Project MKVI Golf TDI: Handling Upgrades Part Deux
By Steve Rockwood
Here's the thing: the nutjobs that make up MotoIQ are never happy. Give us an improvement, and we'll look at improving the improvement. Put a pea under a thousand race buckets and we'll still feel it. Such was the case with our Project MKVI Golf TDI: we were definitely impressed with our first round of suspension mods by ST and Whiteline, we also felt the handling improvement package wasn't complete. That pea started feeling like a boulder.
|When we left off last time, we had installed a whole slew of Whiteline bushings and geometry parts, as well as ST Suspension's coilover kit.
The first, and most prominent source of frustration came from our Golf's OEM Continental ContiPro Contact tires, sized 225/45-17, and 17×7.5″ “Salamanca” wheels. Dubbed as “performance all season tires” and with a product slick sheet boasting of how quiet they are, how soft they ride, how low their rolling resistance, and how they've got nearly a thousand ridges (read: lots of tiny tread blocks), we weren't surprised that the Continentals were apt to squirm under the most un-grueling of conditions: onramp charging and mountain road cruising brought whimpers, flogging on the track brought porcine-level squeals of protest.
We'd had enough, so the call went out to Falken for a set of their Azenis FK-453, sized 225/40-18. Falken, and the Azenis line in particular, is a tire company that is definitely familiar to MotoIQ staffers, as every single one of us has had a set of their near R-compound Azenis on at least one vehicle at some time in the past. The latest installment to the Azenis line, the FK-453 features an asymmetric tread design, a strong nylon-reinforced carcass, silica rubber compound for grip and resistance to hardening over heat cycles, and has a more reasonable 300 treadwear rating for longer life. Instead of ridges and efficiency, the FK-453's product slick sheet boasts of grip and a firm sidewall.
|Rather than brag about ride comfort, noise, and other sillyness, Falken's FK-453 focuses on things that matter: road holding and steering feel.
|Properly reinforced tread shoulders and sidewalls, with designated inside and outside shoulders result in firm response while cornering, and reasonable compliance while just ho-humming along.
At first glance, the difference in intentions is immediately apparent. The Continentals are a busy mishmash of tiny little treadblocks, whereas the Falkens show a tread pattern that those of us who don't think of an automobile as an appliance are familiar with: beefy treadblocks, but good void areas for wet weather performance. Two continuous ribs around the circumference of the tire should help with tire noise and expansion joint impacts, and the large outside shoulders and firm sidewalls should improve ultimate cornering grip and steering feel greatly. Overall, the FK-453 measures half an inch wider, despite having the same 225mm width rating. The reduced sidewall height should hopefully reduce tire squirm without being overly harsh. Obviously, the FK-453s were not going to be very capable in the snow, but this is SoCal: snow is a voluntary event and we've still got our stockers with over 800 ridges.
|Even mostly worn, the large number of ridges that Continental boasts for the ContiPro Contact tire shows the all-season slant towards winter performance, something we will likely never be concerned about in Southern California.