“So, Ryan, what was the humidity like?” was one of the first questions I asked a best friend who just came back from six months in Orlando at the Disney College Program. “You just sweat constantly,” was his answer. I for one have never been to Florida, let alone the East Coast. In other words, I haven’t a clue what humidity is. I’m spoiled by the dry nature of California, especially having spent my University years in breezy Santa Barbara. So when I got an e-mail to head to Palm Beach International Raceway in Palm Beach, Florida to test a BMW 528i and Cooper Tire’s new RS3-G1 tire on both road and track, I was ecstatic for such an event. Then sank in the realization of the climate and season. Let me tell you plainly, humidity sucks. Luckily, not so much the car and tire, and who cares when it involves track driving.
“The RS3-G1 is a marvel of Cooper’s greatest cutting-edge technologies,” said Scott Jamieson, the company’s Director of Product Management for North America.
Now, let’s talk about why I’m really here. Cooper Tire and Rubber Company has just released their all-new, do-everything tire, the RS3-G1. It’s an all-season, ultra high performance, non run-flat shoe that joins the expanding genre of the like, along with Kumho, Continental, Pirelli, and Michelin. However, the Cooper has something going for it, and it’s all in the name: G1. It’s called the G1 because it can hold 1g of lateral grip, something unheard of in a tire designed to not only work in perfect climates. And this is an all-season tire, too; When it rains or even in light snow, you won’t be wishing you had opted for xDrive. The deep sipes and grooves in the tread also work to give consistent performance throughout the life of the tire help water displacing.
It’ll be interesting to see how the tires do on the 5-series, a car that comes standard, like nearly all new BMW’s, with run-flat tires. And not everyone loves run-flat tires. They’re expensive and can compromise ride quality and handling. However, they do offer the unique advantage of being able to still drive moderate distances even after a puncture. But the real question is, does the new Cooper make the 5 a better driving car? It does, but more on why later.
So, the car then. It’s a BMW 528i. Yes, it’s the same 528i that has been in production for over 5 years now. And yes, the new 5er is due out in showrooms early next year, but it’s never too late to once get a feel of what has been a great sales success for BMW. If you’ve been thinking about adding a 5 to your stable, now is the time to buy as dealer’s will likely be discounting heavily to make way for the new species. Right off the bat though, has the new Cooper G1 transformed the car? No. Is it better? Yes, not by much, but having a non-RFT sticking to the road is an improvement.
What’s the 5 like? I’ll just make a list. Hence, thing’s I like about the F10 5-series: the steering is better than a 3-series, offering more weight and accuracy. The thinner, leather-wrapped wheel is better to hold in my hands as well versus the thick and squishy M-sport wheel. The seats are very comfortable and offer decent support even for my thin frame. The small 2 liter four pot makes plenty of power even for a car of this size and masks turbo lag surprisingly well, also achieving 34.5 MPG on a crowded freeway run. And the 8-speed ZF gearbox is seamless enough to make you think it’s not even there. iDrive is also probably the best infotainment system of its kind.
What I don’t like about the current 5… the steering is still not good, being too numb and pondering for an Ultimate Driving Machine. Imagine browsing for a show on Netflix, it just doesn’t know quite what it wants. The standard sheet metal is far too mundane with little drama; the optional M-sport package helps a lot in the looks department. The interior is dated. And the engine sounds like a diesel from the outside. It’s almost like having unknowing bystanders ask if your dry-clutch Ducati is broken, but no, that’s just the sound. And unlike the Ducati clutch clatter, it’s not exactly cool and exotic.
But do I dislike the 5? Heavens no. It’s a lovely car to mosey around town and do freeways, but it’s just not quite a real BMW. It could be brilliant, but blame BMW’s product planners and engineers for making a car that is more mass appealing. In other words, they made it too much like a Mercedes. But driving through both sun and rain in Palm Beach, it was a very nice place to be. And serious kudos to iDrive 4.2, which is now being dropped in favor of the new 5.0 system. Embarking on a small road rally, meeting at various checkpoints such as parks and Ragtops, a motoring museum, the navigation and voice recognition is a breeze to use. Want to find something? Say “Points of Interest,” wait a few seconds and then say, “Oceanfront Beach Park, Boynton Beach” and takes you right there. The A/C also works wonders in the high humidity of Florida’s summers. The car in general is just a nice place to be. And especially when, at this moment, I do not want it to be a sharp track-tool or B-road carver. If you want that, BMW also sells several for that purpose too. But for cruising around, the 5 works.
Which now brings us to the tires. And they’re good. Compared directly to the OE run-flats found on all new 5’s, the ride quality is slightly improved. Where run-flats can give a sense of crashing over imperfections, the Cooper’s are less harsh over potholes and road reflectors. They’re also very quiet on the 528i, with there being so little road noise. And I do think the steering response is better on this example as well. It’s a comfortable car made more comfortable. However, if you hit a nail, you better stop.
Why should you consider the Cooper Tire’s RS3-G1? The ride and comfort seems to be pretty darn good and they’re backed up by a staggering 50,000 mile tread-wear warranty when fitted in a square setup. So, for those whose climate requires all-season rubber, and especially running square setups, you can’t go wrong. And they’re going to be priced significantly cheaper than the Michelin equivalent too. Even on staggered wheels, a 25,000-mile guarantee is included. In this regard it could be a highly desirable option for those with older BMW’s such as E36’s and E46’s. Furthermore, it comes with GlideMount technology that makes mounting tires much easier. For those stretching tires, this could be handy.
Bet now you’re wondering about the performance of the tire. What about that 1G of grip? Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to drive the cars hard on the street, but did get to hammer open-wheel cars the next day wearing the same rubber. Part 2 at Palm Beach International Raceway, coming soon.