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Falken Azenis RS820 2024 tyre review – a budget-conscious UUHP alternative to the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S

The UUHP Falken Azenis RS820 takes direct aim at popular offerings from Michelin and Continental, with a focus on dry handling and high temperature endurance

Japan-based tyre manufacturer Falken has become a key player in the budget UHP (Ultra High Performance) segment since its launch in 1988, but it’s now stepping into a new market with its latest offering. The first Ultra, Ultra High Performance tyre in its history, the Azenis RS820 is an all-new model designed to sit above the FK520 tyre, going head-to-head with the likes of the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S and Continental Sport Contact 7, winner of last year’s evo Tyre Test. We put it through its paces at the Nürburgring’s tyre testing facility.

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The subject cars for this test are a manual Toyota GR Supra and Porsche’s 718 Cayman GTS 4.0. Both are fitted with tyres in factory sizing, but only 38 sizes are available at the time of writing for 19 - 21-inch wheels – more sizes are to come next year. While we’ll have to wait for a more thorough road test and back-to-back comparison for a detailed verdict, our test incorporated dry slalom, dry emergency braking, a wet circle and a kick plate for a first impression of what the tyre has to offer. 

> Best car tyres 2023: evo performance tyre test

Like its rivals, Falken claims the RS820 boasts excellent dry performance and feedback, but has focused on ensuring endurance at higher temperatures through the use of higher silica content – aside from improving temperature management, this creates a harder compound which should improve feel. While it’s not a track tyre, this should improve longevity as a byproduct should you decide to occasionally hit the circuit, something that some UUHP tyres have struggled with in recent times.

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A unique tread design has also been developed to offer strong wet performance, with its three primary grooves supported by unique strengthening inserts for a reduction in lateral treadblock movement – this allows for better acceleration and braking in the wet, as well as more outright grip. To maintain optimum aquaplaning performance though, these strengthening inserts feature unusual slits along their length which can compress under load and remain open otherwise.

Falken is a key name in motorsport, with its racing tyres having played a part in the success of numerous green and blue racers over the years. This expertise has given its engineers valuable data to bring to the development of the RS820, with the likes of the front to rear axle balance and the use of an optimised fabric belt layer lifted from motorsport – the latter reduces tyre expansion at speed, improves rigidity and keeps weight to a minimum.

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As with many other modern tyres, Falken has also paid close attention to the tyre’s visual appearance. Like many of Michelin’s recent offerings, the sidewall features deep black lettering for branding and tyre stats, with the side wall even aerodynamically optimised for efficiency – while this is not a tyre specifically designed for electric vehicles, Falken says this can extract an additional 1.8 miles from an EV’s range. The RS820 also features a rim protector bar to give you some peace of mind while boarding the Eurotunnel…

Impressions

While a definitive verdict is tricky to formulate following such a limited test, first impressions are good. Overall grip in the wet circle test is impressive given the hard compound and dry grip focus, with understeer in our Toyota Supra test car only beginning to come into play beyond 37mph. Provoking lift-off oversteer didn’t induce any sudden rotation, with breakaway relatively progressive in our test.

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While our dry grip test was limited to a slalom on smooth, hot tarmac, the RS820 performed well under these conditions, with reassuring front axle grip and load communicated well through the wheel. ABS braking also felt strong in isolation, with feedback through the wheel of our Cayman GTS test car making the kick plate test easy to master. 

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We’ll have to wait for our comprehensive tyre test to find out where the new Falken tyre stands among its rivals, but on paper, the Falken matches the Continental Sport Contact 7 for rolling resistance with a D rating (in 235/35 R19 Y-form), falling behind the C-rated Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S. A 70db noise rating put it ahead of both the 71dB Michelin and 72dB Continental to match our test findings, with on-paper wet performance a match for both with an A score.

The RS820’s UHP relative, the FK520, came last in our 2023 Tyre Test, but this was more an illustration of how strong its contenders were, with the tyre performing well in wet conditions and measured tests. Subjective dry handling results saw it place last, as while it was progressive in a variety of conditions, it lacked the outright feel and grip we were looking for. Regardless, the FK520 is often chosen for its budget-friendly positioning and reasonable overall performance, which is where we feel the RS820 may lie.

While it’s impossible to determine long-term wear without a dedicated test, the FK520 has been known to wear at a quicker rate than its rivals, with performance longevity also lacking. Whether this is something that will plague the RS820 remains to be seen.

Pricing and availability

At the time of writing, there is a limited range of 38 sizes available for 19 - 21-inch wheels, but this is set to change next year when further variants are introduced. Opt for a single 235/35 R19 Y (91) tyre and the Falken Azenis RS820 costs £140 on blackcircles.com, considerably cheaper than both a Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S at £158.99 and Continental Sport Contact 7 at £161.13. Pricing is so strong, in fact, that the Falken almost matches the less focused UHP Michelin Pilot Sport 5, which is priced from £139.17. If you’re really keen to get your hands on a set, the RS820 is also now a factory option on the new Audi S3.

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