The Garage Tires

Bridgestone RE-71RS High-Performance Tire: Tested on Track and Roads on Both Coasts

This is an elite-tier performance tire you can be competitive with on the track. Best suited for clean roads, but viable in the Northeast.
Chris Rosales

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There’s a new rubber darling in track rat circles: the Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS. I got to try it over 4,000 miles on my 2019 Civic Type R on the road and track, as well as a pair of seven-hour endurance races at Watkins Glen International. My colleague Andrew Collins has been running them in autocross and on rough roads and bad weather out East. We like it. We like it a lot.

The RE-71RS is a full-fledged 200-treadwear club racer and track tire that goes up against the best in the business. It competes directly with the stupid-fast Yokohama A052 and Falken RT660, while overcutting the Hankook RS4 and Kumho V730 in price. But most of all, it is trying to set a new standard after the once-upon-a-time domination of the previous-generation RE-71R.

Finding the right track tire is simultaneously a simple task but also a hugely complex one because the side-eyeing, silent war of lap times at your local track is almost always fueled by what tires that guy runs. Everything changes with a set of tires, not just lap time. It takes a lot to impress in the modern world of tires. I think the RE-71RS might have just retaken the throne that the RE-71R lost a few short years ago.

Looks and Technology

Bridgestone knows exactly what market it’s aiming for with the RE-71RS: track rats. Bridgestone also wanted to have its cake and eat it too. Ultra-fast lap times are just as much of a priority as tire wear over a race stint or track day. Outright grip was clearly a major target, but so was driveability so that the tire was progressive and predictable.

For the RE-71RS, Bridgestone took its entire concept back to the drawing board. The old RE-71R was an extremely unique tire that borrowed a rubber compound from MotoGP, used ultra-stiff construction for lightning response and carcass stability, and had tons of tricks that Bridgestone still doesn’t want to reveal. For the RE-71RS, Bridgestone used a more conventional construction and compound to slow down wear and make a more progressive, driveable tire.

With the advances in tire technology since the RE-71R, the new tire can be more conventional in compound yet have more traction. One of the tricks is in the aggressive tread pattern. There are minimal tread blocks, with a totally uninterrupted segment of outer shoulder that gives the hardest-working part of the tire constant contact with the tarmac. The tread is light on features and uses and asymmetric but non-directional pattern. The fillets around the features of the tread help with overall noise and also prevent edges from getting damaged during hard use. What is there is to help with light rain performance, but overall maximizes tread stability for good response.

The invisible magic is in the new compound. Bridgestone focused particularly on consistency with the RE-71RS. Folks who have sampled the RE-71R (myself included, but more on that later), know that it had one hugely fast lap time in it, but fell off during a long session. This is how the old tire got its reputation as an autocross “cheater” tire. The RE-71RS goes faster than the RE-71R, and does it for an entire race stint with minimal wear.

Chris Rosales

I got push the RE-71RS extensively, with a set for my Type R that Bridgestone kindly provided and two sets I bought with my own money to use during my racing escapades back in May at Watkins Glen. The claim from Bridgestone is that it is more than just a fast tire, it is a club racer tire that can stand up to the demands of endurance racing as well as frantic sprints. I tested both situations: Time attack in my CTR and back-to-back seven-hour endurance races in a race-prepped 1993 Mazda Miata. 

Attack

Over a single lap, Bridgestone says the RE-71RS is good for a 0.6-second faster lap time around the torturous Suzuka Circuit compared to the RE-71R. In SoCal track circles, the gain is reported to be even bigger than that. It was fortuitous, then, that I set a lap time on the old tire at Buttonwillow Raceway Park CW13 that could be compared to the new tire.

Put simply, in that setting the RE-71RS is unbelievable. And it isn’t just about the grip it generates—it has habits that make it feel like a master of all trades. With tires, there is almost always a compromise between key performance and feel characteristics. A tire that is grippy laterally may not be as good longitudinally. Or it might have good steering feedback but may be edgy because of its rigid carcass. Or, it might grip extremely well, but wear rapidly. Somehow, the RE-71RS doesn’t have to compromise. 

It’s a wonderfully easy tire to drive on a full attack lap. Initial steering response is immediate, but weight builds gently into the steering as cornering loads increase. Even if you go several stops beyond that, the post-peak slip angle behavior of the tire is benign. On the scale from understeer to oversteer, they land firmly at neutral with a tendency for easy, adjustable understeer. It never quite breaks away at the limit. Instead, the RE-71RS gently loosens its grasp on the tarmac and never punishes an overzealous entry.

Socal Drivers Club

That quick turn-in gracefully carves into a mid-corner carve. The tires dig in, hard, but are constantly communicating about where the weight of my Type R was at any time. In my experience, the mid-corner is where stiff-sidewall tires often fall flat and feel too peaky or simply just slide. Somehow, the tire turns the fast initial response into confident, carving mid-corner grip.

It pulls the same trick on exit, where it finds traction without fuss and in a calm way. My CTR is infamous for overstressing tires, yet no matter how hard I pushed and leaned on the RE-71RSs to find traction, it always found a little more. It was almost miraculous how I could cook the entry, overspeed the apex, then apply throttle and find the car tightening its line instead of pushing wide. 

Direction changes were another highlight, and really showed off the work Bridgestone did to balance the contact patch of each tire relative to one another. Even during the hardest, most dug-in cornering, my CTR was always ready to spring off of itself and nose into another corner without delay. The tires simultaneously dig their heels in ferociously but can almost instantly get back on their toes when it’s time to move. As a track tire, it is practically without vice. And it was a clear half second or more faster than the RE-71R. The RE-71R lap was a 1:59.1 and the RE-71RS lap was a 1:58.1 with other supporting modifications.

Endurance

That viceless theme simply extends into the endurance stints. We used a fresh set for each seven-hour race, though by all accounts we could have used the same set for both races. In terms of treadwear and performance, the tires degraded very little over a very long race. In fact, the best lap times of our enduro were set at the end of each race. The tires got faster the more we used them.

Chris Rosales

Wear-wise, our lightweight Miata definitely flattered the tires, but it was still seriously impressive. We had about 50-60% tread left at the end of each race with a nice, even wear pattern. Damage to the tread was minimal, with only the lightest deformation at the edge of the tread blocks. The stability of the tire, even with a pro behind the wheel pushing it, was deeply impressive.

A fresh set of RE-71RS for race day, pictured to the left of the Hankook RS-4. Chris Rosales

The Miata also gave me a different perspective on the tires thanks to its manual steering and lack of ABS. While my CTR has a lot of electronic tricks that the RE-71RSs play nicely with, the tires play equally well with an old-school sports car. The steering effort curve was perfect, with a linear rise in steering effort and excellent limit feel. Much like the CTR, it’s easy to put the tires close to their limit while still being agile and adjustable. Brake feel and modulation were also excellent, with the tires progressively responding to brake pressure. Lockups were easy to avoid. 

On The Road

This might read like a joke at this point, but the RE-71RS continues to impress on the road with almost zero drawbacks. Again, not with its prodigious traction and excellent feel but with how quiet and comfortable the tires are for everyday use. For my CTR, they were a revelation.

These tires are about as quiet as the much less hardcore Michelin Cup 2 Connect I sampled just before these. Even the ride quality is excellent for a road tire in general and is exceptional for a 200-treadwear track tire. They do evolve as they wear, especially with track use. When they’re new, their grip-to-quietness ratio is absurd. After some track days, they develop a sizzling tone that is reminiscent of the old RE-71R. In every other way, the RE-71RS blows the old tire out of the water on the road.

Chris Rosales

Having ride quality while also having tightly wound reflexes on the road is a unique talent to the RE-71RS. Less aggressive tires lose feel and grip, while more aggressive tires become genuinely uncomfortable or have compromises baked in that hurt performance. 

But the true hallmark of a good backroad tire is feel below the limit at spirited cruising speeds. This is where the RE-71RS might be too talented for its own good. While that excellent steering feel and benign handling balance I felt on the track remained, the tire was so unbelievably hooked up that you had to go antisocially quick to get them to activate and dance. It became extremely video game-y, where it was a simple point-and-shoot driving style instead of a nice, loose, organic experience.

On a Slower Car

From editor Andrew Collins, running these tires on a lightly modded eighth-gen Civic Si: 

I have to laugh reading Chris’ rundown here, because basically, the “maximum attack” in my old Si is his “spirited cruise” in his tuned Type R. I mean, put plainly, on smooth roads this tire is almost comical overkill in a 200-horsepower car. I couldn’t even approach, let alone exceed, confident grip limits without being completely unreasonable with the gas pedal and steering wheel.

The most useful piece of commentary I can contribute at this point is: If you want to run these on something on the slower side, go for a skinny one. Running a wide (235) set on my Si, I think I exceeded the point of diminishing returns and am actually being penalized by the weight of tires this size. In other words, I think a car like this gets all the grip it could want from this tire even in a stock width so you’ll be better off saving a little rotational mass and grabbing the smallest set you can run.

Wet Weather and Rough Roads

Collins again:

When we were first coordinating this review with Bridgestone, the company reps were clear: This is an extremely performance-focused tire, street legal, but more so it can be driven to and from a track rather an used on a daily driver. Where Chris’s Civic lives in Southern California, roads are generally dry and often smooth. Where mine is at in New York’s Hudson Valley, many roads are full of holes, plenty of them are rougher than 1-grit sandpaper, some aren’t paved at all. In these situations, the RE-71RS does not seem quite as invincible.

The stiffness is palpable on bumps, and the sticky compound flings a lot of debris at my fenders when I’m driving over loose stuff. Over gravel, the sound of rocks pelting the car was too much for me to bear and I had to back off. I know, I know, nobody said these were meant for off-roading, but in case you’re curious now you know. The durability seems to be there, the tires are not visibly taking damage from gravel, and the ride is viable for getting around but suboptimal if you’re trying to drive hard.

For what I would call a medium rain, like, the second-fastest wiper speed, the RE-71RS seemed pretty unfazed. Up to a decent clip, my K20Z3-powered Civic continued to steamrolling its way nicely along wet pavement. It wasn’t until I pushed these things through a real downpour that they started to get a little Mario Kart on me. In a machine-gun downpour, the car felt fine about 65 percent of the time, but would act like it was floating away for a beat or two in certain spots.

Despite this, if you’re wondering if you can drive these in rough conditions, I think it comes down more to your tolerance for comfort than nervousness about traction loss. In mild rain, even in a car without traction control, I really felt no sketchiness at all in most casual-wet conditions. In heavy rain, you’ll still be able to get around but you’ll have to easy on the gas pedal. But the stiffness of these tires might get old if you’re planning to daily drive them on Northeastern roads.

The Competition

For my 265/35/18 tire size, the Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS is $337 per tire. Comparing it to other tires in the extreme performance summer category, it’s right at the top, only behind the Yokohama Advan A052 $360 per tire. The RE-71RS and A052 trade lap time honors, but the Bridgestone has more consistent lap times over its life. Then the Yokohama Advan AD09 slots in at $354 per tire. Then the price drops dramatically to the Falken Azenis RT660 at $298 per tire, which is almost as fast as the lead group but doesn’t have a definitive edge.

The hard-wearing Hankook RS-4 is $317 per tire, while the real budget proposition in the segment is the Kumho Ecsta V730 at $215 a tire, which is an excellently sticky and livable tire. You also have the old Falken Azenis RT615K+ at $203 per tire, likely a price Falken set to get rid of old stock. For the performance of the RE-71RS, the price is actually fairly competitive.

Does It All

Compared to the rest of the 200-treadwear field, these tires are downright plush. It is truly a display of Bridgestone’s immense engineering strength that they poured this much effort into a tire that is pretty niche. 

Every promise is delivered on, and the RE-71RS goes above and beyond in almost every category. It is an excellent time attack tire, and endurance tire, but it’s also a great summer street tire. It was designed from the ground up to just be good, and Bridgestone recognized the buyer of these tires with precision. It’s grip and consistency above all else but somehow can moonlight as an excellent weekend tire. Even my overall fuel economy was decent, with only an average of two mpg lost during my stint with them compared to normal road tires. Its only big demerit is heavy rain handling, though the segment is pretty weak in general.

The RE-71RS approaches the idea of the perfect tire in a way nobody else has. It is simultaneously everything at once and doesn’t have any real vices. This one will be hard to beat.

Got any questions about tires? Hit my line at chris.rosales@thedrive.com