In the past, vehicle owners didn’t have a lot of tire options to choose from. Apart from the premium manufacturers, such as Bridgestone or Michelin, not many other companies produced tires. Sure, you could find some budget-friendly products, but they weren’t readily available.
Today, things are different. Every premium tire manufacturer has a lower-level brand under its belt. For Michelin, that’s BFGoodrich. For Bridgestone, that’s Firestone. Today, even some smaller companies, like Cooper Tire, for example, have their budget brands.
Starfire is a brand that operates under the umbrella of Cooper Tire. This means that they can use some of the technologies from Cooper in their products, but sell them at lower price points. Often, the tires won’t get the cutting-edge rubber from its parent company, so it will be interesting to see if the Starfire Solarus AS is a viable option for vehicle owners in North America.
The Solarus AS is a touring all-season tire, developed primarily for drivers of older vehicles, but also anyone that is not prepared to pay a significant amount of money for tires. And the savings you will make by purchasing the Solarus AS, at least at first, are pretty considerable.
The thing is, my experience with cheap tires is far from spectacular. These tires might seem equal to premium products on the outside, but in terms of performance, they are far behind. Every cheap tire I’ve tried before suffers in the corners and has long braking distances.
These are things that most drivers won’t notice during everyday driving, but they are crucial in panic situations. I’ve seen many accidents where worn-out or cheap tires were the main culprit. In other words, the difference between cheap and premium tires is literally the difference between having an accident or not.
Now, Starfire promises that its products will be safe for use on the road. Many cheap-minded tire manufacturers also promise that, but the Starfire Solarus AS at least comes from an American company, which is certainly a good thing.
Moreover, I’m quite a big fan of Cooper Tire. Time and again, the American manufacturer proves that it is possible to produce excellent tires at lower price points than the premium competition. There are almost no new Cooper Tire products that disappoint in any regard.
“The Starfire® brand is dedicated to providing value at a reasonable price without sacrificing quality or performance. The brand is available for passenger, performance, light truck, crossover, and sport utility vehicles.” – Cooper Tire says on their website.
Fortunately, I was able to test all these things and give you my thoughts in the Starfire Solarus AS review. I will cover every aspect of the tire, including dry handling and braking, performance in rainy conditions, snow traction, durability and treadlife, and comfort levels.
In the end, I’ll answer the frequently asked question – “is the Starfire Solarus AS worth the cost?” Read on to find out!
- What are the features of the Starfire Solarus AS?
- What are the maintenance indicators?
- How does it behave on a dry tarmac?
- How is it over wet and slippery roads?
- With that being said, how is it on snowy roads?
- Is it suitable for off-road driving?
- Is it comfortable and refined?
- Should I buy the Starfire Solarus AS?
What are the features of the Starfire Solarus AS?
The Starfire Solarus AS is a touring all-season tire designed for owners of compact cars, minivans, mid-size sedans, and compact crossovers.
The company did a great job of covering the most popular sizes in the category. You can find the Solarus AS in 15-inch, 16-inch, 17-inch, and 18-inch wheel diameter.
According to the company, the Solarus AS was designed to provide drivers with excellent traction in wet, dry, and wintry conditions, something that we often hear in this sector.
To achieve those things, the company used an advanced all-season tread compound, molded into an asymmetric tread pattern.
The Solarus AS features a wide and solid center rib for enhanced responsiveness and high-speed stability.
Moreover, the tire features four circumferential grooves, which help channel water through the carefully placed, deep, and wide lateral grooves.
For better traction and braking over snow, the tire features a lot of sipes on each tread block. That said, I couldn’t find zig-zag or waved sipes, which provide more biting edges and help greatly in harsh wintry conditions.
Finally, the internal construction of the tire features spiral nylon overwrap over the steel belts for improved high-speed capability and better ride quality.
Overall, there is nothing wrong with the tread design of the Solarus AS, but there is nothing revolutionary either. It’s a pretty standard touring all-season tire, which is expected given the price.
What are the maintenance indicators?
Despite the much lower price point, Starfire still uses the industry-wide Tread Wear Indicators (TWI) on its products, and the Solarus AS is not an exception.
These indicators are crucial for safety because they show the owner how much tread it is left. Without sufficient tread depth, even the best tires will suffer on wet surfaces and will become unusable for driving on snow and ice.
The treadwear indicators are narrow rubber bars built into the circumferential grooves of the tire. You can easily see them on the pictures of the Starfire Solarus AS. As the tread wears down, the rubber bars become more visible and closer to the surface.
When the tread comes to 2/32-inch, the narrow rubber bars will be completely flush with the tread pattern. Once that happens, you should immediately replace the tires. Otherwise, you risk driving on tires with severely worsened wet traction and braking.
Now, at least when you compared it to premium tires, the treadlife of the Solarus AS isn’t particularly impressive. Starfire provides a 50,000-mile treadwear warranty on the tire, which is much lower than the usual 65,000 to 80,000-mile treadwear warranties of more expensive tires.
On the positive side, the Solarus AS costs almost half the price of those tires, which means that at least your wallet won’t suffer in the long run. Still, this is an area where it’s obvious that the company needed to cut costs to keep the price down.
How does it behave on a dry tarmac?
I didn’t expect a lot from the Solarus AS, to be honest, and I wasn’t surprised either. The tire doesn’t provide outstanding levels of grip and traction, so aggressive driving should be out of the question.
In terms of responsiveness, I wasn’t disappointed, but I won’t say that I was happy, either. High-speed stability seems fine, though, at least if you don’t exceed the speed limits.
Overall, the performance on dry roads seems good for the price. However, at least in my opinion, there is no price on safety.
Therefore, if you want the safest possible handling and shortest braking distances, I still think that the more expensive touring tires are a better solution.
Cooper Tire has some excellent touring tires that will perform much better than the Solarus AS, like the CS5 Grand Touring, for example.
How is it over wet and slippery roads?
The difference between premium tires and the Solarus AS widens in wet conditions. The cheap tire isn’t unsafe – you are still getting good hydroplaning resistance and predictable handling at legal speeds.
However, I wouldn’t drive too aggressively in rainy conditions with the Solarus AS. For leisurely driving, the tire will do just fine, but it won’t cut the mustard for more spirited driving through the corners.
With that being said, how is it on snowy roads?
While you can trust the Solarus AS on dry and wet surfaces, the opposite is true for snow. Traction is very limited, even in light snow, the handling becomes unpredictable at times, and the braking distances are longer than anticipated.
Sure, not even the best all-season tires are outstanding for driving over light snow, but they are still much better than the Solarus AS. For that reason, I won’t recommend this tire to drivers that live in areas with very harsh wintry conditions.
Is it suitable for off-road driving?
Even though it is available in some crossover sizes, the Starfire Solarus AS isn’t the best choice for off-roading. Traction, even over hardpacked surfaces, will be limited. Moreover, the tread compound doesn’t seem too sturdy, and off-roading might easily damage it.
Is it comfortable and refined?
In this category, the Solarus AS is a positive surprise. The tire is very comfortable over uneven roads, and it even soaks larger bumps. Noise is also not an issue, even on the highway. However, I don’t know if the tire will stay quiet as the tread wears down. In my experience thus far, cheap tires usually become noisier the longer you use them.
You can see more Starfire Solarus AS Review here: videos created by Pete’s Tire Barns
Should I buy the Starfire Solarus AS?
The Solarus AS promises features and technologies from Cooper Tire, albeit at a much lower price point. However, the results clearly show that products from Cooper have an advantage, especially in terms of wet and snow performance.
That doesn’t mean that the Solarus AS is a bad tire – it still works well on dry and wet pavement for everyday driving, and it’s very comfortable.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t give it an easy recommendation. In terms of safety, it falls behind the premium competition, which is an area that I value the most when testing tires.
You can put it on your shortlist, though, especially if you’re very tight on budget. Otherwise, mid-level and premium tires are much better options.