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.