Kumho Ecsta 4x – Review and Experience

After spending some time with these budget priced performance all seasons, I can finally write something about them. I replaced the set a few months early due to irreparable tire damage. Most of the ride / handling comparisons are against the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S+ tires, which where my previous set and generally well regarded high performance all season.

Overview 

The Ecsta 4x’s are a great value choice in this tire category (High Performance All Seasons). I say value because they were not meant to outperform the top brands, but to stand alongside at least a few of them. Performance is better than I expected. Grip is plentiful in the dry, and was surefooted enough in the rain (or whatever California considers inclement weather). The treadwear looks to be on track for the mileage. Ride quality is not as good as I thought it would be but certainly not bad.

Handling

The Ecsta 4x’s are a great handling tire. Turn in is crisp and grip is plentiful. Ultimate grip is shy of the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S+ that I had on previously, but for the money saved, I won’t knock off too much. I won’t notice it on the street. The sidewalls are very stiff and keep the tire from feeling sloppy. It’s a predictable tire. More on the stiff sidewall later. I have no problems with the tire in the handling department. It does what you ask. Weatherwise, I can’t comment on anything other than rain. They handle rain just fine and feel secure on a wet road.

Ride Quality

This is the area I will fault the tire. Ride quality is not as good as the Michelin’s or not great in general. It feels rougher and less refined on imperfect roads. The carcass at times feels like it has a spring to it that translates into a bit of a jiggle. It may be the sidewall stiffness. The ones I purchased were an XL designation tire with a 94W service description. Too much stiffness for the GTI. The XL version is not the one to get. The Michelin’s had stiff sidewalls but the ride did not suffer as much. Overall, not a bad ride from the Kumho’s but not great either. Refinement feels lacking. I initially wrote that the ride quality was better than the Michelin’s but extended time revealed otherwise.

 Treadwear

Treadwear was as expected. I replaced them a little before their time due to an irreparable puncture but I was satisfied by the mileage. I accumulated maybe 30,000 miles on them. I estimate that they could have lasted another 10k miles, but previous alignment issues left the wear uneven (not the tires fault) and at this point in the tires life it made sense to replace the set. If they hit 40,000 miles, I consider that satisfactory.

Issues

The mold that was used to make my particular set suffered from a weird line that ran across the tread. It looked like a crack but was limited to the surface. I didn’t consider it an issue as long as it didn’t get larger. I’ve seen other Kumho Ecsta 4x’s with this mold line/crack. I put a decent amount of miles into the tires and the crack was not an issue but it gives me pause about the quality control. It certainly added some road noise if anything. I looked at the lines during a recent tire rotation and they looked a little bigger larger. They didn’t cause any issues but it’s something that I would rather not have to worry about. It factored into my decision to replace the set.

Summary

I really wanted to like these tires because the performance side was great. Grip was good, handling was good, wear was good. However, ride quality was only so-so and could get jarring on expansion cracks and rougher patches. The tread crack (which was the same on all 4 tires) didn’t give me any issues but certainly didn’t reassure me of the quality of the tires.

My final verdict – The Kumho Ecsta 4x’s are a nice performance value but not as well rounded as Michelin’s offering. The money you save reflects in what you get. Performance is great but the ride quality suffers. More expensive tires provide good performance numbers and also provide good ride characteristics. The Continental DWS’ are an example set of highly regarded performance all seasons that provide a good balance of handling and ride characteristics. Tire Rack surveys show that there is a highly competitive field in the high performance all season market. With more competitors coming out with a better balance of ride and handling, the Ecsta 4x’s may come out lighter on the wallet but you’ll know know what you’re missing from slightly more expensive brands. As much as I wanted to like these tires, I cannot recommend purchasing a set.

Thermostat Finally Gave Out – P2181 Code

I’m back with some more high-mileage antics! My car threw a P2181 CEL for cooling system performance a few months ago. The temp gauge took a long time to reach 190 degrees and would dip below if I was on a downhill stretch. If you’re seeing a cooling system performance code or are having a hard time reaching normal operating temps, your thermostat may have failed.

Thermostats are designed to fail in the open position to prevent overheating but this also prevents the engine from reaching its optimal temperature. I live in California so the car didn’t really give me any problems but in colder climates, not reaching operating temp may be harder on the oil and in turn harder on your engine.

The 2.0T FSI’s thermostat is a very cheap part (under 50 dollars online) but it’s jammed in a hard to reach location. This is a job that I took to a mechanic. They can dispose of the coolant properly as well. If you wish to do this yourself, the thermostat itself is part number 06F121111F. I don’t know if it comes with any of the necessary o-rings so you may have to source them. I know ECS sells a kit with the associated bolts and o-rings so it may be easier to purchase it from them.

Revision P PCV Failed – 06F129101P

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Underneath the valve cover – the gasket is the black rubber going around the edges

After a year and a half under APR Stage 1, the newest pcv revision finally succumbed. It seems that these things are still not bulletproof.

I was doing a general engine inspection when I noticed that there was oil dripping from the rear of the engine. A closer inspection led me to find that the valve cover gasket was leaking oil. I did not suspect PCV failure right away because normally you would also have oil leaking out of the filler cap. I had oil in the spark plug wells and all over the coils. When the valve cover gasket goes on these motors, the oil tends to leak right into the plug well. I checked the torque on the valve cover bolts and some were very loose so I figured that might have contributed to the oil leaking. On a hunch, I checked the PCV and the valve was gone. The one way valve did not function anymore. Once the one way valve failed, boost pressure pressurized the crankcase and the valve gasket was the path of least resistance.

The PCV failure cost me one coil, one valve cover gasket and a new front pcv valve. I also chose to replace the plugs at the same time since everything was soaked in oil. The coil was still functioning but oil had entered the insulating sleeve. Combined with the heat, it split the rubber sleeve.

I hope the P revision failure was more of a fluke than anything, I really would like to stay on the stock units.

Kumho Ecsta 4x – Quick Look

I’ve had a set of Kumho Ecsta 4x tires on for the last few months to replace my tired set (Michelin Pilot Sport A/S+). My old tires were badly cupped and incredibly noisy. It’s amazing how badly tires degrade over their lifetime, especially if the alignment is not spot on.

The Ecsta 4x’s are relatively new and there is not too much written about them but early reviews (mostly from Tire Rack) suggests that they are a good performance all season for people on a budget. The Tire Rack lists them as Ultra High Performance All Seasons. On the merit of pricing, I chose these over the category favorite, the Continental DWS. They were (at the time of purchase) slightly cheaper per tire and approximately 100-150 cheaper for the set.The Kumho’s are the stock size (225/45/17) with a 94w XL load designation.

Ecsta 4x (stock photo)

So far, I’m liking these tires. They are quiet and quite competent in the handling department. They may give up a bit of response to the Michelin PS A/S+ but the difference is not worth the price premium for the Michelin’s. The Ecsta’s seem to like a little more pressure than the Michelin’s in the corners. Stray too far from the stock pressure setting and they feel a little sloppy. So far, I’ve settled around 35.5 psi front and rear. Your preferences will vary depending on the setup. Ultimate grip seems very similar and Ecsta’s also ride nicer than the Michelin’s.

More impressions to come after a little more seat time. I am curious to find out how they are in the rain.

Upgraded / Redesigned FSI Cam Follower – Aftermarket

1/22/12 Just a quick warning: this company may not be as legitimate as the VW community thinks. Several Mazda websites do not have fond memories of this particular company. I’ll have to find more information…Stay away for now.

Update: 8/2014

Nothing has proven to be as good as just replacing or checking the cam follower periodically. I’ve been lucky with the wear so it’s far easier for me to not worry about it. Unfortunately, there are a variety of factors that contribute to what kind of wear you see and your experience may vary wildly. Keep on top of your oil changes and keep track of your follower wear!

For the past few months, the company HPFP Upgrade has been working on creating a cam follower that is more durable than the oem piece. Testing is now practically complete. I’m guessing that they are in production right now with a probable February release. HPFP Upgrade is a relatively new (to me) company that focuses on the fueling system for various direction injection cars.

There’s been a good deal of anticipation regarding this product. Any product that can help with the FSI’s follower problem is welcome. The company states that it has achieved an increase in durability through the use of hard chroming. By creating a surface with less friction, there is less wear between the follower and cam. Testing supposedly confirms their claims. In addition to the new surface material, the oil flow holes were relocated to the sides. Information is limited right now as the company has yet to officially release the product.

Early Production Photos – Note the revised oiling hole locations

Of course, the product is untested by the mass public and details such as warranty have yet to be hashed out. There are still unanswered questions. How will the relocation of the oil holes affect things and how durable will the follower and hard chrome finish really be in real life application? HPFP Upgrade asserts that the the new finish is much tougher than the OEM DLC coated follower and slicker as well. They also say that the relocation of the oiling holes also has nothing but positive effects, although their reasoning is yet to be seen. The company seems to have done its homework, field testing a few units with favorable results. So far better than another company that just made the follower thicker and omitted the DLC coating…*cough*kmd*cough*. The design is superficially similar to followers used by Mazda.

I’m following this product quite closely and will probably try it out when it does finally get released.

Here’s a thread on the MKV forum with a few details but it unfortunately turns into a flame war in a page or so. Upgraded FSI Cam Follower

If you do end up getting this in a month or two, let everyone know what you think of it in the comments.

Camshaft and Cam Follower Warranty Extension

 

In addition to the pcv and intake manifold motor, Volkswagen also extended the warranty on the camshaft, cam follower and high pressure fuel pump to 120,000 miles or 10 years. As before, they will reimburse any out of pocket expenses related to failure of any of these components provided you have proof of payment and repair. Keep in mind this does not cover replacing followers, only components that have failed or have insufficient hardening. Look through the following letter and see what applies to you.For more information, check out my other posts:Cam Follower Camshaft and Cam Follower Warranty Extension

Camshaft and Cam Follower Warranty Extension

PCV and Intake Manifold Motor – Volkswagen Warranty Letters

I finally got around to uploading the warranty extension letters that Volkswagen sent out regarding the pcv and the intake manifold motor. These letters were (or are still) being sent out to owners to inform them that the warranty on these parts has been extended to 120,000 miles or 10 years. If you have replaced any of the affected parts from you own pocket, Volkswagen will reimburse you for the costs, provided you have all the receipts still.For more information on the pcv valve, check out my previous post:PCV Valve & Breather TubePCV and Intake Manifold Warranty Extension

PCV and Intake Manifold Motor Warranty Extension