Have you ever wondered how the price of new tires for your car or truck is determined? Sure, there’s the cost of the rubber and steel at the core of the tire’s construction, the tooling cost for each mold used to create the tire and shipping from the factory to the retailer you’ve chosen. Some quick research will show a popular tire size like 195/60-15 may vary in price from under $75 to over $200 for a single unit. Why, then, is there is a discrepancy between tire prices?
The answer varies from brand to brand. Some companies use strange low-cost fillers in their rubber compounds to save money. Others invest millions of dollars to advertise at racing and sporting events or run cash-back promotions to consumers. Whatever the reason for the price, all these expenses ultimately come out of the pocket of the people buying the tires.
Enter the Blackhawk brand of tires. This tire brand is new to the North American market. You can find a retailer in the US using the dealer locator on their website. In the Canadian market, Blackhawk tires are available exclusively through OK Tire stores across the country and OK Pneus stores in Quebec.
Blackhawk offers tires in four categories – passenger cars, truck/CUV/SUV, winter and trailer solutions. They also have a commercial truck tire line with applications for steer, drive and trailer positions in various tread patterns.
Each category, aside from the trailer tire offerings, has several different models to choose from so that consumers can optimize the selection for the needs of their vehicle and driving style. Each model in each of the four series has been optimized to deliver a specific balance of wet and dry or ice and snow traction, ride comfort, rolling resistance and tread life.
Blackhawk Street-H HU02
Wanting to get down to the nitty-gritty of tire performance brought me to the Blackhawk Street-H HU02 ultra-high-performance tire. These tires are intended as a performance solution for sport coupes and sedans. My 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan in 5.0 Ultimate trim needed new tires, so I ordered a staggered set of the HU02 sized in 275/30ZR19 for the rears and 245/35ZR19 for the front.
If you want a tire that handles and brakes well but isn’t going to self-destruct in a couple of seasons like a Max Performance tire, then Ultra-High Performance is a nice upgrade over a performance all-season or touring tire.
The Street-H HU02 tires carry a rating of 300 AA A on the Uniform Tire Quality Grading. The first number describes how long the tire will last based on government-controlled conditions. While this doesn’t directly translate to a specific number of kilometers, it does tell us that the tire will last twice as long as one with a 150 rating. Ultimately, this is also a gauge of the tire’s traction. Lower numbers are found on softer tires that typically offer better cornering and braking characteristics.
The second piece of information, in this case, AA, is the traction rating. The range of ratings is AA, A, B and C levels with AA being the best. This value describes the rubber coefficient of friction on asphalt and concrete surfaces. Higher ratings indicate better traction, specifically in conditions with a wheel and tire that is fully locked under extreme braking conditions.
Finally, we have the Temperature rating. The categories are A, B and C, and they describe how much heat is generated at high speeds due to the tread and sidewall flexing. A rating of A means the tire is safe at speeds over 186 kilometers per hour for 30 minutes. Grade B is safe up to 186 km/h for 30 minutes, and grade C indicates the tire failed to complete the heat test of 30 minutes at 160 km/h. Of course, the tires are inflated properly and not overloaded in any of the test conditions.
There are tires with lower treadwear ratings, which may correlate to better cornering or braking at extreme levels. I commute short distances, and frankly, a balance of longevity and improved traction over the original equipment tires was my top priority. Turning this full-size family sedan into an autocross competitor wasn’t my intention.
The tires I chose have a load index rating of 96 on the rears and 91, meaning each can support up to 3443 and 2983 kilograms, respectively, when inflated to their maximum pressure. They also carry a Y speed rating, meaning they are rated to survive speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour. I don’t think 420 horsepower and the ever-watching eye of our local law enforcement agency make this rating much of a concern for me. Still, it’s good to know they are designed to stay together when pushed very, very hard.
Tires Features and Design
Being moderately obsessive about product research, I dove into the tread design and tire construction features of the HU02. The first thing I noticed in this regard was the asymmetrical tread pattern. The inner half of the tread design is optimized to evacuate water from under the tire. The inner two rows of tread blocks are isolated from each other so each block can plow through water and contact the road. The center through the outer ribs of the tire have connected blocks that help prevent deformation under high lateral loads. This solid design improves traction and, more importantly, the feedback of the tire through the steering to the driver.
Another important feature of the tread is that the size of the blocks varies in length around the circumference of the wheel. These minute changes in dimension help prevent noise at a specific frequency and result in a quieter tire overall.
Blackhawk reports using a rubber compound that’s high in silica. The addition of silica to the rubber mixture reduces heat and decreased rolling resistance while improving wet traction and braking. Testing of tires constructed with silica as a filler material instead of carbon black has demonstrated improved wet skid performance by as much as 15% and reduced rolling resistance of 20%. Honestly, that’s pretty impressive.
The final features are a Jointless Bead Cover design that offers improved structural rigidity and helps to deliver a smooth ride. Though it doesn’t have the responsiveness or balance of a BMW or AMG Mercedes, the Genesis is smooth and eerily quiet on the highway. It’s quiet enough that I can hear the electric motor for the haptic feedback of the Lane Departure Warning system. Don’t fret; the system isn’t loud; the car is indeed church-mouse quiet.
A Quick Test of the Blackhawk HU02
While it would be fun to rip the car around the race track, it weighs a little under 5000 pounds with me onboard and a full tank of fuel. A track day would be fun, but I’d need another set of tires afterward. A better test of the benefit of these tires is braking. Emergency braking is the easiest way to push your tires to their traction limits, and it’s safe compared to cornering at the car’s limits.
I set up my Dragy GPS Performance Box and configured it to measure braking from 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) to 0 an hour. I made five runs on the original tires before I had the new Blackhawk tires installed. Of course, I made every effort to ensure the vehicle weight (passengers and fuel level), tire and road temperatures, and tire pressures were as comparable as possible so that the comparison data would be relevant.
As you can see from the data, the original tires stopped at an average distance of just a hair over 16 meters with a force of 0.88 G’s. It was interesting to see a progressive improvement in the data from the Blackhawks. The braking distances decreased steadily run after run. The tires had less than 100 kilometers on them, so I think things may improve further if I’d driven around for a few weeks before testing.
The first braking test of the Blackhawks was statistically worse than the original tires. I chose to leave it in rather than sandbag and potentially skew the results. Even with that test included, the net improvement in braking was significant. Stopping times dropped by just over two percent, and more importantly, braking distance dropped by 6.37 percent. The extra meter of reduced braking distance could be the difference between someone being injured or a costly repair bill pair. Very impressive!
The following “test” was to take the big Genesis for a good drive. This would include time on the highway, main city streets and a tour through some local industrial areas with rougher roads and lots of railroad crossings. There is no doubt that ride is firmer, and there is more feedback from the road, but the result is far from harsh. The weight of the car helps to control that. With that said, turn-in on abrupt maneuvers was quicker, or more accurately, less squishy. It’s not easy to make this beast change directions. The tires gave a little squeak or chirp on initial loading when been abrupt, but don’t howl or screech like I’ve heard others do over the years. Noise levels during regular driving weren’t noticeably different than the original tires. Yes, they are slightly louder, but it’s not obtrusive in any way. My snow tires are much louder by comparison, so I would have known if I’d made a mistake in my purchase.
There are dozens of relevant tire brands out there and hundreds of different models, each with its benefits and drawbacks. For many people, the price is the most important factor. There are lots of no-name tires on the market, many of which are sold without any warranty. Those terrify me. Knowing that there is a global company standing behind Blackhawk brand was a fundamental part of my purchase decision. The second criterion was value. Even if the tires were equivalent in performance to some name-brand options, the HU02 tires retail for 40% less than the nearest competitor and more than 60% less than the top-priced tires in this fitment. Yes, you can get two sets of HU02’s, including mounting and balancing, for the price of one set of Pirelli’s or top-level Continentals. If you track your car and need to eke out every tenth or hundredth of a second per lap, by all means, invest in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S or Nitto NT05’s. That’s a different application with another price point and objective. If you are looking for amazing value and impressive performance for your daily driver, drop by your local Blackhawk tire retailer and check out the Blackhawk HU02 tires. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and impressed.