Bridgestone Turanza T005A touring tyre launched – comfort above all, but with performance in reserve

It seems like ages since this writer tried a new Bridgestone tyre, but the moment I met the new Turanza T005A, I knew we would get along fine. Sounds corny, but it’s rather straightforward. It took just three words.

The T005A is the new flagship model in Bridgestone’s Turanza range of touring tyres, which might not be as famous as the Japanese company’s Potenza performance brand. This is a premium tyre that isn’t skewed towards sport, and a touring tyre’s remit is generally comfort, with a big side serving of safety.

Aimed primarily at executive sedans from premium brands (think BMW 3/5/7 Series and Mercedes-Benz C/E/S-Class) and D-segment Japanese saloons such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Teana; the Turanza T005A’s tagline is “Comfort Above All”.

After trying it out in Thailand, we found that those three words summed up the new tyre perfectly – I like the fact that this flagship tourer doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not, but focuses on what it does best.

The Turanza T005A effectively replaces the Turanza GR100, which has been in the market for around three years. As is quite the norm these days, the Turanza T005A is a tyre tailored to our region’s unique needs and demands – the ‘A’ in the name is a region code for ASEAN, and the tread differs from the T005, which is the OE factory fit for the new Audi A7 Sportback and latest Lexus LS. The new tyre counts the Michelin Primacy 3 ST as a rival.

For the Turanza T005A, Bridgestone studied consumer needs and distilled situations where the tyre comes into importance – sudden braking, fast highway driving, rainy days, puddles – into three ‘demands’, which are safer, quieter and smoother. These three are the unique selling points of the new tyre, and also the aspects that are improved over its predecessor.

Compared to some of its rivals, Bridgestone doesn’t have a high-tech sounding name for each improvement, but incremental changes have been made to the GR100, which is known as a quiet and comfortable tyre. The company applied randomised pitch variation to each tread block (the inside shoulder, centre and outside shoulder) to reduce pattern noise.

Another measure was to fine-tune the angle of the sipes (the many fine grooves bridging the tyre’s four main grooves) to the contact line. This higher angle softens tyre impact on the road, which leads to less pronounced pattern noise. The main ally of ‘quieter’ is ‘smoother’, and a couple of features contribute to overall improved comfort.

The T005A sports an optimsed contact shape with the ground; not only the shape of the contact patch slightly different, a more consistent contact pressure helps reduce shock and impact noise. Bridgestone says that a stiffer sidewall compared to the GR100 (except for low profile sizes) reduces damping and improves comfort.

Last but by no means least are the improvements for safety, which we can take to also mean better performance, because a grippier tyre is a safer one. We go back to the tiny sipes, which have rounded edges to prevent tyre deformation while braking. This ‘chamfering’ ensures flat contact with the road for improved braking performance. Without chamfering, the edges of the sipes are more prone to curving inward, which causes ‘floating’.

All the above are design improvements, but the compound gets an update too. Nano Pro-Tech and a compound agent are used to strengthen the bond between silica and polymer, increasing their contact area. This reduces heat generation and energy loss, which leads to better wet performance, Bridgestone claims. Internal tests show the T005A having 5% shorter wet braking distances compared to the GR100 (80-0 km/h, two millimetre water depth, 2016 Toyota Camry).

Recently, we were brought to Bridgestone’s proving ground in Ayutthaya, Thailand, to sample the Turanza T005A. Unlike some of its peers, the Japanese tyremaker did not make available any competitor tyres, and merely used the outgoing GR100 as control tyre to highlight the improvements made.

Predictably, the newer tyre aced the 80-0 km/h wet braking demo run. Although there were no precise measuring going on, the braking distance gap was visually obvious over the GR100, possibly around two metres.

Bridgestone Turanza T005A touring tyre launched – comfort above all, but with performance in reserve

We were then driven around the 3.3 km high speed oval by the manager of the facility. In identical Toyota Camrys, the Japanese engineer executed 130-140 km/h lane changes and fast sweepers, and from the back seat, this pundit noted a slight difference between the GR100 and T005A – the older tyre emitted a very faint hum that was absent on the T005A. Of course, we were “looking out” for the noise and there were no conversation or music to distract. Progress is always incremental at the top end of the tyre market.

The “fun drive” session was in a G30 BMW 520d, and we were allowed 100 km/h on the straights and 80 km/h on the “130R” corner. The tyre, especially on a 5 Series, was never going to be troubled at those speeds and so it proved. An unintended outcome was the realisation of how silent the T005A-G30 combo is, made more impressive by the fact that this is the diesel version of the premium exec that made it into my Top 5 list last year. The G30’s superb isolation has a perfect ally in the T005A.

Another demo drive was designed to showcase the new tyre’s comfort properties over a variety of poor surfaces. From the Camry’s back seat, I didn’t notice a big difference in ride quality from my butt-o-meter, but the test driver (same person in both GR100 and T005A shod cars) explained that the GR100 car’s steering moved around more, and required more minute corrections. A calmer body and steering – possibly due to the tyre’s stiffer sidewalls – would be good for handling and stability, reducing fatigue on long drives.

At first, we were rather disappointed that participation in the wet handling test would be strictly from the passenger seat (again), but it turned out to be the most eye-opening test of the day. Our Thai race driver pushed the Camry to the extremes of grip, and beyond, in each corner of the drenched inner circuit. Yes, a Toyota Camry, four-up, sliding around a track.

With race driver levels of car control and intimate knowledge of the circuit, our Thai pilot was going into corners easily 20-30 km/h faster than what I would have attempted. With VSC off, the battle between driver and understeer was interesting to watch because the car was still controllable, and the limits are higher than what I would expect from “just a touring tyre”. Certainly more than what most Turanza users would require, I’m convinced.

While the regional launch of the Turanza T005A wasn’t very generous in terms of (driver’s) seat time, it served as a reminder that touring tyres aren’t completely useless in terms of performance, as many car enthusiasts automatically assume.

Bridgestone Turanza T005A touring tyre launched – comfort above all, but with performance in reserve

The hype is always on the best UHP (ultra high performance) tyres, even if in some cases, the car and/or usage may not be very ultra. I know, I’m guilty of such wastefulness. We may have been conditioned into it, though. Cars are being optioned with large rims (despite deteriorating road quality), which are paired to UHP tyres by default. The 100 PS Kia Rio with ContiSportContact 5 rubber may be the most extreme example, but premium offerings are have been pushing “sport” over “luxury” trim lines for some time now, even on entry models.

Do we all really need Potenzas and Pilot Sports? My hunch is that many UHP users, by choice or default, might be better served by a good touring tyre like the Turanza T005A. Mile munching premium execs, D-segment wheel upsizers and the odd Kia Rio owner would get much better rolling refinement (and maybe treadwear too), while still having ample traction in the pocket. It depends on how hard you drive, but if I had a comfort-oriented sedan, it’s an easy choice to make, if sizes are available. Comfort above all, but with performance in reserve.

The Bridgestone Turanza T005A is now available in Malaysia. Sizes are from 16 to 20 inches, priced between RM437 to RM1,137. The tyres are made in Thailand and Indonesia, with 20-inch sizes coming from Japan.

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