Tire technology is advancing quickly. Today there are specialty tires for every application: snow tires, ice tires, dirt tires, three season tires, low-rolling resistance tires; the list goes on and on.
These tires come in all shapes and sizes and can be built for all-season duties, summer applications or even track special DOT competition use. Since the latter become futile in the rain and disintegrate quickly in regular driving, it’s the max-performance summer tire that delivers the most performance while still being usable for daily commutes.
- Over 70 sizes available
- Can fit 17″ to 22″ wheels
- A 215/45R17 tire should cost around $110
Summer Tires, Maximum Performance
It seems like every major tire manufacture has a max performance summer tire. Depending on your budget, the choices are almost endless. But if you want a max-performance tire at a good price from a trusted tire manufacturer the Falken Azenis FK453 is a good choice.
Falken calls this its flagship tire. Available for wheels ranging from 17 to 22 inches in diameter, there are over 70 different tire sizes available. Being a high performance tire, the FK453 is available in three different speed ratings, W, Y, and (Y).
To see how this tires perform on both the street and the track, a set was installed on my 2005 Saab 9-2x Aero. Essentially an all-wheel drive Subaru WRX underneath, the Saab is capable of putting a lot of power to the ground, making the tire’s job of retaining traction all the more difficult.
Sticking with the Saab’s stock tire sizing, I installed a set of FK453s measuring 215/45R17 onto the “Saabaru”. These new tires are replacing a set of Falken’s high-performance all-season tire, the soon to be discontinued ZIEX ZE912. Having driven these on both the street and the track, I was looking forward to seeing if the FK453 does indeed provide better performance.
The Azenis FK453 has a treadwear rating of 300, a traction rating of AA and a temperature rating of A. These are on par with most of the Falken’s main competitors, although the treadwear rating is a bit lower than some.
Livable on the Street
To keep the FK453 livable on the street, noise-absorption technology has been built into the tire to make the ride quiet and comfortable. On the road I did notice how quiet these tires are compared to some other max-performance rubber I have sampled, but didn’t notice any significant differences in ride quality for the better or worse. In short, these tires are a bit quieter than the ZE912 in the dry, but otherwise behave similarly.
To keep the Azenis sure-footed in the wet, silica is used heavily in the tire’s compound. Combined with three water channels designed to evacuate water and the FK453 handled the little of rain I was able to test them out in. Even in a few small sections of deeper standing water, the tires were not prone to hydroplaning and kept contact with the road.
Compared to less hard core performance tires, the FK453 has a stronger sidewall for high speed stability and better handling. Nylon-reinforced layers are also built into the tire for even greater high-speed stability and control. Although the extra traction these tires provide compared to the ZE912 was not immediately felt on the street, as the Azenis wore a little and I got more accustom to them, cornering grip increased beyond the all-season tire’s ability.
On the track, the two tires separated themselves even further. On a day when the Saab 9-2x was having minor brake issues, I was still able to put down a lap time of 1:32.478 with the FK453. That is over a second faster than the 1:33.698 time I achieved with the ZE912 tires earlier in the summer when the Saab still had its brakes at 100 percent.
More than just lap times, the FK453 felt much more in control on the racetrack and provided better feedback to me through the steering wheel. I always knew when the prone-to-front-end-washout Saab was ready to lose traction in the front tires. As well, during the two faster corners on the track, I could increase speed with more confidence thanks to the sure-footed feeling of the FKs. The only caveat I found during my track testing was that the FK453 take a few more laps to warm up than I am used to.
The Falken Azenis FK453 is a proper max-performance summer tire. It outperforms lesser tires while also being a livable in daily use. Priced at roughly $110 for a 215/45R17 tire, it’s on par with its major competitors like the BFGoodrich g-Force Sport COMP-2, Continental ExtremeContact DW and Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2. If in the market for an affordable, high performance tire, the FK453 is worth a look.