24 April 2013
Although it is located in a rather remote part of North America where direct flights from places like PASMAG’s hometown of Toronto are non-existent, a visit to Salt Lake City, Utah is well worth the extra effort. Not only is it surrounded by some of the most spectacular geography on the continent thanks to the Western edge of the Rocky Mountains, it is also home to a pretty sweet race track.
Located about 33 miles west of Salt Lake City near the small town of Tooele, Utah is Miller Motorsports Park, one of the finest road racing facilities in North America.
Sure, it’s not as well-known as Watkins Glen International, Road America and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and doesn’t share their rich history, but with two self-contained courses (east and west) of over two miles each, plus an outer track that is more than four miles in length, MMP is designed to accommodate every road racing enthusiasts’ desire.
Sadly, Nitto Tire USA didn’t bring a small group of journalists to this fine facility in order to discover the finer points of Miller’s terrain with some quality track time. Instead, we were assembled in order to sample the company’s newest all-season tire and its forthcoming winter product, due out later this year. All of the testing took place off-track on snow- and ice-covered sections of the facility.
Because the winter tire – the NT90W – won’t be going on sale until the fall and we’re heading into the summer driving season, the focus of this article will be placed on the Motivo, the all-season product.
Although all-season tires are far from ideal for driving on snow and ice-covered roads, evaluating the differences between the offerings from various manufacturers is a worthwhile experience, as I discovered.
In addition to its own tires, Nitto also included one of its primary all-season, OEM competitors, the Goodyear Eagle RS-A. As for the rides these tires were attached to, Nitto chose a good – if not particularly exciting – car, the Infiniti G37x for our day-long session of exercises.
The Motivo is Nitto’s newest high-performance all-season tire. Announced at the 2011 SEMA Show and manufactured in the company’s sprawling facility in White, Georgia, the Motivo incorporates impressive (and somewhat surprising) technology.
Available in 50 sizes with W and Y speed ratings, the Motivo features an all-new 560 UTQG rated silica-based compound containing crushed walnut shells (that’s right!), which Nitto says improve traction. The asymmetrical tread pattern is designed with both practical (reduced road noise, longer tread life, good wet and dry handling) and aesthetic (attractive appearance) considerations in mind.
All that sounds good, but let’s face it, this tire was designed primarily for asphalt surfaces, not those covered in snow and ice. Frankly, I was expecting this tire to behave like most all-seasons I’ve driven during the winter over the years – nervously, with a tiny amount of grip that disappears with the slightest steering input or application of the brake pedal.
Okay let’s end the suspense right now: during most of the exercises, the Motivo outperformed the RS-A, although as you’d expect, the NT90W outperformed them both by a country mile in every test.
During the acceleration / braking test on hard-packed snow, the Motivo had more grip off the line than the RS-A and felt more secure at speed (even at 25 MPH), but the difference in stopping distances at full ABS lock-up was minimal. Overall, the edge goes to the Motivo, but not by much.
There were, however, two exercises where I felt the Motivo performed noticeably better. In the collision avoidance test, I had to choose either the left or right lane (the center lane was blocked) based on a split-second command from an instructor. Doing this on dry asphalt would be challenging, especially with said instructor directly in my path, but it was a real white knuckle experience on snow.
Although the speeds were low (25 mph), the difference in handling and traction between the two tires at turn-in was black and white. The RS-A broke loose almost immediately, and I could feel the rear start to come around and had to correct quickly, while the Motivo tracked a much straighter and secure path and retained more grip.
The second exercise where the Motivo separated itself from the RS-A was on the handling course, which was designed to simulate a winding country road complete with a few full stops.
Once again, the Motivo outperformed the RS-A. It felt more secure under braking, had more grip off the line, shorter stopping distances and maintained better traction at different speeds and through turns. By contrast, the grip limit for the RS-A was reached much sooner and didn’t feel as secure in any instance.
In the end, the Motivo acquitted itself well on the hard-packed snow and ice at Miller Motorsports Park relative to the competition and the fact that it’s a three-season tire that isn’t designed for winter driving. Obviously, the best tire for these conditions is the NT-90W. With that said, the Motivo performed better than I had anticipated.
I now patiently await an invite to Nitto’s next Miller tire test…during the summer, on track, with a steady supply of NT05s.
The Motivo comes in 50 sizes, from:
205 to 315 mm wide
17- to 20-inch diameters