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MF Review: Kumho ECSTA SPT

After a year and almost 6500 miles on my OEM Dunlop SP Sport 01 DSST, I was ready for a change. It’s not that I was completely unhappy with the Dunlops. They performed better than any runflat tire had a right to. And at only 21lbs, they’re on par with most non-runflats in terms of weight. They performed well in rain, were relatively quiet on the highway, and even had generally acceptable wear. But at the track and during aggressive driving they painfully just average. So when I decided to switch over to 16.8lbs 18″ O.Z. Ultraleggera wheels, I decided the time was right to make a move to a more aggressive tire as well. Enter the Kumho ECSTA SPT’s.

In many circles Kumho is known for being a great tire at an unusually low price. At almost half the price of comparable tires from Bridgestone, the ECSTA’s made an easy case for themselves – especially if they’re going to be regularly turned into black goo at the track. And with rating from Tirerack and others that put them up there with the best, it was almost a no brainer to at least give them a try and see what all the fuss was about.

From my experience of moderately aggressive to aggressive road use, I would give dry grip a solid 4 out of 5 so far. The grip level is higher that the SP Sport 01s that they replaced but not quite at the level of Bridgestone Potenza RE750. But then again considering the price, it’s easy to forgive having only 95% of the grip.

Another nice attribute is that they also seem to reach their limit in a very gradual manner allowing for easy modulation of the throttle in corners. This works very well with the optional LSD to create smooth exits out of corners.

Here’s what Kumho has to say about the ECSTA’s tread design and how it relates to wet grip:

The ECSTA SPT is the latest in Kumho’s ultra high performance line and features high dispersion silica that is meant to give superior wet grip and better treadwear. The lateral groove design is meant to optimize water evacuation and the triple tread radius optimizes footprint shape for even pressure distribution.

Call it what you will but wet Grip has been excellent so far. I’ve had the opportunity to properly test the car in several hard rains with the ECSTAs and found them to be stable and moderately sticky (if that’s possible in wet conditions). Like with dry grip, the ECSTAs seem to break away in a gradual manner and allow for a driver to easily correct mistakes mid corner.

Road noise on the highway is on the low side and it’s not much different than the more narrow OEM 18″ Dunlops I’ve known for the past year. In fact the ECSTA’s shoulder blocks are tilted into the direction of travel to improve grip and reduce unwanted noise while cruising.

Kumho lists the following as typical competition for the ECSTA SPT as the Michelin Pilot Sport, Bridgestone RE750, Eagle F1 GS, Yokohama Advan AD07, Pirelli P-0 Nero, and Dunlop SP8000. Good company and certainly a tall order for any $100 tire to compete with. But to Kumho’s credit the ECSTA holds its own in both wet and aggressive dry grip. It may not produce the ultimate grip that the RE750s or even the P-O Nero’s have, but at almost half the price, it’s a deficiency most drivers won’t mind and fewer would even notice. In fact you could call the Kumho ECSTA is a great compromise that’s almost not a compromise at all.

MotoringFile Rating: 4.0 (out of five)

Where to Buy:

You can find the KUMHO ECSTA SPT at The Tire Rack.

Testing set-up:

The tires tested were 215/35/18s and were used on O.Z. Ultraleggeras.

Written By: Gabe

  • Yegor H.

    I have the same set thanks to you, Gabe. It’s been a little more than 1000 miles on mine and I like them very much. Good grip, better handling, affordable.

  • Lucas

    Nice review. I have the exact same tires installed after my runflats got quite low. With fairly low price compared to tires in its class, I’m surprised at how well it did. Mine has about 8000 miles on it.

    They have above average (pretty good) grip, and I agree completely with the assessment that it gradually ease into the limits of the tires — and it gives you fair warning before that limit is reached, allowing you to correct your driving before something really bad happens. :-)

  • Ric Stofer

    Great review. Thanks Gabe. I have also had excellent results with the Kumo MX as a street/ track day tire. Not as good in the wet as the SPT but better in the dry.

  • Jac

    great review – i am planning on the SPT’s as well once i swtich off my runflats.

    It may be a help for others to list to list the eaxct rim & tire specs in the review.

    thanks!

  • http://www.ltzmtor.us/ lTZMTOR

    Thanks for the review Gabe I’ll be interested to hear about the mileage.

    I had the Dunlop SP Sport 9000 DSST Run Flats and thought they were a nice intermediate tire. They had 28,000 on them so I thought it was time to change. I went to Tire Rack and read the reviews on the options for my MCS. I bought the Dunlop Sport Maxx. Half the price of the RF’s at $140 ea. ALL reviewers said the tire was superb so I thought I Had a winner replacement for the RF. NOPE! DON’T BUY!

    On quick corners it is great, very sticky. Here’s the rub… on long sweepers it feels like you have a flat! Even during full acceleration in a straight line it feels like Jello Car. Also there is a lot of tramming on Freeways with water grooving or whatever it’s called.

    Anyone with a diff experience with these? I reviewed them at my site.

  • FrankInMiami

    Are these tires available in 16″ rim sizes?

  • Pete Aykroyd

    I’ve also made the switch to the SPTs. I was very happy with them on my Integra before the MINI and have been relatively happy with them over the past 2000 miles or so on the MINI. The one element of them that I find dissappointing is the steering response. The all season good year’s that it came with apparently have tremendous steering response (rated better than Potenzas on tire rack) and so the switch to the kumhos caused me to loose some of the go-cart-fast steering response that I love about the car.

    In terms of price and grip though, they are tough to beat. But I won’t be buying them again for this car. I should note that I’m running them on 17″s, so I wonder if having less sidewall on the 18″s would result in better steering response.

  • Rob Saunders

    What perfect timig! The Kumho STA’s are on my short list of upgrades. THANKS!

  • lasersailor

    Since the Kumho’s are not run-flats, what do all you all recommend to carry in the car in case of a puncture (besides my AAA card and associated towing service?) Does anyone have experience with the “fix-a-flat-in-a-can” stuff?

  • lasersailor

    To FranklnMiami, yes the Kumho Ecsta SPT’s are available in 205/50WR16 size. I assume that’s the appropriate non-run-flat size to replace the 195/55HR16 that come standard?

  • MillieTheMini

    lasersailor,

    Up here in Canada, many of us MINI owners have gotten our hands on the Airman Tire Repair Station, which is a all-in-one tire air compressor/repair sealant unit:

    http://www.canadiandriver.com/articles/pw/airman.htm

    The manufacturer also makes a variety of air inflation products – http://www.activeproducts.com

    Great looking product, it looks very OEM designwise, like something that MINI themselves would have designed. The fact that the sealant is made by Dunlop doesn’t hurt credibility-wise.

    Don’t know if you can get it in the US though, I believe that the Airman is exclusive to Canadian Tire stores up here.

  • mightydread

    i have the ECSTA Supra 712 and very happy with them also. pick up a set in the spring . have done 25000 kms and one wet track day on them and there still holding up very well. they are 215/50/16.

    cheers mikie

  • http://www.trackfaq.com MINIAK

    The fix-a-flat stuff works well enough to get you to the tire repair shop – make sure you tell them you put the FAF in your tire, otherwise it can be a nasty surprise for them.

    I have never tried the SPT’s, but I love the MX’s and swear by them in the wet and dry.

    As you wear your tires (especially the aggressive drivers) you may wear out the shoulders first. This will contribute to the wandering and additional road noise. It is important to rotate your tires.

    Note – safety standards say that the best tires should be on the rear of the car, as it is safer to understeer than oversteer. This is why cars are typically set up from the factory with understeer.

    If you are especially frugal, you can swap your tires on the rims. If you do that, beware that running the tires counter-direction works fine on dry, but could actually channel water to the center of the tire in the wet and be somewhat hazardous. Due to that reason, I cannot recommend doing this. However, I have been known to do it on my track-only tires to get more life from them.

    Happy and Safe Motoring. :)

  • Bilbo Baggins
    lasersailor Sep 25th, 2006 Link Since the Kumho’s are not run-flats, what do all you all recommend to carry in the car in case of a puncture (besides my AAA card and associated towing service?) Does anyone have experience with the “fix-a-flat-in-a-can” stuff?

    I have been running non-runflats every winter on my MCS and carry a bottle of “Slime” and a small compressor. I also carry a tire plugging kit.

    “Slime” does not use flamable compressed gasses, like some of the “fix-a-flat-in-a-can” products. Which is why some garages refuse to work on tires that have “fix-a-flat” installed. Instead you use a small 12VDC compressor to inflate the tire. All very safe for the next poor sap that has to remove the tire from the rim.

    So far I have never had to use the “Slime” in over 47,000 smiles. But I have had to install 2 plugs in the rf tires after I got nailed in the middle of the tread.

    Plugs held just fine, even thru 7 days of Auto-X driving.

    Hope this helps.

  • Nathan

    Haven’t had a chance to use the Kumhos, but I’ll toss in my two cents for one of their listed competitors. Those Eagle F1 GS’s are great. Wet and dry I give ‘em 5 out of 5. Traction for days and very predictable when it comes to slip. Decent tread wear so far. Reasonably light weight. And also under $100 if you look in the right places. They are the first tire that ever got me compliments while parked.

  • Paddy

    215/35-18?

  • http://paulr.us Paul

    Thanks for the review Gabe, I’ve been considering these for some time to replace my factory summer Dunlops. Sure can’t beat the price!

    Don’t know if you can get it in the US though, I believe that the Airman is exclusive to Canadian Tire stores up here.

    Looks like the $50 CAD Airman is the same as Continental Tire’s ContiComfortKit available from the Rack.

    http://www.tirerack.com/accessories/conticomfortkit/index.jsp

  • JP

    To those proponents of fix-a-flat or Slime, let me recount my own experience. While driving in Northern California on Highway 101, I experienced a blowout with a non-runflat. With no spare, I had no choice but to call a tow truck who arrived after a fifty mile drive. He towed me to the nearest town and I had a replacement tire bused in from Sacramento. It was a full day before I was on the road again. Positives, runflats are hard to find almost anywhere. Non runflat replacements are cheaper. Negatives, fix-a-flat is worthless with a blowout. Run flats would have allowed me to reach the nearest town, however a run flat would have had to be bused in from L.A. or San Francisco. Conclusion. There is no free lunch.

  • http://TwistedMotoring.org am0eba

    I’ve had Kumho Ecsta SPTs on my ’05 MCSc for about 13,000 miles, including a DE event at Laguna Seca, and “lunch laps” at Las Vegas Speedway (very abrasive track surface). Most of the miles were recreational in nature, with plenty of “spirited” driving on twisties. I’m running 205/50WR16’s on 16×7 Konig “holes” with a 42 mm offset. I never rotated front to rear, and while my fronts are in desperate need of replacement – very little tread depth left, and uneven wear at that – the rears look almost new. I’m running the stock Cabrio “sport” suspension, and keep the tires inflated to somewhere around 37 psi front / 35 psi rear when cold.

    The SPTs were recommended to me by Phil Wicks as having good grip that would last, and since I had owned and been happy with a set of Kumho Ecsta Supra 712’s on my previous car (Subaru 2.5 RS) I decided to go with them.

    In general, I found the SPTs to be fairly sticky and predictable for the first 7 or 8 thousand miles, but the extra durability that has been engineered into them was dissappointing. After the outer layer wears down, the predictable stickiness started feeling occasionally “greasy” during dry cornering, with a few instances of “hey it never did that before” when the grip gave ‘way without the usual warning. Also very odd: I started noticing that the SPTs were making sounds like sneakers on a a basketball court when passing over rubber lane markings during cornering. (No apparent change in grip – just the unusual noises.)

    Turn-in crispness was never as sharp as with the Original Equipment 17″ Dunlop SP9000 performance runflats, but I expected that to be the case, as I switched to 16″ rims and tires in order to gain some extra sidewall height – to absorb some of the very harsh expansion joints on California’s freeways.

    I expect that if I had managed to swap the tires front to rear before the fronts really started wearing, that I could have extended the “good” performance substantially.

    The SPT’s were better in the wet than the old SUPRA ECSTA 712’s, which basically “went away” on wet pavement.

    Overall, a decent tire for the price, but you’ll need to rotate end to end to really get extended life from them. I wasn’t thrilled with the look in the size I got, so I will probably not replace them with another set of SPTs. I’m currently looking at Goodyear Eagle F1 GS D3’s (if I decide to go with the same size tire: 205/50-16), and Falken Azenis 615’s, which come in my ideal size of 215/45-16.

    Just thought some relatively long-term perspective might be useful.

    Dave

  • Robert

    Nice review, but I have a question about this statement:

    “Road noise on the highway is on the low side and it’s much greater than the more narrow OEM 18″ Dunlops I’ve known for the past year. In fact the ECSTA’s shoulder blocks are tilted into the direction of travel to improve grip and reduce unwanted noise while cruising.”

    Is it really much noisier than the Dunlops?…..or did you mean to say “quieter” instead of greater?

    There seems to be a conflict with “road noise on the low side, but much greater than the Dunlops”…the Dunlops must be, I guess, really, really quiet?

  • bluzeke

    Does anyone out there have any experience with the All Season version of this tire – the ASX ?

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  • Andrew

    Got four of these a month ago after doing much research. Basically I could not afford the Bridgestone RE050’s (just over half my month’s gross salary as an IT professional here in South Africa!). Paid slightly less than half the price for the SPT’s… they rock. I’m very happy: extremely quiet and comfortable – I did drop my tyre pressure but still swear they take imperfections in the road (of which we have many) better. Slighly less traction than the RE050a’s but nothing worth bothering about. The tread pattern looks fantastic. Only thing is I wish the lip protector was more pronounced – very slight and subtle. That’s my only criticism really! The treadwear is 320 vs 140 on the Bridgestone’s and the traction rating a ‘AA’ vs ‘A’. Nice! Thank you Kumho!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1622630661 Sandi Tyme

    I have experienced extreme cupping on the insides of both rear SPTs. Hard to say what the mileage is on these tires as I run snows (Dunlop Winter Sport M3) half the year, but I would estimate under 25,000 miles. Dealer inspected suspension, and found alignment to be correct. (I declined to have them reduce the camber). Some folks say that cupping can occur on an inferior tire. My Dunlops show no such wear at all. Can’t handle the noise… it’s deafening. Any thoughts?

  • Jason

    Thank a MILLION for this review. Off to go have these put on my 07 Coop S, 17″ right now. Will post a review after some miles are put on them.

  • http://www.mypctechs.com Andre

    I recently took a pair of Kumho Ecsta SPT on a road trip. They were my front drivers on a 2003 Porsche Boxster. We went round trip nearly 2000 miles from Phoenix, AZ through Yellowstone, to San Francisco, south on Highway 1 to LA and back to Phoenix.

    These tires were flawless in rain, ice, hairpin turns on Yellowstone, tight turns on Highway 1 and usually at 50+ MPH. These are awesome tires! I had a pair of Kumho Ecsta ASX on the back – equally impressive tires.


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