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.

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.

New Tires!

I recently got a set of Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus tires.  Wow, long name.  First impressions so far, they’re great!  The ride is quiet and smooth and they are sticky.  They seem to want more pressure than the stock tires though.  At the stock tire pressure, they felt a little too soft.  Increasing the pressure another 2-3 psi from the door sticker seemed to wake them up a little bit.  Note that the 2008 GTI’s have a recommended tire pressure of 38 psi vs 36 psi for my 07.  I’ll go a little higher and see if the ride/handling improves or starts to take a dive.  They’re not fully through the break-in period yet so I’ll update as they come along.