I was recently selected to participate in a tire evaluation program for the Nitto tire company. I was provided a set of their new Motivo model tires in the o.e. size for my vehicle (215/45/17). In return I was asked to share my honest feedback on my blog. I will open with my initial impressions. As I gain more experience and insight, I will follow up with additional posts.
Market Position: Nitto is marketing the Motivo as a “all season ultra high performance tire”
Sizes: Motivo tires are available in 40 sizes ranging from 205/50/17 to 315/35/20
Speed Rating: Motivos carries a “W” or “Y” speed rating, depending on size
Price: The Motivo is moderately priced. At the time I received the tires, Discount Tire Direct was offering the tested size (215/45/17) for $119 each including free shipping. Comparably positioned tires in the same size were available from the same source for the following prices (all include free shipping):
- Continental ExtremeContact DWS $122
- Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus $160
- Yokohama Advan S.4. $160
- Hankook Ventus V4 ES H105 $105
- Kumho Ecsta 4S $117
Treadwear: The Motivo carries a 560 UTQG Treadwear Rating and comes with a 60,000 mile limited treadwear warranty.
INITIAL IMPRESSION: (7/31/12, ~600 miles on the tires):
I drove the car on the Motivos for 2 weeks to allow the mold release agent to wear away and to experience the tire in various situations. The very first thing that struck me was the remarkable lack of tread noise. Rolling down the highway, they are almost eerily quite. Traveling long distances has instantly become a more comfortable proposition. There is sometimes a little rhythmic “bouncy” sound over expansion joints, like a basketball echoing in an empty gym, but it is rather faint. The ride over the same expansion joints is smooth. Small surface imperfections are handily absorbed.
On my very first drive on the Motivos I was disappointed in the turn-in. After a few more days to scrub the mold release compound off, and a small air pressure adjustment (2 psi over Subaru’s recommendations), I am now satisfied. While these tires lack the razor sharpness of my autocross tires, they do respond reasonably crisply to steering wheel inputs considering the surprisingly plush ride.
Dry lateral grip of the Motivos has been more than satisfactory. In fact, I’ve had a hard time finding the limits of adhesion on public roads without exceeding my personal limits of discretion. So far I’ve found the braking performance acceptable as well. Because my car is all wheel drive with only modest power, I cannot give any meaningful feedback to those concerned with traction. Some time this fall I intend to do some autocross testing so I can really evaluate the on-the-limit performance and behavior of these Nittos. I will bring my autocross tires to the test and hopefully will be able to generate some meaningful data on the performance delta between the two.
An ongoing drought in the area means I have only had one brief opportunity to drive on the Motivos in the rain thus far. I need more experience to be able to formulate an opinion of the wet performance. I have also done a few short stints on gravel, but again am not ready offer any appraisal. Rain will eventually come and I will run the Motivos at a rallycross or two so I expect to fill in the blanks in the next update. The next update after that should hopefully include some comments on the tires’ performance in the snow.
Verdict: So far I am really liking the Motivos on the daily drive. They have the comfortable ride of my snow tires, dry grip much closer to that of my autocross tires, and are substantially quieter than either. With minimal experience in the rain and zero in the snow, however, I cannot yet endorse them. Stay tuned for further updates to see if the Motivos actually deliver on the promise of all-season performance.
For more information on the Motivo, visit Nitto’s website.
UPDATE #1 (9/17/12, ~3,000 miles on the tires):
I’ve had these on the car now for the better part of two months. Over Labor Day weekend I put them through an extreme wet weather test. On Saturday evening I drove ~100 miles through the remnants of Hurricane Isaac on my way to a family get together in northern Illinois. The system dumped about 3 inches of rain along most of my route in a short period of time. The Motivos performed admirably, with excellent hydroplane resistance and decent wet cornering and braking grip. At one time it was raining so hard I couldn’t see the road in front of me. I continued on at ~45 mph, following the white line to the right while simultaneously watching for tail lights to emerge from the blur ahead, until I could get to an exit ramp and wait for the downpour to pass. I wasn’t comfortable going that fast, but I didn’t want to go too slow and get hit from behind and I was concerned about getting hit if I parked on the shoulder because the visibility was so bad. It was quite a scarey couple minutes, but the tires never factored into the drama. Earlier I did experience one incident of hydroplaning that was my own fault. Lulled into a false sense of security by the tires, I was cruising along at 70+ mph in a light rain and unexpectedly hit a spot of heavier precipitation. I heard the tell-tale sound and felt the steering wheel tug lightly, lifted off the throttle, and in a moment the tires had regained contact with the pavement. The car never stopped tracking strait, and I never lost control of the vehicle. It was a wake-up call, however, that every tire has its limit and that exceeding the speed limit in any kind of precipitation was just not a good idea.
I did a road rally in August that included several segments on gravel roads. The Motivos performed as expected in the loose stuff, neither exemplary nor poorly. In short, they were adequate. These aren’t the kind of tires you’d typically choose for regular gravel work, but if you occasionally hit a patch here and there these tires can manage.
I continue to be satisfied with the Motivos in the daily commute. They are still quiet as a mouse, and the dry weather handling continues to impress me. One small annoyance I have encountered is that if my car has been sitting for more than a couple days, there is a faint vibration in the steering when I first start driving that goes away after a few miles. I speculate that the tires are developing a slight flat spot if the car sits on them without moving for too long, but a little bit of heat and rotation from driving gets them back to round in short order. It’s not enough to dampen my overall enthusiasm, however.
So far I am quite pleased overall. I need to drive these tires in the snow and to see how the performance holds up over time before I could give them an unqualified endorsement. But I do give the tires high marks for their 3-season performance thus far.
UPDATE #2 (3/6/13, ~11,000 miles on the tires):
I have been holding off on this update until I could drive on these Nittos in the snow, preferably more than once. Mother nature has been reluctant to cooperate. Winter here started with an unseasonably mild December. We had a couple cold snaps in January, but snowfall was limited to a couple dustings. I have noticed that the slight steering vibration which surfaces after the car has been sitting for an extended time is a bit more pronounced in the colder months. As it still seems to work itself out in only a mile or two of driving, I consider it to be but a minor annoyance. The qualities I really appreciated about the tire in the warm, namely the quiet ride and above-average grip, have persisted in the cold, even at temperatures have as low 5* F (-15* C). Wet traction and grip in just-above-freezing temps has been exemplary as well.
It wasn’t until February that we had any notable accumulations of snow and I finally had an opportunity to evaluate how the Motivos would behave in the white stuff. I wish I had something profound to report but the truth is they perform about exactly as you would expect a set of high-performance all-season tires to perform; adequate but not outstanding. After two seasons of driving on true snow tires, I was forced to recalibrate my right foot. More judicious application of the throttle was required as any sudden onset of turbo boost would overwhelm the available traction at all 4 wheels. Cornering and braking also required thoughtful, gentle application of control inputs. With the proper amount of restraint, however, I was able to make the 20 mile commute between home and work multiple times over snow-covered roads without any surprises. I have made this exact trip in similar conditions on many different tires. Here’s my opinion of how the Motivo’s stack up against them in the snow:
- Substantially better in every way than “Extreme Performance Summer” rated Bridgestone RE-070’s
- A bit better than “High Performance All-Season” rated Bridgestone RE-92A’s.(o.e. tires on this 2006 WRX)
- Less traction than “Light Truck Highway All-Season” rated Yokohama Geolander G95’s (o.e. tires on my wife’s 2013 Subaru Forester)
- Substantially less capable than “Severe Snow Service” rated General Alitimax Artic’s (unstudded, run on this car the previous two winters).
Like I said previously, there’s nothing groundbreaking here; the Motivos fit in the above hierarchy exactly where I think most people would expect. They’ll get you through the occasional snow encounter. They can work all winter if you drive gingerly in the white stuff. You certainly won’t mistake them for true snow tires, however.
I recently took a tread-depth gauge to the Motivos to see how they were wearing. The center and outside grooves all measured between 8/32″ and 9/32″ with no signs of feathering or other abnormal wear on the outside shoulders. Two of the tires showed ~7/32″ on the inside edge and a third one was at 6/32″. It must be noted that the last time I aligned this car I set the front camber outside the factory specifications (-1.4*) and with a touch of front toe-out. I’m therefore not surprised to see some excessive inside wear. The reason for the inconsistent #’s tire-to-tire is that I have not gone through a full rotation cycle yet. The one tire with the most inside wear has been at both front positions, while the tire with the least inside wear hasn’t been on the front yet; the other two have spent roughly half the 11,000 miles on the front and half on the rear.
Ignoring the inside wear issues, which I attribute entirely to my choice of alignment settings, the tires appear to have gone through roughly 20-25 percent of their useable tread. Using extrapolation, that suggests a tread life of roughly 44,000-55,000 miles. That’s a bit shorter than the advertised tread life of 60,000, but I don’t consider the wear so far to be unreasonable. First of all, my driving style would be considered by most to be well to the “spirited” side of normal. Secondly, it is unknown at this point whether the tread wear rate of these tires will prove to be linear, progressive, or regressive over their life-span. I intend to post more tread wear data in a final update sometime this summer. I also expect to have the back-to-back autocross testing results which I was unable to get this fall.
Until then, I look forward to continuing to drive on the Nitto Motivos. They have an amazingly broad operating window with good dry and wet weather grip, a comfortable and quiet ride, consistency across a broad range of temperatures, and just enough snow performance to get by. Based on my extended experience, I now feel confident giving them my endorsement.