By on November 29, 2007

ge_exclaim_uhp_ci2_l.jpgSelecting a performance tire is a daunting process. Over ten different tire manufacturers offer over forty different brands in a multitude of configurations for a range of road conditions. Tire prices range from less than a single Ben Franklin to nearly three times that amount. And it’s difficult to isolate objective information about any given tire because of the number of variables and the inability for any one tire to be the best in any one category (e.g. grip, wear, wet weather traction, wheel protection, comfort, etc.) Oy vey.

When it comes to negotiating this round rubber labyrinth, TTAC hearts the Tire Rack. The online retailer consistently displays genuine care and concern for its customers, and exhibits fanatical dedication to discerning and revealing the truth about tires. To this end, the Tire Rack’s website publishes end users’ ratings. The rankings for summer performance tires cover both wet and dry conditions, as well as comfort considerations. 

The Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2 sits at the top of the consumer rankings. Pilots are often used as OEM equipment on high performance cars like the BMW M3. Known for their incredible stickiness, they wear out faster than an OCD’s toothbrush. In our 18” size, Exalto’s run a cool $168 per tire. As this test was on my own nickel, I scanned for a less expensive alternative. 

The tire ranked number two by folks like you and me was a genuine surprise. We’re talking about rubber rated higher than all the biggest playas in the high performance biz: Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval, Bridgestone Potenza, BFGoodrich g-Force T/A and Kumho Ecsta SPT. And the winner is… the Exclaim UHP from General Tire.

General Tire has been around for nearly a century, selling a tire with little or no racing heritage and a reputation for average quality at low prices, best suited to the Sears and K-Mart crowd. Twenty years ago, General Tire’s parent GenCorp. decided to focus on missiles and real estate. They sold their tire business to Continental, Europe’s leading tire manufacture.

Looking to upgrade my Audi’s 16” wheels and all-season tires for around $1500 clams, I had to balance costs with performance. Given the lack of snow in Miami, and desiring the highest possible grip, I opted for an Ultra High Performance Summer Tire. Based on the Tire Rack reviews, I bought four General Exclaim UHPs mounted on eighteen inch offset correct wheels.

Once mounted, an eagled-eyed friend noticed that one of the wheels was mounted backwards. The Tire Rack’s shipping department missed the directional arrow, which should point forward. To their credit, they paid a local tire shop to remount the tire in the correct direction.

Of course, tire testing is a subjective business, and I’m not equipped with equipment to measure maximum g-force and other key metrics. In addition, the test vehicle’s suspension and brake capabilities will affect any and all tire test results. All that said, I plied my new rubber on-street, during (simulated) panic maneuvers and during autocross style slaloms. I also got the Audi’s feet wet. 

All tests were performed with the A4’s stock brakes and an H-sport suspension upgrade. I also turned off traction control via the e-Nanny button. [Note: on most cars, the button only modifies the degree of traction control. On some cars, the Nanny can never be dismissed.]

During panic stop tests, the Exclaims provided good strong bite on a clean asphalt road. In high speed panic turns, the tires were laterally compliant in a predictable manner. While squealing like four stuck pigs, the tires were able to make maximum turns without much resistance. Hustling the Audi around the cones proved the Exclaims’ high level of lateral grip, though the modified suspension aided the tires’ traction by reducing roll.

The Exclaims handled moderately wet weather without any noticeable diminution of safety. Worryingly (if not unpredictably) the ultra grippy shoes hydroplaned in heavy rain when traveling over 70 mph. Below this speed, stopping and turning was not greatly affected by stagnant water.

The Exclaims were quiet over most surfaces, but they increased the Audi’s torque steer– which I blame more on the tire size than the Exclaim’s construction or tire pattern themselves. Tire wear was a little below average for a high performance tire; more than 50 of the tread done gone after just 10k miles. To be fair, I have an extremely heavy foot, and front wheel-drive cars tend to wear out tires a lot faster than rear drivers.

But hey, the General Exclaims cost just $86 per tire. Use, lose, repeat. At half the price of the Pilots, and with better wear life, the General Exclaim may not have the cachet of some– most performance tires. But for drivers who care more about performance (and money) than snobbery, the Generals are a genuine bargain.

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14 Comments on “General Tire Exclaim UHP Review...”

  • avatar

    There are too many variables – you should have stuck with a 16 and compared it to your stockers – a lot of performance can be gained by going with a lower profile tire and larger wheel

    Of course, a lot of performance can be lost by going with a larger wheel and tire package as the unsprung weight can be increased if you don’t choose a lightweight rim to mount the rubber on, reducing acceleration and braking capabilities.

  • avatar

    Unfortunately tire tests and radar detector tests are still best left to Car & Driver with uber-expensive test equipment and multiple test vehilcle mules. That being said, you discovered the law of diminishing returns is alive and well when you consider tires. Sooner or later, you’ll own Generals. And the Kumho’s on my M3 ain’t bad either.

  • avatar

    I’ve had generally good experiences with Tire Rack.

    Be careful, though. Make sure the tires you’re looking at have lots of miles and owners in the rankings. Sometimes a new tire with a few ratings can get to the top of the charts.

    I’ve had good experience with Bridgstone and Yokohama tires, for much less than the comparable Michelins. I had less luck with BF Goodrich, which wore out way too quickly for the grip.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Kumhos and Generals have always been my favorites. I can’t stand anything that can be had at Firestone, and Michelin’s are more or less the Starbucks of tires (nice… but you paid how much for tires?)

    I used to buy 14″ MXV4’s for all the travel I did to the auctions. I had a 1994 Camry at the time and I think the cost for them was right around $90-$95. They were a great value proposition for their time. I consistently got 30 mpg on the highway, and the tires lasted 89k and 75k respectively. The Camry still drove very well when I sold it with 239k for $2500.

    These days I can get two good used tires on a vehicle for $35. Good as in having about 25k to 35k left on the tires with a known brand. Then again, this is Georgia and the remarketing side of the business out here is a different world altogether.

    At the auctions, one thing that I do look for is new rubber. A new car dealership will typically use new rubber, fluids and plastic floor inserts whenever they try to move used metal. The 2002 Windstar that I bought for $2000 the other day had all of that as well as 4 new Michelin tires.

  • avatar

    I used to always buy General Tires, even for a while after they were bought out by Continental.

    I had relatives who worked for General Tire when the first big downsizing of the U.S. tire industry happened in the early 90’s – it was not pretty seeing thousands losing their jobs as looking back, smart companies knew that the trade practices of the United States would make it impossible to compete.

    I bought tires for my wife’s Corolla about a month ago – Pirelli bought Armstrong tire and so I figured it was a good chance they were made in the United States. I found out Pirelli closed all the old Armstrong plants, and my tires were made in Brazil.

    Try to find any tire under $100 made in the United States – maybe Coopers.

  • avatar

    it’s been written that tires are the most important safety feature on a car and considering that their performance can mean the difference between having or not having an accident i think it’s true. would you buy a bargain seat belt or air bag? would you really give up braking performance by buying cheaper pads? excellent adhesion doesn’t just mean improved g forces in the corners, it means stopping quicker. i always look for in depth tests from C/D or Consumers Reports, and i buy the tire that performs the best in terms of overall traction, wet traction and braking. it’s usually a michelin but some goodyears have done very well in recent tests. saving a few bucks on tires to me is penny wise/pound foolish.

  • avatar

    I have one summer of these on my Saab 9-5 Aero. No, make that 2. Unfortunately they were not available in the size for my older A8… I like them that much. They handle and wear better than the Kumhos I replaced on the Saab. Low cost tires doesn’t mean cheap or unsafe. And Pilots are overpriced.

  • avatar

    Hydroplaning over 70 mph? That’s not cool. Of course, it is prudent to slow down in heavy downpours. I had a set of Avon M500’s on my Saab 9-5 which never, ever hydroplaned. They also wore out to the wear bars in 15k miles, making their low price not much of a bargain.

    My next summer tires are going to be the Nokian Z, since I have yet to buy a bad tire from Nokian, having used the NRW, i3, and RSi on various cars.

  • avatar

    When I look at replacement items including tires I have different criteria depending on what the application is. If I’m shopping for tires for my Buick I’ll read the various reports both in the automotive magazines and reviews on some of the online tire dealer’s sites however, If I’m shopping for tires for my Corvette that information is simply not good enough. I want to know from someone that is running a tire that I’m considering for my car how that performs and I can tell you first hand that the General Exclaim UHP is an excellent choice. A friend of mine is running a set on his “02 Corvette. Many times we’ll get together early on a Sunday morning and go out for a ride. We may have 15 to 20 cars-Corvettes , Porsche GT3’s , BMW’s and an occasional Ferarri. Sometimes these “rides”can be somewhat “spirited” and my friend with the Generals has never had any problem running, cornering , and stopping with the rest of us. I can’t wait to replace the Goodyear F1″s on my Corvette with the General tires!Incidentally , a friend of ours with an ’01 Corvette is replacing his Pilot’s with the Generals!

  • avatar

    I agree with Phil. While I’m generally a cheapskate, tires are one of the things I consider worth overspending on. You can have a good suspension and be undone by slippery tires. You can have a car capable of excellent wet-road grip and be undone by tires that lack all-season capability. You can have a quiet ride and have it ruined by tire noise. Why?

    It’s like doing the work to paint your house with crappy paint. All your outlay was wasted because you cheaped out on one essential, IMO.

  • avatar

    Is your Audi a quattro? I have had problems with tires being “out of round” and causing major vibrations on my VW 4Motion and TT quattro. I had problems with Kumho Ecsta and Falken ZE512 being “out of round”. I now have Bridgestone RE960AS Pole Postion, these are great tires on both cars. I learned my lesson and will not buy cheap tires again!!!

  • avatar

    Just stumbled over the site, so time will tell about staying around. I did find a review of this tire timely though. I’m on my second set of these (different car, not because I wore them out) and have been spreading the word. I took the leap of faith (General?) almost 2 years ago. Due to Tire Rack’s owners survey placing this tire at the top (then) of its’ class and the irresistible price, I ordered a set for summer use (which is how Tire Rack markets these, although they’re actually an all season tire labeled for mud and snow). I haven’t looked back. Great bang for the buck and I’ve found they excel in all areas (I respectfully disagree with the hydroplane observation; I’ve found them to be oust anding in the rain at speed). I wouldn’t (and don’t) hesitate to strongly recommend the tire.

  • avatar

    The prices for all Michelin tires are ridiculous, and they often aren’t even the best in their category. I’m a big fan of Bridgestone Pole Position, Goodyear F1 and Pirelli P-Zeros. I prefer to look at Tirerack’s own testing results, rather than the user reviews.

  • avatar

    I’ve had these tires on two different cars, a teen-driven Camaro and a mostly adult driven Oldsmobile Aurora.  I’ve been extremely happy with them, and would have been happy even if they’d been a lot more expensive!  The tires on the Camaro lasted about as long as you’d expect from a teen driver in a Camaro, and never caused any trouble in rainy Florida.  Actually, they lasted longer than the car did! 

    I’m just about to replace the fronts on the Aurora with another pair of UHPs.  They lasted 50K miles, and I never rotate my tires, so that’s great life on a heavy, fairly powerful front drive car.  The rears will probably last another 20K or more.  Two thumbs up for General Exclaim UHP!

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