be axiomatic, but I experienced some major increases of rolling resistance when tires came from different production sites/countries than originally tested for the label, especially from Asia). Fuel consumption on the long term will tell about that a bit more precisely, I hope.
I do not have any experiences on reliability, wear pattern and absolute wear by now.
All in all, a great mid-class tire, suited for the daily commute, touring, and even some spirited drives on country roads, that gives you anything you could ask for, given the price tag.