Goodyear Malaysia recently launched two new tyres in the Ultra High Performance (UHP) segment. They are the Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 and Eagle F1 Directional 5, successors to the original EF1 Asymmetric and the iconic EF1 GS-D3, respectively.

The local launch was held at Proton’s test track in Shah Alam, but we attended the earlier regional launch of the dynamic duo in Hua Hin, Thailand. Here’s an in detail look at Goodyear’s new entrants to the UHP scene and what we think of them.

Continue reading after the jump.

The launch of the new Eagle F1 duo by Goodyear at the Kaengkrachan circuit near Hua Hin, Thailand, was the first double tyre regional launch this writer has attended (usually, there’s just one hero), and there was a lot to take in, and deliver to you. But we’ll try, starting with the EF1 Asymmetric 2.

The Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 (we’ll call it A2 from now) is the sequel to the original Eagle F1 Asymmetric that was launched three years ago. The A2 will be the flagship tyre for Goodyear in the Ultra High Performance (UHP) segment, and it has huge boots to fill, since the Asymmetric is to me a top class performance tyre that’s still a benchmark today.

So it comes as no surprise that instead of a full rework, Goodyear has taken the Asymmetric and further improved on certain aspects for it to stay ahead of the pack.

The most significant improvement of the lot, since this is a UHP tyre, is better wet handling and wet braking. While the Asymmetric isn’t shabby in this regard, the A2 sports Goodyear’s new ActiveBraking Technology, which allows shorter braking by up to three metres in the wet and two metres in the dry, tested by TUV SUD Automotive against three leading competitors.

The tests (80-0 km/h wet, 100-0 km/h dry) were done in Europe late last year, so the rival rubber in question are the latest flagship UHPs from Continental, Pirelli and Bridgestone.

I won’t be surprised if many are skeptical at the huge margins, since this is a contest between the best tyres in the market. But I have personally experienced such differences between the original Asymmetric and the best Bridgestone of that time. Not only did the Goodyear performed better in the more objective tests such as straight line braking distance, it was also grippier and more predictable/easier to handle at the limit of adhesion.

That was then, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to push the tyres to such extent in Thailand for the A2. What we did witness was a wet braking demo between the A2 and a rival UHP Bridgestone, which the Goodyear won.

We did try the tyre in short loops around the circuit, and although it gripped and braked impressively both in the wet and dry, it must be said that the tight Kaengkrachan track didn’t allow us to push the tyre to its absolute limits.

Same goes for the ‘scenic drive’ on trunk roads around the circuit, although that stint did reveal that the A2 is quite pliant and silent for the performance it promises. The roads Goodyear chose were old and rough in patches, by the way. My Porsche Cayman felt very direct and responsive from behind the wheel, too, but a lot of the credit must go to Zuffenhausen for that.

So what’s the deal with ActiveBraking? A key feature is the ‘3-Dimensional’ spherical shaped tread block design that increases the contact patch during hard braking, in contrast with regular blocks that show little or no transformation under pressure. Bigger contact patch = increased grip.

Besides that, the A2 features an 86 degree cross ply carcass structure that increases torsional stiffness. There’s also a new compound that combines silica, high molecular weight polymers and ‘race inspired resin’. To top it off, the A2’s carcass is lighter, and we all know that lower unsprung mass is a good thing.

The other two aspects that are improved over the Asymmetric concerns our wallets, and they are mileage and rolling resistance, the latter by a greater degree. Just like the performance cars they belong on, even performance tyres need to offer more than just performance these days.

The A2’s cavity shape and tread stiffness have been optimised, providing 10% longer life than its predecessor, according to Goodyear. Rolling resistance is also now best in class, which sounds almost illogical since grip is up. Don’t we love technology? :)

The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 is a global product and is made in Germany for the world. It’s available from 17-inch to 20-inch sizes – some come with a five rib design while some have six. In Malaysia, the A2 retails from RM535 to RM1,710.

Moving on, we also have the Goodyear Eagle F1 Directional 5, which is a replacement for the Eagle F1 GS-D3. If you don’t remember the name, surely you must have seen the GS-D3’s famous V tread pattern – you’ll know it when you see it. No points for guessing why they jumped from 3 to 5, skipping the number 4.

The D5, which is a “mid range UHP” model, is positioned below the A2 and is more affordable at RM290 to RM705. Goodyear imagined “aftermarket tuned sports cars” and sporty coupes when designing the D5 – think Nissan Fairlady, Honda Civic “Type R” and Mazda RX-8 as opposed to BMW M3 and AMG cars for the A2. Not a rule, but just so you have an idea.

Goodyear also envisions upsizers using the D5; this can be a Perodua Myvi upsizing an inch to 15in or a Honda City going up two to 17in. Sizes range from 195/50 R15 to 245/40 R19.

This wide size range that starts from 15in mirrors Michelin’s strategy for the Pilot Sport 3 – good for consumers (now everyone can UHP) and good for the tyremakers (more volume). Unlike the A2, which is made in Germany, the D5 is made in China and Thailand for the Asia Pacific market.

Most would have already noticed the D5’s aggressive directional tread pattern, which “looks more performance” than the A2. This is actually a selling point for the D5’s intended market, and it makes the tyre distinctive, although not as stand out as its predecessor.

However, the evolved tread design delivers dramatically improved worn noise performance over the old timer (which is quite poor in this aspect), while wet braking and mileage are also better. Other aspects are about equal with the GS-D3, which construction and toughness is already proven.

The D5 comes with what Goodyear calls SportGrip Technology. Basically, this is a combo of a solid centre line rib (stamped with Goodyear logo) and continuous shoulder rib with high weight polymers and a “race inspired” compound. This acts to reduce tyre deformation under heavy load, improving steering response and grip. This is not found on the GS-D3, as is the closed shoulder design that’s the main factor in the reduced noise levels.

No TUV testing for this Asia Pacific market tyre, but Goodyear internal tests reveal that the D5 is best in class in wet braking, and is on par with rivals in treadwear. William Villamizar, Tech Project Leader for Asia Pacific tells us that making tyres for our region is the hardest task, as customers here demand it all – UHP performance PLUS low noise levels and good treadwear. The latter two isn’t much of a concern with European UHP users.

We tried the D5 on Mitsubishi Lancer GTs, and the car felt very composed on the drenched S bend – the wet grip on offer is good and the improved performance over touring tyres (Turanza, Primacy etc) or basic rubber (Goodyear NCT5) is very apparent – upgraders will feel the difference. Goodyear says that they specifically benchmarked Bridgestone (Adrenalin is my guess) for the D5, but we didn’t get to try them back-to-back.

For the noise improvements, Goodyear played us their lab recordings, and let’s just say that the worn noise levels between GS-D3 and D5 is as far apart as night and day.

In summary, these two Eagles cater to different needs and budgets, one for those who want the ultimate UHP, the other offering a blend of performance, street style and value for money. Users of the original Asymmetric/GS-D3 or other brands switching to these two, feel free to give your feedback.