By Patrick Rall
The new Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position replaces the Potenza RE050A and even though summer high performance driving is this tire’s key concern, Bridgestone focused time on the wet traction abilities of the S-04 as well. The outside half of the tread is tuned for optimal performance under normal conditions with larger tread blocks on the outer edge of the tread face offering more surface contact under hard cornering. The inside of the tread face features a similar block pattern but there are channels running clear through the inner areas to help evacuate water from the large center grooves. The Potenza S-04 Pole Position offers secure wet traction with improved dry traction over the outgoing option from Bridgestone with 45 size options covering a huge spread of vehicles.
However, words on a screen only mean so much, so we headed out to Firebird Raceway near Phoenix to test the new range-topping Potenza S-04 Pole Position. The testing track for the S-04 was a small, wide open road course that had received an autocross-like cone treatment, offering a variety of slaloms to test the limits of the new high Potenza S-04 ? with a high performance 2011 Audi S4 as the test vehicle. While it would be easy enough for Bridgestone to let us blast around the track in the Audi S4 fitted with their new S-04 tires and tell us how great they are, they also provided us with a fleet of Audi’s fitted with Pirelli P Zero tires ? one of the highest rated and most expensive tire choices in the max summer performance segment.
First, we ran through the course in an Audi S4 equipped with the new Bridgestone Potenza S-04 tires. The Potenzas felt great through the tight turns, the various slaloms, and the higher speed turns?keeping the European performance sedan well in hand. Once we stepped into the Audi fitted with P Zeros, the difference was clear right away. To clarify the differences we went back into the Audi with the Bridgestones, and then back into the car with Pirellis.
With the Pirellis, in the slaloms you found yourself chasing the back end out as the speeds increased. With the Potenza tires, when the back end got out from under you, the tires very quickly gripped and pulled the car back straight, whereas the Pirelli tires required more effort to bring the back end under control.
Keep in mind, this wasn’t a comparison with a cheap tire, but rather, the Potenza was compared by Bridgestone to one of the best performing tires in the class, and the Potenza S-04 comfortably outperformed the Pirelli P Zero.