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BRIDGESTONE POTENZA S-03 POLE POSITION TIRES
Written 2-5-2003

RATING
5 out of 5

DESCRIPTION
Bridgestone has been manufacturing tires for over 70 years. Firestone, the parent company, began manufacturing rubber products as early as 1900. A lot has changed in rubber techniques, technology, and materials over the last century. The pinnacle of Bridgestone's high performance street tire division is the Potenza S-03 Pole Position. Using some cues from Indy and Forumla 1 racing tires, the S-03 contains the latest and most advanced materials and technology available to create ratings of: (AA) Traction, (A) Temperature, and (220) Treadwear.

For more information on tire specifications, check out my ALL ABOUT TIRE SPECIFICATIONS.

S-03s are available in various sizes from 195/55-R15 all the way up to 285/30-R20.
Prices range from $79 to $280 each (as of 2-5-2003 from TIRERACK.COM).

COMPANY INFORMATION
BRIDGESTONE TIRES
WWW.BRIDGESTONETIRE.COM
P.O. Box 7988
Chicago, Illinois 60680-9534

REVIEW
First, let me say that I have finally replaced my first set of Bridgestone Potenza S-03 Pole Position tires after almost 30,000 miles. Most of them were hot, hard, track and street miles and I loved each and every one. This picture shows the amazing amount of tread these tires have even after all the mileage I put on them (a new S-03 is in the lower half of the photo).

Second, I love these tires. Everything about them. Have I made that clear? When I was purchasing my Style 71 18" wheels, I began searching the Internet for information on a well-rounded high performance tire. I narrowed my choice down to the Bridgestone S-03s and the Michelin Pilot Sports. I decided to go with the S-03s because I really liked the tread pattern. At the time, the deciding factor seemed insignificant, but came to be a very integral part of my satisfaction with these tires.

BMW designed a great chassis with the E46 and putting sub-standard rubber underneath it is like drinking a fine wine from a dirty styrofoam cup. It makes or breaks the car. Since the day I had the S-03s mounted and balanced, it was a whole new animal. The traction is absolutely fantastic in both wet and dry situations. I can push these tires almost as hard in the rain as when it is sunny and dry. And sunny and dry it is here in Arizona and these tires held up great. Street surface temperatures can reach 160+ F and are not nice to rubber.

It is unfortunate that BMW chooses to put Continental ContiSports on some of their cars from the factory and I sympathize for those who still drive on them. There is NO comparison. The stock ContiSports were slippery and flexed unpredictably under hard cornering. It almost felt as if the grip would come and go as it pleased. The S-03s are very firm and have stiff sidewalls that flex very little even under tremendous turning forces. This gives a very stable vehicle in turns with a steady grip.

However, every tire has it's limits and the S-03s are no different. But, their limit is far above any tire I have ever driven on. And they give plenty of warning when you are reaching the traction limit. They first begin to drift, then howl, then chatter, than they'll break free completely. To get them to do this, however, I had to supercharge my 330i and wear them down to about 10% of their treadlife. Before I added boost to my E46, I had a VERY hard time breaking them free even under demanding situations. When they are new, it is like you are glued to the road.

As they age, I noticed that they do produce more road noise. Bridgestone uses a two-layer tread that is supposed to keep the traction high even as the tire wears down and I believe this is the reason for the increase in road noise over time. Also, they become very stiff as they get older. My S-03s became hardened resulting in reduced straight-line traction and a somewhat harsher ride towards the end of their lives. Today, I put a new set on the car and it really shows the difference.

One thing to make note of is tramlining. Any time you go to a high-performance street radial (especially one with a tread pattern as "blocky" as the S-03), you will notice an increase in tramlining. Tramlining is where the tire wants to follow the groves and crowns of the road. The wider the profile of the tire, the more it wants to "drive itself". You will notice this in the steering wheel over uneven road surfaces. I personally don't notice it much anymore and it is reduced dramatically by running the correct air pressures.

In the end, I am completely satisfied with the latest release from Bridgestone. I have spoken with owners of many other performance tires and even people who owned the older S-02s and the result is the same, the S-03 is a strong, fast, and beautiful tire. It even comes with a ridge in the sidewall to protect your expensive rims from curbs. I HIGHLY recommend them to every BMW owner, and for that matter, any performance car owner.

PHOTOS
The following are pictures of my recent mounting of my new S-03s. The first two pictures are the reason I finally bought a new set. I clipped a pipe on the freeway and it sliced the sidewall right along the edge where my -2 degrees of rear camber had already worn it down to almost the belts. Interesting thing is, even with ZERO air pressure, the stiff sidewalls kept the rim off the ground by an inch. And those stiff sidewalls are why the next two pictures are important. These low profile tires (mine are 40 and 35 series front/rear) will cause headaches for the mounting person. The third picture is the Hunter mounting machine where the S-03 broke the hook off. When that happened, it chewed a chunk out of the tire (the fourth picture). I replaced it with a new one and used the damaged tire as my spare.

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