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Falken Azenis RT615k+ Street and Track Review

Last year, I picked up a 2009 Lancer Ralliart to do a long term test with it as a dual duty track/daily. One of the first things I knew I was going to do was put a decent set of tires on it. The car came without OEM wheels which was actually good because I didn't have to hesitate about getting a good set of aftermarket wheels to support going wider. Thankfully, my friends at YST Auto Halifax set me up with a great set of Superspeed RF03RR wheels.

The Wheels

I had never even heard of Superspeed but I trusted the good folk at YST Auto who mentioned some customer cars running on track with them. These wheels are rotary forged which is basically a prerequisite to be taken seriously in this market populated by companies like TSW and Fast Wheels. The wheels looked like a high quality, well finished wheel and each had a "QC" check sticker on. Just for appearances? Maybe, but I found no defects. The wheels seemed easy to balance (didn't need many weights) and at 18.1 lb. for an 18x8.5" wheel, they were pretty light. The stock wheel was only an 18x7.0" or 18x7.5" (can't find for sure) so at least 1" narrower and from what I can find online, people reporting weights of 24-26 lb. using bathroom scales so not accurate but should be easily several pounds heavier so I was very happy. Right after that came tire choice.

I wanted to go up in size from OEM 215/45/18 to 225/40/18 so that was my starting point, and I wanted a 200 TW tire that is affordable. Didn't take too long shopping around to land on these Falken's. While other reviews clearly didn't peg them as a class leader, they seemed to be generally competitive and well priced so I pulled the trigger.

Street Impressions

I had them on the car for well over a month on the street before the first track day so I had plenty of time to form an opinion of them as a daily tire before finding out what they're like on track. With all 200 TW tires, my two primary worries on the street are usually wet grip and wear, followed by noise.

Of course, being on a Ralliart means AWD and traction was never problem so the concern was only hydroplaning resistance. Thankfully, the tires never did anything scary. I drove on them in cool weather down to 5 deg. C (41 deg. F) both rain and shine and they didn't threaten to bite or step out. Unfortunately, I didn't have them on the car that long so I can't comment on wet grip with little tread left but it goes without saying that you'll have to be more and more careful as tread wears. One thing that I'm sure also helped as how heavy the Ralliart is at over 3,500 lb. Weight hurts ultimate performance of course but helps with hydroplaning resistance. 

The other worry with street driving 200 TW tires is premature wear. I can't comment on that given that I didn't have them for long but it looked very promising. More on that at the end of the review (The Verdict) 

Aside from the more important worries, noise is trivial but it can get annoying if you ever decide to take the car on a drive, including short trips, going to the track if it is out of town for you, or just a fun long drive. Ultimately, if the tires are too loud, they aren't street friendly enough to go on a car that will see much street driving and should only be reserved for driving to the track instead of a dedicated set of track wheels. Thankfully, they were perfectly acceptable with no objectionable tire roar or howl on the highway. That said, I have no noise measurements to compare to different tires on the same car but I would not hesitate to take them on a trip.

They do feel firmer and make more noise over cracks, bumps, or expansion joints but that is a small price to pay for trackable street tires like all 200 TW tires. It's nothing out of the ordinary and I'm typically happy to take the tradeoff for the benefit of stiffer tire sidewall and overall tire structure/carcass. The only concern is potential for a tire blow out or a bent rim on huge pot holes but I always avoid these regardless and both the tires and the Superspeed wheels took every bump, dip, and dirt road to the track with no issues.

On Track

First session on track was damp. But the Ralliart's AWD system combined with these tires left absolutely nothing to be desired. A heavy car with 'only' 253 lb-ft torque, AWD, and the grip of these tires meant I could drive just as flat out out of corners as I did later on and other days in the dry. With only a damp track and no fresh rain (no standing water or greasy track), hydroplaning was not an issue. Grip on a damp surface was also great, a testament to the compound's well rounded nature. You don't need much heat to get these tires to work. 

Specific comparisons to RE-71R's that I had on my Mustang are absolutely foolish. Vastly different cars, suspensions, and wheel & tire widths. But generally speaking, these Falkens feel like they have a lot more of their peak grip ready on a cool damp day right on the out lap compared to the RE-71R's which felt like they needed every bit of the warm up lap in damp low temps conditions (12 deg C/under 55 deg F). 

Following the first session, track quickly dried up completely and I had no problem making my way to the limits, which unfortunately resulted in rubbing so I couldn't find out what they're really capable of on the first day. Rubbing was limited to the rear. I bought a fender roller after and got to work. The next track day, with the rear fenders rolled, I took the car out. After a couple of laps with no signs of rubbing, I felt comfortable to push it. Here's the best lap from that day.

First of all, they act a lot like a street tire in their breakaway characteristics and noise at the limit. They give lots of warning in feel and tire squeal for a 200 TW tire which you'll be able to hear in the video of the best lap on them. If you take them to the limit like I did, they will squeal in every corner. The Ralliart delivers excellent feedback through the wheel and seat of the pants as you'll hear in the upcoming review so it transferred everything the tire is trying to communicate. They are also very easy to drive consistently and grip doesn't fall off quickly. After 2-3 hot laps, the stock Ralliart brakes were toast and were easily the limiting factor, but the tires were easy to recover after loss of grip or coming in too hot into a corner.

Ultimate grip is very hard to objectively compare to other tires I have tried, unfortunately, like RE-71R's, Cup 2's, RS4's, etc. because they were all on different cars. Subjectively, though, they felt like they are somewhere between high end street tires like Michelin Pilot Sport 4S's (PS4S) and time attack darlings like the RE-71R. To put the lap times in perspective, though, I am working on a lap times thread to compare all cars I've driven and timed at our track, Atlantic Motorsport Park so stay tuned for that! On the other hand, subjective or non tangible traits all scored very high in my book. Things like feedback and steering response and especially balance between lateral and longitudinal grip were perfect. My upcoming review of Nankang AR-1 will speak more to how the two tires compare on the same car.

Last by certainly not least, wear. And frankly, I can't speak highly enough about wear (or lack thereof). After two short sessions (first day before I noticed the rubbing) and a full day, the tire looked almost as good new. Keep in mind, this is a heavy car, with no camber, and on stock suspension with lots of deflection and soft bushings. The fact that the tires looked like that and especially the shoulders speaks very highly for how well the tire takes the abuse. The harder compound is likely also the reason why it feels like it trails the 200 TW class stalwarts but I have no doubt that you will reap the benefits in tire life.

The Verdict

I feel exactly about these Falken Azenis RT615k+ tires as I felt about the Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 among its rivals. It is not class leading in performance but the value is undeniable. Given that they are significantly less expensive than comparably sized PS4S's with no penalty in wet grip on track (excluding standing water), if you are looking for a true dual duty tire and not necessarily the best performance available, it's hard to beat these Falkens. 

Unlike the Indy 500's, though, which were more street friendly and tough enough to take on a couple of track days or get you started at an HPDE, these tires will take the track abuse no problem and beat just about any street tire short of 200 TW, just don't expect them to out perform others in its class. That's not to mention the cost saving and improved wear compared something like an RE-71R and even Michelin's if you are planning on spending much time on track because while Michelin's don't take much abuse on heavy cars on track, these wear well and even shoulder wear (picture above) with no camber was no a concern. This was also after about 1,000 street kms so overall wear is excellent given the use. Given that Falken is intending to keep making them alongside the new RT660, I think it will continue to be a great value option.

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