By on January 31, 2008

img_20051105t220931214.jpgIf you’re a pistonhead, you have people. You know, Nick the mechanic or Joe the dyno. I got a tire guy: Ernie Bello. Bello tires is a performance car hangout, with all the right equipment for mondo mods and a lounge, decorated with a map of the Nürburgring, stocked with car mags, ice cream and kick-ass Cuban coffee. When my sports car needed new tires I clicked on Tire Rack for price and advice. I then went to Ernie. Hey Ernie! Whaddayathinkin here?

For a long time, Ernie was a Toyo guy. Ernie’s now nuts on Nittos. Trusting Ernie’s advice, I went with the Nitto Invo. I’ve now driven over five thousand spirited miles on the shoes, including a 1500 mile trek to the BMW factory in Spartanburg, SC.

Like many high performance cars, my BMW boasts staggered wheel sizes: 225/45 17” wheels in the front, and 245/40 17” wheels in the back (on the stock rims).  This setup improves handling, but eliminates front-to-back tire rotation. That means shorter tire life; the rears suffer from my aggressive driving style, while the fronts stay ahead of the game.

Bottom line: I got great G’s on the track, and then spent them down at Ernie’s replacing the rears on a regular basis. Readers of my reviews will not be surprised to learn that I wanted a tire that wasn’t overly expensive, offering reasonable wear life, without sacrificing performance. I was pleased to learn that the Invos are non-directional; I can rotate the rubber side-to-side to balance wear. Somewhat.

The Invos are classified by Nitto as ultra-performance street tires. Translation: they’re designed for both wet and dry traction– without sacrificing ride comfort and noise suppression. Competitors include the Michelin Pilot Exaltos, the General Exclaims (previously reviewed), Firestone Firehawks and Bridgestone Potenzas.

The Invo has a unique design. The tire incorporates standard tread design with a three channel-deep wide-rib, located on one side. Nitto claims that combining an inner rib with two circumferential grooves improves wet weather performance. The rest of the tire consists of a Silica-reinforced tread compound, variable pitched grooves and large inner and outer contact patches (for improved dry handling).

The Invos come in sizes ranging from 225/45 17” to bling-sized 275/25 24” monsters. The tires are “Z” rated; good for speeds over 149 mph. But they’re also limited by a “W” rating, which pegs the maximum safe speed at 154 mph. The 17” tires I purchased have a 91 rating for load, which means a maximum load per tire of 1356 pounds in the front. The larger rear Invos support over 2000 pounds per tire, for a 5000 pound total.

Nitto warrants Invo tires for uniformity problems for sixty months after purchase– subject to rotation every 3500 miles.  As expected with performance tires, no mileage warranty is offered.

Without sophisticated equipment, testing tire on a scientific basis is impossible. As to mileage tests, one requires either many years of patience or a machine to artificially add mileage. Having neither, I can only provide my subjective analysis of the tires based on years of experience.

The other issue with tires is the trade-off between comfort/noise/longevity versus performance and traction.  Tires that lean toward performance usually have comfort and noise issues. Softer, more compliant tires aid comfort but lose performance capabilities.

I tested the Invos for four characteristics: noise, comfort, dry traction and wet traction. The easiest to measure was the Invo’s noise level. I found the tires extremely quiet, with little noise intrusion with the vehicle’s top down, and none with the top up.

Comfort was harder to measure; the BMW M Roadster is already a somewhat harsh vehicle to start. Compared to the stock Michelin Pilots, I found no change in the comfort level with the Invos installed. I lean to a harsher ride on a sports car and the Invos did not make the ride any worse.

The fun part of testing is pushing tires to the limit on the street in simulated track tests in open lots. All tests were performed with the traction control turned off.

I tested dry handling by completing high speed turns and simulated slaloms. I found traction to be substantial, with the car failing to break away. This made reasonable drifting impossible. I also tried several panic stops, inducing ABS vibration. Again the Invos functioned very well.

Wet traction was only slightly worse with slower slalom speeds and longer braking. I never felt a loss of control. I’d trust these tires (though my M never sees rain, the spoiled bitch that she is).

With the install, I paid $600 for all four shoes at Bello Tires. Not the cheapest option, but well worth the price and competitive with the other tires mentioned above.  Now if I can only get 20k miles on them!

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13 Comments on “NITTO Invo Ultra-High Performance Tire Review...”

  • avatar

    24 years ago, when my dreadful ’81 Mustang shredded one of its tires, I headed to the nearest Tire Kingdom with my high school budget and asked for the cheapest 13 inch tire – and I got a $27 Nitto. Whitewall, no less.

    My, how times have changed.

  • avatar

    why would you waste your gas to drive 1500 miles to see the bmw plant? everytime i go to my grandparents i have to pass that stupid plant, i could understand if you meant bowlingreen, kentucy(the corvette plant if you didn’t know).

  • avatar

    How do they compare to Michelin PS2’s? I have those as my summer tires on my M3 and find them to be simply amazing. Still, $230/tire…

  • avatar

    Doesn’t the W speed rating a top speed of 168, not 154? I’m referring to Tire Rack’s description here:

  • avatar

    i swear by falken azenis rt-615’s

    i’ve got them on 2 cars; my daily driver i get 18k miles out of them and have not found anything that grips even close to as good as they grip.

    i’ve also got them on a car i autocross with (for fun, i’m not that good, ha) i’m running -1.5º camber in the front and -1º in the rear; i only got 8k miles out of them on that car.

    these are the best tires i’ve ever driven on; and they are cheap too (good when u have to replace them a lot) in 225/45/17 i found azenis for $116 per tire and that price includes shipping to your door. they don’t make them in 245/40/17, but they do make them in 255/40/17, if you can fit them on your wheel width. in 255/40/17 the azenis are $134.50 per tire shipped to your door.

    i know of no better gripping tire regardless of price (i have seen tires that grip equaly as well but not better and they were 3 times the cost)

  • avatar

    SunnyvaleCA you are right about the speed rating, not ure where I got the 154 from, but of course that is mostly academic except for track use.

    jmack91z28: I’ll visit what I damn well please but if you must know, the factory hosts a annual get together for Z3 and Z4 owners. Over 1,000 people and 600 cars showed up this year for dinners, track events, repair clinics and more. You can see pics of homecoming on my website at in my M Roadster link.

    guyincognito: I like Michelins but I find they wear very fast and are a bit pricey.

  • avatar

    I’ve had my eye on these since I saw them in some car magazine. Man I need a tire guy. Anybody know a good tire place in the new york city area? All the ones I’ve been to have been not so great. From bad valves to actual tire damage from those outside clip weights.

  • avatar

    Ohh ok, well next time your down give me a call, i’ll take you out to the Lowe’s motor speed way Auto Fair, you can see some real cars there.

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    1500 miles to see a BMW plant. I guess it could be worse, like all those douchebags who used to drive to Spring Hill for the Saturn meetings. Who the f*ck in their right mind would waste the gas to see a GM plant ?.

  • avatar

    Wow, only $600 for a full set? I think that’s very good for performance tires. It cost me about $1200 for the Bridgestone S02’s (OEM specs) for my roadster. But a good subjective review nontheless.

    I also looked at the Toyo tires, but didn’t see anything in forum reviews or comments to dissuade me from the OEM choice, including TireRack’s advice.

    And as a side note, I found that Sears Auto Center was very competitive with their tire pricing to TireRack; they matched their price on the S02’s. I felt confident with the place I went to for their installation, balancing, etc. but I have heard horror stories about these places. YMMV.

  • avatar

    azenis sucks compare to toyo r888 or yoko 048
    nittos my be fine…

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