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Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS Review: Tires Targeting Driving Enthusiasts

If you are a driving enthusiast interested in improving how your vehicle accelerates, corners, and brakes, I suggest you closely look at Bridgestone’s new high-performance Potenza RE-71RS. The all-new tire, the successor to the previous-generation Potenza RE-71R, incorporates several key tire engineering innovations designed to improve handling, maintain more consistency, and improve tread life – music to a driving enthusiast’s ears.

As expected, the Potenza RE-71RS is not designed or marketed for a broad audience. Instead, it’s a high-performance driver education (HPDE) and competition tire intended for a particular and discerning driver – an individual seeking maximum cornering grip, optimized handling, and short stopping distances. In other words, the type of driver who partakes in grassroots racing, auto crossing, or weekend club track events (those seeking four-season capability, low rolling resistance, and 50,000-mile treadwear warranties should choose another tire).

To accomplish these objectives, Bridgestone engineers incorporated a new high-grip tread compound that delivers five percent better wear than the previous-generation Potenza RE-71R – racers get more laps out of each set. In addition, low-angle grooves and an asymmetric tread pattern enhance steering and grip, and the tread pattern has been optimized to increase the cornering contact area – shortening lap times. The hard work paid off. According to Bridgestone, the new Potenza RE-71RS is an average of 0.6 seconds faster per lap around Japan’s world-famous Tsukuba Circuit than the previous generation Potenza RE-71R.

“Our goal with the Potenza RE-71RS tire is to provide a worthy successor to the legendary Potenza RE-71R for drivers who demand the highest levels of grip, consistency, and precision,” said Will Robbins, Director of Consumer Product Strategy, Bridgestone Americas (and an authentic weekend racer himself) during a recent interview. “The Potenza RE-71RS represents Bridgestone’s ongoing commitment to enabling enthusiast and grassroots motorsport competitors to get the most out of their HPDE, autocross, time trial, or endurance race, all while maintaining street-ability for those drives to and from the track.”

Compared to the original RE-71R, the RE-71RS is “completely new from the ground up,” says Robbins. “The RE-71R was a special tire for us. It was pretty good at everything, but we needed to rethink everything… we didn’t need an evolution. So, the whole thing is brand new. The mold shapes, the tread pattern, as well as the tread compound.”

Robbins explains how the essential DNA from the Potenza RE-71R is still there, but Bridgestone engineers were seeking a more robust construction, better heat capacity (absorption), and balance. “It’s really about creating a balance. In this segment, the tires are designed to be driven to and from the event. They have full DOT certification, and they can be driven in light rain… the compound itself actually is, for damp surfaces in particular, considerably better for wet performance.”

Bridgestone also addressed one of the RE-71R’s shortcomings – inconsistency during lapping sessions. The previous-generation RE-71R provided impressive grip during the first few laps, but the grip would vary once the tire became hot. In contrast, the new RE-71RS has been “very, very consistent, really from start to finish, which it was one of our goals with the tire… to make it really more consistent,” remarks Robbins.

While I didn’t have a chance to wring out the RE-71RS on a racing circuit, I did spend a lot of time in Southern California’s challenging twisty canyons in a slightly modified ’18 Volkswagen GTI fitted with a set of the new Bridgestone rubber (225/45-17 at all four corners) on alloy wheels. The enhanced driving dynamics, especially compared to the factory-stock all-season tires, were exceptional. The high-performance Potenza RE-71RS completely transformed the way the GTI drove in terms of acceleration, braking, and cornering.

The front-wheel drive Volkswagen is challenged for grip off the line, as the standard all-season tires claw for traction under hard acceleration. That wasn’t the case with the stickier Bridgestone Potenza, which hooked up with the pavement to launch the hatchback forward with little drama. Under hard braking, the RE-71RS tires were equally tacky, providing significantly more decelerative forces without invoking ABS – stopping distances were notably shorter. The Bridgestone tires made the GTI easier and safer to drive as there was far less unintended wheelspin.

However, the most significant improvements come during cornering, where the new Potenza tires deliver tenacious cornering grip. Volkswagen has dialed plenty of understeer into the Mk7 chassis (causing the nose to push), but with a bit of skill on the three pedals, I could manage the weight and toss the GTI gracefully through even the tightest corners. Of course, it goes without saying that my speeds were far quicker than they were with the stock all-season rubber. Most important, however, was the newfound confidence provided by the RE-71RS tires thanks to their consistent turn-in and steadfast grip – with zero protests (no squealing) from the tires.

Traditionally, high-performance tires bring with them plenty of compromise — the sidewalls are too stiff, the tread pattern is loud, or they are treacherous in the rain. Bridgestone addressed each of those concerns, as day-to-day driving on the RE-71RS isn’t challenging. In fact, apart from a bit more tire noise (all based on how rough the road surface is), most passengers would be hard-pressed to notice a difference. The driver, tasked with maneuvering, is getting all of the benefits!

Upgrading your vehicle’s tires is the single most important step an owner can take toward improving driving dynamics. For those seeking to maximize performance without compromise, Bridgestone’s new high-performance Potenza RE-71RS is a leap in the correct direction.

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