Last year, we attended the double launch of Goodyear’s Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 and Eagle F1 Directional 5 in Thailand. Held at the Kaengkrachan circuit near Hua Hin, we got to sample the successor to the original Eagle F1 Asymmetric that was launched few years ago, on the tight twisty Thai track.

Admittedly, we didn’t get to fully experience first hand the much touted class leading features of the A2 at the event. It’s not Goodyear’s fault though, as the track is a tight one and safety is top priority, as it should be. Tyre events generally don’t serve a lot of drive time, since there’s usually a big group of media people from across the region sharing a few test mules. It was more of a sampling session, rather than a full course meal.

Despite that, I know the potential and ability of Goodyear’s Ultra High Performance (UHP) contender, having tested the original Asymmetric at Holden’s Driving Centre near Gold Coast, Australia a few years back. That one was a more comprehensive test, involving a rotating turntable to simulate oversteer. If this sequel is better than the original, as claimed, the A2 will be one heck of a performance tyre.

Continue reading after the jump.

As detailed in our launch report, the A2 is not an all new tyre, but is based on the first Asymmetric, with improvements to keep it ahead of the pack. The Asymmetric was widely accepted as the benchmark UHP tyre in its heyday, and is still a top tyre today, but no one stays at the top by just standing still – continuous improvement is a must in every industry.

Factors deemed good enough to retain included dry handling and noise levels, but Goodyear has put a lot of focus into wet handling and wet braking, things that matter A LOT in our market. It could be a life saved or a big damage bill avoided, so wet performance is top priority in a UHP tyre, for me at least.

And while the Asymmetric isn’t shabby in this regard, the A2 is boosted by new tech. Goodyear’s ActiveBraking Technology makes its debut here, allowing for shorter braking by up to three metres in the wet and two metres in the dry, as 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 in December 2010, so the rivals in question are current or fairly new flagship UHPs.

Three metres is a big deal, and some may be skeptical at the margins, especially when we’re talking about the best tyres in the market. I used to take claims like these with a pinch of salt, too, until I experienced it first hand. It was the launch of the first Asymmetric in Australia four years ago, and we tried the Goodyear back-to-back with the best Bridgestone of that time.

Not only did the Goodyear perform better in the more obvious and objective tests such as straight line braking distance, the E90 3-Series we drove was also noticeably grippier and more predictable/easier to recover at the limit of adhesion.

By the way, this is not presumption, we’re talking about cars thrown fully sideways (courtesy of Holden’s turntable, the only such device in the Southern Hemisphere) with the challenge of getting as near as possible to a (cone) target. Great fun and great eye opener, it was.

With this tucked in the back of my mind, I got hold of a set of A2s for the E36 BMW 328i you see here. The wheels are M Contours made for the E36 M3, and the setup is staggered – 225/45 for the fronts and fatter 245/40 at the back, all 17 inches in diameter. Balancing and alignment work was done at Hory Tyre & Auto Service in Rawang.

I’ve done nearly 1,000 km on them now, and I’m satisfied with the “new shoes” for the E36. I was running the car’s standard 15-inch setup with high profile Yokohamas just before this, and I’m most surprised by the current level of ride comfort, which isn’t too far off from before.

No complaints from my frequent rear seat passengers either, who never noticed any change in comfort. There is a harder edge over bumps of course, but I was prepared to sacrifice more in terms of comfort, so this is a pleasant discovery.

In the launch report, we tried the A2 on a Porsche Cayman, and I remarked that “the A2 is quite pliant and silent for the performance it promises” – that has now been confirmed over many miles.

Another surprise is the low levels of noise. While the E36 is very far from being as library silent compared to say, a Japanese D-segment sedan on touring tyres, the A2 is quieter than expected.

There is a subdued roar on our concrete paved highways (I rely on the NKVE daily), but the noise is low pitched enough to slip under the radar. No annoying high pitched whine, thankfully. I’m hoping that much of this will be retained as the tyres age – old car NVH needs as much help as possible!

Other qualities fall within expectations. The E36’s good steering feel relative to its younger siblings is nicely channeled to the steering rim, and the car tramlines less compared to my previous thick rubber setup, while feeling more surefooted in a cruise. Of course, grip is excellent – the A2 is a tyre I can lean on with confidence. No thanks to the harder driving, I’m thinking of new suspension now!

The A2 is nothing much to look at though, the tread design is plain and doesn’t scream performance, so those who want a tyre with flash won’t be fulfilled. However, the wide spaced Goodyear logo on the sidewall is quite distinctive, I think.

The Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 is made in Germany. Available in 17- to 20-inch sizes, it retails from RM535 to RM1,710 in Malaysia.

While we’re on the topic of tyres, the Chinese New Year holidays are here, so before you make the journey home, make sure your tyres are still in good condition. Check for irregular wear and balance/align if necessary. Also remember to not drive on under inflated tyres, which could be very dangerous.

Check tyre pressures when cold, follow the recommended PSI or go slightly higher if you don’t mind a slightly firmer ride. Tyres are often and easily overlooked, but remember that those four little contact patches could be the difference between life and death, sure not something you’d want to gamble with!