So I went ahead and decided to find out what the hype was all about and I bought 4 "sticker-new" Hankook R-S3s in 215/45/17 to use for trackdays and autocrosses. These are a 140 Treadwear street tire. Not a DOT R-Compound. Average life expectancy is 12-17k miles with regular rotation and dependant on driver/dirving conditions. These are strictly a summer-tire. Not for use in winter conditions. (The lawyers would be proud of me... LOL)
This review will focus primarily on the performance aspects of the tire in the dry and high temperature / high speed environment. I have a few notes about daily drivability and wet performance but these are only cursory and do not reflect the condition of these tires over longer term wear.
Factory Specs Here: http://www.hankooktireusa.com/Product/product.aspx?pageNum=1&subNum=1&ChildNum=2&FnCode=02
Daily Driving the R-S3s
Initial Daily Driven (DD) Impression:
These tires are loud. I have had MUCH louder tires (Falken Azenis RT-615s) but with the windows up and my music going I can hear these "growl". Turn the radio off and it's the dominant sound in the cabin. Windows down actually reduces the audible effect as the wind noise and the tires are near the same audible frequency. One thing to note: ALL tires get louder as they wear so these will only get worse than they are already.
Impressively they don't seem to "rut" or "track" on the freeway in the grooves created by the big-rigs. Most performance tires I've had will have a tendancy to to that but these don't.
We had a bit of rain here over the weekend. So I got to "play" a bit on the wet streets. Their grip is actually impressive. I would have expected them to feel much less grippy in the wet. I have basically FULL TREAD so I suspect they will lose wet traction pretty quickly over the thier life.
I have a 60 mile round trip commute at 60-75mph freeway most of the way with some twisty bits at both ends to get good feel for cold and warm grip.
On dry traction one word comes to mind: Amazing. They have impressive levels of dry grip. There are a few freeway on-ramps/off-ramps that are good for feeling grip and breakaway points around where I work and live. These tires just stuck and stuck. Beyond where my Starspecs would normally squeal and let go. I didn't want to push it too far and half-ass heat cycle them so I actually don't have notes on how they feel as they break away.
One thing I noticed I freely admit is unsubstantiated personal experience that make NO logical sense. However it seemed like the effort with the steering wheel was REDUCED with these tires than the 360 treadwear / 205 wide tires I normally DD on.
Final verdict for what little street driving I did: Not a street tire for me. They will wear out fast on the street. They have monster grip new and I'm sure the dry grip is there as well but I have my suspicions on the quality of wet grip once you start wearing the tread down. They are noisy as well. Not as bad as some tires but enough that on a day-to-day basis it would be annoying.
There are cheaper, quieter, better wet traction tires out there that I would go for before getting these.
Track Time with R-S3s
Track Day Impressions:
1st Session- I took the tires out the first session and heat cycled them as per earlier in the thread. During the cycling I noticed right away that the grip levels were far beyond the Starspecs. They retained heat fairly well even when "cooling" in the paddock. I waited until there was about 10mins left in the session and went back out. I took about a half of a lap (3.1 mile road course by halfway they are to temp) to get the tires back warm again and started pusing the limits. Tires responded well had monster grip. So much so I didn't really find the limit of the tire in the first session. I got one full hot lap in and then they signaled the end of the session. I parked it on the paddock and checked the pressures. I was running a bit high (39-40 psi front; 38psi back) so I dropped them to 36 psi while hot. Then it sat for about an hour before...
2nd Session- Went out warmed up the tires and really hammered them. These tires are amazing. They don't have as much grip as the NT-01s I have run on before but the grip level difference is small. The biggest advantage these have over the Starspecs is thier breakaway charictaristics. As I pushed it I got into a couple turns wher I was getting a bit sideways. However, it wasn't for long and it was completely controlable. There was good "talk" from the tires telling me how hard I was pushing them. When they would break away it was progressive and predictable. The best part is they were like that the WHOLE SESSION. There was no "greasy" tire effect towards the end of the session. They stayed consistent, even when I wasn't. Though that is another story.
3rd & 4th Sessions: More of the same. With me becoming more consistent.
End of the day: I gave the tires a thorough looking over only to discover one last suprise. On the tread of the tires new there are these little flames that are about 1/32nd" deep. They had been removed "mostly" on the front and they were still clearly visable on the rear. I suspect these tires will live for quite a few track days.
Overall: Great "street class" tire. They have wonderful track manners in treadwear and breakaway charictaristics. Grip levels are impressive for a street tire. They still aren't as good as an r-comp, but I expected as much.
For Me: These will work well for me since I am lazy and don't like changing tires in the morning at the track. I can change them the day before and drive to the track on them. I stopped "worrying" about the tires after the second session. I just ran. It was easy to figure out where they gave out and how to run right-up to that limit and a bit beyond and still keep control.