Tires are one of those things that you have to get right. They’re not like floormats or cell phone mounts that cost next to nothing and can be swapped out at a moment’s notice. You have to trust that what you’re getting into is a solid choice, hitting most of the criteria you lined out.
Getting to test a tire and see what it can really do, then, is an awesome opportunity that I always try to take. Bridgestone invited me out to the Lone Star State to check out what was heading for the market later this year, similar to the Firestone M/T2 event I attended three years ago, but more diverse. Instead of focusing on one tire, this time, there were four to test out, and half of them were off-road tires. It was like getting invited to come test ice cream, and finding out I’d be getting four one-gallon containers to pig out on. How could I say no?
So I said “Hell yeah!” and got the necessities out of the way. I was unsure of the names of the tires I would be testing, but it didn’t matter – I was going to have a great time doing it.
The event was taking place in Dallas, Texas, near the Texas Motor Speedway northwest of DFW International Airport. I took a shuttle to the hotel and unloaded, mixing and mingling for the evening dinner and calling it a night. The next day would be the day of proving what the tires could do.
I started Day 2 with breakfast and watching a presentation covering the tires. I learned that the four tires were the Bridgestone Turanza QuietTrack (an all-season touring tire), the Firestone WeatherGrip (an all-season touring tire), the Firestone X/T (an all-terrain tire), and the Firestone A/T2 (an all-terrain tire). “Today is certainly going to be packed,” I thought to myself; I wasn’t wrong.
Bridgestone staff went over the multiple tests and driving opportunities planned for the day. My fellow journos and I would start at a wet asphalt comparison test for the QuietTrack versus the outgoing Turanza Serenity Plus, and then do wet asphalt tests for the X/T and A/T2, as well as the WeatherGrip. Following these tests, we would do a leisurely drive around the racetrack perimeter in all four tire models, and conclude with an off-road test of the X/T and A/T2.
Needless to say, I was excited. I got into the shuttle and headed to the track.
Wet-Asphalt Testing The Turanza QuietTrack Vs. The Turanza Serenity Plus
The first test of the day was the Turanza QuietTrack. Billed as a grand touring all-season tire, it was fitted to BMW 330i sedans with big brakes and more than a little cornering performance.
Bridgestone positioned the QuietTrack as a replacement to the outgoing Turanza Serenity Plus. It featured QuietTrack technology, described as “in-groove quiet tracks, non-chamfered shoulder slots and optimized pitch sequencing to help reduce airborne noise and deliver a serene driving experience.” Other features included a claimed 20-percent improvement in wet traction over the Serenity Plus, as well as 44-percent more snow traction and an 80,000-mile warranty.
It was clear that this tire was meant for a prosumer – someone who knew more about tires than the average Joe. Someone who wanted long-lasting tires. These tires had to balance between daily driving and occasional track or performance scenarios.
The track was small and set up like an autocross using cones. I was a fish out of water for something like this, but got a good four laps in between testing both the Serenity Plus and Quiet Track. My first time out, I got behind the wheel of a Quiet Track-equipped 330i. An instructor in the passenger seat made sure I was getting the most out of the experience; this would be a common factor through all of the tire tests that day.
By the second lap, I had a better understanding of what to expect – sharp braking, forceful steering, accelerating out of the corner. I was starting to get the hang of things. The tire seemed competent and capable, even beyond what I was comfortable with. I was sure at one point that I was going to plow through cones, but between the tires and the instructor’s guidance, I pulled through.
The Serenity Plus was less impressive, as expected. Where the Quiet Track went into corners and retained grip, the Serenity Plus skidded and squealed. It was a much more vocal tire than the Quiet Track, to be sure.
Wet-Asphalt Testing The Firestone X/T And A/T2 Vs. Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure And BF Goodrich KO2
The wet track comparison carried over to the next station, where the testing involved four distinct tires. The tire types also changed from track-appropriate, street car-style tires to all-terrain tires on trucks and SUVs. Here, Bridgestone set it up so drivers would cycle through four vehicles and test out all four of the tires listed above. Bridgestone had a little variety thrown in by putting competing tires on either a Tacoma or 4Runner. On my first drive around, I took a Tacoma with the Destination X/T tires.
The course started with a gentle right turn, leading into a straighter section. Lined-up cones jutted into the course from the left and right, so I was encouraged to make quick turns in close succession. This led to a hard-stop section on wet asphalt. After this, it was a long right turn that gradually required more steering input, ideal for testing the lateral grip of tires.
Both the X/T and A/T II tires performed admirably on this course. I did notice the KO2s got pretty boggy and irritated at having to drive and make quick turns, and even more so the prolonged right turn. I could hear squealing under the load of that last section of the course. The Goodyear All-Terrain Pluses, meanwhile, performed marginally better than the KO2s by not making noise under heavy G-loads, but they still seemed to slow the vehicle down more than the Firestone tires.
Wet-Asphalt Testing The Firestone WeatherGrip Vs. The Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady
Since Bridgestone knows the market isn’t chock full of off-roaders and track day champions, they had us test out consumer-grade tires in the form of the Firestone WeatherGrip. These tires are aimed at the average Joe and hope to satisfy the demand for tires that work in all-season and snowy scenarios.
While it would be impossible to make it snow in Texas during spring, Bridgestone still brought out the water and gave the asphalt a good hose-down. I sat in a couple of Toyota Camrys and tested out both of the tires.
They were nothing special, nor did I notice a stark difference between the two. There was a brake test section of the course being pumped with water constantly, for a stretch of maybe 200 feet. Drivers were encouraged to try and make their hard braking consistent during this part, the better to see if there was a difference in distance traveled. It was a tall order and not one I could fulfill. I came away thinking both tires had equal capabilities and would be fine for drivers that needed traction in rainy conditions.
Off-Road Testing The Firestone X/T and A/T II
The final test of the day – and the one I was most looking forward to – was the off-road test. Here, we didn’t get to compare the tires against their competitors. It was strictly about trying out the X/T and A/T II and seeing what they could handle.
As it was getting into the late afternoon, time was a factor here, as was availability. Between the two 4Runners, there was only enough time for me to get into one and get photos as well. I picked the X/T and set off.
The course was about a half- or three-quarters of a mile in length. It started with a sloshy mud straightaway, so holding the momentum was a must here. I made it through without issue.
Next, there was a rock section that let the 4Runner get wheels in the air. It didn’t give the vehicle enough pitch or articulation to really let anyone get in trouble, but it did let the X/T’s rock traction shine a little. Afterward, I drove the 4Runner into a carved-out pit in the ground, with gentle slopes in and out of it. Easy enough.
The following obstacle was a short hill climb. I let the vehicle crawl its way up in low gear very slowly, noticing that the X/T wasn’t slipping on the dirt, despite having been caked in mud. The last obstacle was another pit, and then a straightaway back to the gathering spot.
Bridgestone’s testing procedure was a whirlwind of stations and hopping in and out of vehicles. I do appreciate that we were able to check out all of their newest tires coming to market, but only two of them were really on my radar as an off-roader – the Destination X/T and Destination A/T II.
The testing sessions for these tires were alright, but compared with my evaluation of the M/T 2 back in 2016, the Texas setting left a lot to be desired. Once again, I felt somewhat hindered by the required instructor in the passenger seat issuing me orders on how to drive. Perhaps that was helpful on the road course, but out where I’m in my element, it was irksome.
Still, I can’t argue with the performance of the tires. Whether on-road or off, the X/T and A/T II were a pleasure to drive with. The consistent grip, low noise, and rugged looks made them go up on my list of the potential next set of tires for my vehicle. And personally, of the two, I liked the X/T better; the appearance and capability were very satisfying.
If you’re in the market for some new shoes for your rig, you might want to consider Firestone. Be sure to check out the company’s website and Facebook page for more information.