Few things can change the way your car drives as fast as a set of new tires. They have a profound effect on how a car drives – much more than the suspension or the engine. And that is only natural – the tires on your car are the ones that connect with the road directly – every other component connects indirectly. That’s why if you want to enhance the cornering performance of your sports car, you will need a set of sticky high-performance or ultra-high-performance summer tires.
Why these tires and not all-season high-performance tires you ask? It is simple – summer tires are designed to work fantastically in strict weather conditions, while all-season tires are designed to work admirably in most weather conditions. Fantastically beats admirably, mind you. I mean, sure, all-season tires will provide you with better handling in colder conditions, but summer tires are still the kings, and by a significant margin, when the weather is warm.
But, with all the options on the market, which ultra-high-performance summer tire is the best? Firestone thinks that it has the answer with the Firehawk Indy 500. This is certainly one of their best tires to date, perhaps because it is based on a Bridgestone Potenza RE003, which is a very popular choice within the enthusiast’s community (Bridgestone is the mother company of Firestone).
The Indy 500 promises outstanding levels of traction, grip, and responsiveness for a fraction of the price of premium competitors such as Michelin Pilot Super Sport, Goodyear Eagle F1, Pirelli P Zero, and Bridgestone Potenza RE760 Sport. However, it is also tightly contested with other budget offerings such as the Kumho Ecsta PS31, Toyo Proxes T1, and Falken Azenis FK510.
According to Firestone, the Firehawk Indy 500 is designed for use on sports cars, sporty coupes and performance sedans. A quick look at the sizes available expands the usage scenario to other sports cars, like hot hatchbacks, for example (Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus RS). That said, we think that the Indy 500 is best-suited to cars like the BMW M3, M4 and M5, Audi S4 and S6, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and C63 AMG Coupe, Lexus IS-F, GS-F and RC-F, Mazda RX-8 and Miata, Toyota 86, Subaru BRZ and WRX STI, Nissan 370Z, Ford Mustang, etc.
In other words, the Firehawk Indy 500 is aimed at car enthusiasts that want to achieve the highest cornering speeds possible. Usually, these tires aren’t installed from the factory – all the cars listed above come with high-performance summer tires from the dealership. Ultra-high-performance summer tires, such as the Indy 500, provide the driver with even better responsiveness, more grip and traction, and better braking performance. They are also a much better choice for track days due to the added performance, but perhaps slightly worse for everyday driving due to worse comfort levels.
But, is the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 enough of an upgrade to your existing high-performance summer tires? Read on to find out!
What are the features of the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500?
The Firehawk Indy 500 is a high-end tire that’s aimed at people who know a thing or two about performance. That’s why Firestone put everything it knows about tires in the racing-inspired Indy 500. First of all, the tread compound is high-silica Long Link Carbon, which is pretty standard for Firestone’s tires by now. Here, the advanced compound is molded in a very aggressive-looking tread design with large independent shoulder blocks for improved cornering and handling in dry conditions.
One thing that sets the Indy 500 apart from other tires in its price range is the Pulse Groove Technology used on the center circumferential groove. This interestingly-designed groove provides additional hydroplaning resistance and better water evacuation than standard circumferential grooves. Here it is aided by two other standard grooves for excellent wet traction and much shorter stopping distances than its predecessor, the Indy 500 Wide Oval.
Like most ultra-high-performance tires, the Firehawk Indy 500 internal structure features high-turnup polyester casing beneath twin high-tensile steel belts and nylon reinforcement. This design makes handling much more responsive while also enhancing the on-center feel and high-speed stability.
We should note here that the Firehawk Indy 500 is a summer tire, which means that it is not designed for use in near-freezing temperatures, snow or ice.
What are maintenance indicators?
The Firehawk Indy 500 doesn’t come with any wear indicators built into the tread of the tire, in contrast to its premium competitors, which offer some indication. Instead, Firestone suggests using the penny test, which by now has become a standard for measuring tread depth. Just stick a penny in the tire tread grooves. If the tire tread is at least touching Abraham Lincoln’s upside-down head, the tire tread depth is at least 2/32”.
That said, while the Indy 500 will lose its wet capabilities when the tread is worn down, it might still be good for dry conditions. This is the case with most ultra-high-performance summer tires – some users even report that the tires grip better further down the tread. Nonetheless, if you use your vehicle on the street, we suggest replacing the tires when the tread comes down to 2/32” for your own safety, and the safety of other traffic participants.
As expected, Firestone doesn’t offer any treadwear warranty for the Firehawk Indy 500. These tires are often driven to their limits, which shortens the treadlife greatly. Warranty aside, owners of these tires report that they are very resilient, even when driven on the track for prolonged periods of time. Still, you should take great care not to damage them when driving on the street. Due to the smaller and stiffer sidewalls, the tires and wheels can be damaged from larger potholes, and especially sidewalks. If you don’t want expensive repairs, drive with extreme caution.
Is it good for off-road driving?
The Firehawk Indy 500 is absolutely not designed to be used for off-road driving. It lacks the proper tread depth for excursions out of the road, and perhaps more importantly, it might get severely damaged in the process. And unlike grand-touring tires, the Indy 500 shouldn’t be used on gravel, either.
How does it behave on dry tarmac?
In short: outstandingly well. However, you are still reading this article because you want to know precisely how the Firehawk Indy 500 handles extreme driving. To be honest, we didn’t expect the Firestone to perform this good, especially given the lower price point. However, it seems that Bridgestone has really injected some of its know-how into the designing of this tire.
First of all, the Firehawk Indy 500 is as responsive as you’d want, even when driven on tight and twisty roads. The tires always react readily to the steering input – it feels like driving a go-kart. Traction is also exceptionally good, especially when you put a little heat in the tires. That’s true even on very powerful vehicles. Also, not a lot of ultra-high-performance summer tires offer this much grip – the Indy 500 is almost as good as the best premium tires, despite costing much less. In the end, braking distances are also very short, on par with the best.
Overall, the Firehawk Indy 500 puts a great show here. Sure, there are tires that perform even better, like for example the Michelin Pilot Super Sport, but that tire costs much more. For the money, the Indy 500 is a killer.
How is it over wet and slippery roads?
Some people may think that ultra-high-performance tires aren’t that good in the rain, but that’s far from the truth. The Firehawk Indy 500 is a great example, why – it performs exceptionally well on a damp track, and it even resists hydroplaning in heavy rain.
Thanks to the Pulse Groove Technology used on the center circumferential groove, the Indy 500 is much better in the rain than similarly priced tires, especially while accelerating and braking. Again, some premium competitors are even better, but the Firestone competes favorably in its price range.
With that being said, how is it in snowy roads?
The Firehawk Indy 500 is not intended to be used in near-freezing conditions and god forbid, snow. It is not only completely unsafe to do that, but it may also damage the tire itself. Please replace these tires with high-performance winter tires from November to March.
Is it comfortable and refined?
The Indy 500 is many things, but it is certainly not comfortable and refined when you compare it to high-performance or grand-touring tires. That said, it is better in that regard than most ultra-high-performance tires, especially in the ride quality department.
You can see more Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 Review here: videos created by Gjeebs
Should I buy the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500?
If you want a tire that will enhance the performance of your car and you don’t want to spend a fortune, then you should buy the Firehawk Indy 500. This Firestone marvel is consistent throughout the testing with dry and wet handling that is near the best premium tires that cost a lot more.
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