Falken Tires Review and Buyer’s Guide

Falken Tires Review and Buyer’s Guide

When Falken was founded, it was created by an already-established tire company to tap into the performance car market. Falken first came onto the scene only selling racing tires, storming the Japanese market by winning practically every race on the calendar.

Only years later did the company begin to release consumer-oriented tires. Although its mission has broadened some as the brand has expanded internationally, the same original philosophy remains: take racing technology and put it on consumer tires.

What Sets Falken Apart?

Falken is unique from other brands in that it is a subsidiary with a specific niche: high-performance tires. Because it mostly focuses on racier tires, the company only has a few budget and commuter offerings. The brand is typically most popular with discerning vehicle owners that need the best possible products for their car and are willing to pay the price.

Cutting Edge Development Through Racing

For a small subsidiary, Falken has an enormous racing presence, which is a fundamental part of the company’s strategy. While other companies spend just a portion of research and development budgets on motorsports, Falken nearly exclusively invests at the racetrack.

Because its tires are almost exclusively performance-focused, Falken can use race-derived technology for all of its products. The company’s consumer tire development process isn’t at all distinguished from its race tire development process. Any insights and innovations made via racing can be directly adapted to tires that reach the consumer market. Even budget all-season models mainly use trickle-down technology from racing tires.

Falken in the Aftermarket

As with other more performance-oriented tire brands, Falken earns most of its income selling directly to consumers. Relationships with automobile manufacturers are limited, and the company generally restricts sales to factory in-house performance divisions. Some fruitful manufacturer partnerships exist, but instead of the collaborative development model of other tire makers, Falken basically sells the same factory tires to automakers.

USA Production

Although Falken is a Japanese brand founded by a Japanese conglomerate, the tire marque has always had particularly high market penetration in the United States. With the concentration of motorsports stateside, it’s no wonder that a race-oriented company can do well here.

The company doubled down on its connection with the US in 2016 when it constructed a new tire fabrication facility in Buffalo, New York. The new facility manufactures most of the highest-end Falken models. On location are a private test track, quality assurance laboratory, and a brand new innovation lab.

Falken Design Features

Falken highly invests in research and development, creating innovations for its fleet of sponsored race cars with the purpose of eventually adapting those same technologies for the consumer market. The business model has been successful—millions of tires sold and hundreds of race wins speak for themselves.

Dynamic Range Technology

Rubber behaves differently at different temperatures, which is one of the reasons it is so hard to make a tire that truly has all-season capabilities. Dynamic Range Technology refers to a wider temperature band in which the rubber can function optimally. The synthetic rubber is engineered at a microscopic level so that it doesn’t lose its desirable properties in extreme heat or frigid cold.

By making a rubber that functions well in a range of temperatures, new doors are opened with all-season technology. A rubber that stays soft in the cold means that the tread profile doesn’t have to be so aggressive, increasing fuel efficiency. Rubber that doesn’t lose rigidity in the heat can last longer, increasing tire life span. All-in-all, you can make a tire with fewer compromises.

Neo-T01 Manufacturing System

Tires must be nearly perfectly circular to maximize performance. Even a tire that is slightly off-center will vibrate in a way that causes handling to deteriorate. To prevent this, Falken tires go through a specific multi-phase manufacturing process which yields a nearly perfectly circular tire.

The first phase sets the stage for the manufacturing process by aligning all of the tire components around a precise steel drum. By aligning these components on a rigid structure, the tire forms can remain perfectly circular during and after the fabrication process. Phase two brings in a computerized system that controls the tire’s dimensions to within .01 mm. The final stage incorporates a rigid material that keeps the perfectly round shape of the tire in place.

Tension Control Technology

As a tire corners, brakes, and accelerates, the non-rigid rubber deforms. This deformation causes performance to deteriorate over time as well as making the tire wear unevenly. Falken solves this issue by reinforcing the internal structure of the tire with tension control technology that makes it harder for the tire to stretch and warp under load.

The result of this technology yields a tire that keeps its shape even in extreme braking and cornering. Over time, the rigidity lets the tire continue to perform optimally even late into the life cycle of the tire.

4D Nano Design

Synthetic rubber is an incredibly complex material that involves hundreds of variables, each combination of which creates a unique compound. Traditionally, these different compounds have been tested painstakingly by hand, each rubber sample evaluated independently for its desirable properties.

4D Nano Design tires use an advanced simulation technology to predict all of the variables in rubber production. This technology eliminates the need for so much testing and unlocks a final product with higher performance capabilities. New compounds can be tested in an inexpensive and low-pressure environment, leading to innovative rubber additives like silica which reduce rolling resistance while increasing grip.

A History of Falken

Falken is a relative newcomer compared to other tire brands, founded by the Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo in 1983. Sumitomo wanted to expand into the ultra-high performance market and with Falken, they made their entry. The brand was brought to the United States in 1985 and later to Europe in 1988.

With the Japanese tire giant behind Falken, the company took a slow approach to growth which allowed it to build a reputation before sales capacity. They won a whole host of races in Japan early on, but only later did they expand internationally. With this strategy, Falken could prove to enthusiasts that their tires were capable of winning races and therefore were worthy of purchase.

With the success of their performance tires, next Falken brought an all-season offering, the Sincera. That same tire was so successful that an updated version stays on the market today. In the 1990s, the brand reached a new level of success with racing, participating in huge rallies like the Rally de Portugal and the Paris-Dakar.

In the 2000s, the company expanded its American footprint with new offerings and a new sponsorship deal for the growing sport of drift racing. Falken continues to be very active in racing, and most of their tires have race counterparts that are direct counterparts to the consumer models.

Falken’s Sports Sponsorships

In 2015, Falken moved beyond motorsports sponsorship for the first time. The company invested in a multi-year backing of Major League Baseball, becoming the official tire of the sport. Abroad, Falken sponsored the renowned Liverpool F.C.

These sports sponsorships coincided with the launch of the ZIEX series, a tire model that goes after the all-season commuting tire market. Some industry insiders speculate that this move means Falken is taking steps to drastically expand its product range from just performance tires.

Falken in the Tire Industry

Sumitomo Rubber, Falken’s owner, made its name by selling huge quantities of budget tires in Asia. Falken was a carefully curated brand with a racing legacy that represented an opportunity for Sumitomo to enter European and American markets.

Sumitomo already had budget-conscious lines for the Western world in the brands Ohtsu and Dunlop, so Falken had a clear purpose as a performance-exclusive brand. This performance reputation was curated from the very beginning; Falken was racing tires even before they were selling them. The strategy was two-pronged, allowing the company to gain exposure as well as develop racing tech for eventual use in consumer products.

Price Point

Falken traditionally services a premium part of the market, with a few models that service a more budget-conscious customer. Most high-end performance models are around $200 per tire, the top-end models go up from there. With the ZIEX and Sincera lines, Falken has entered the budget category; both of those models start at around $75 per tire.

Original Equipment (OEM) Partners

Although Falken initially only served the aftermarket, tire models with more mainstream budget appeal represent an entry point for consumers as well as manufacturers. The company has recently collaborated with Nissan to outfit Nissan Altima and Rogue models. Later, that same popular tire (the ZIEX) was picked up by Mitsubishi for their Eclipse Cross.

The tire proved to be so successful that it was also incorporated for usage by the biggest automaker in the world, Volkswagen. Now it is installed on certain trims of the Volkswagen Jetta and the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

Falken Warranty Information

Falken has had a strong warranty policy from the beginning backed up by the industry might of its owner Sumitomo Rubber. Every Falken tire is guaranteed free from material and workmanship defects for the first six years of its life. Most models also have a road hazard guarantee, protecting from accidental damage from road debris.

All-season touring models like the Sincera are guaranteed to a minimum of 65,000 miles, with the sturdiest variations getting up to 80,000 miles of protection. SUV and crossover tires are slightly lower, with 50,000-65,000 miles typically expected. The high-performance race tires vary. You can see the mileage numbers for specific tires here.

Even though the company has financial backing from Sumitomo, Falken doesn’t offer some of the perks of other big companies. There is no trial period for the tires; we see 30 to 90-day trials with companies like Goodyear and Michelin. There’s no roadside service offered either, so make sure you carry a spare.

Falken Corporate Social Responsibility

Sustainability

As a subsidiary of Sumitomo, Falken obeys all of the strict environmental regulations put in place by its parent company. Sustainability is a key initiative as with most other Japanese tire brands. Falken always looks for ways to keep accountability in place for its supply chain, reduce its carbon footprint, and use natural raw materials for responsible tire manufacturing.

To increase company-wide sustainability, Falken has put in several policies for environmental protection. Firstly, the supply chain is made to be as waste-free and efficient as possible, eliminating unnecessary production and fossil-fuel use. Secondly, tires are made to be fuel-efficient, reducing the consumer impact of Falken tires. Finally, the company has begun to reincorporate natural rubber into products, lessening the need for petroleum-based synthetic rubber.

Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber

Alongside 10 other major tire manufacturers, Falken founded the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber. Most tire companies today use petroleum-based synthetic rubber, which is cheap but a source of emissions and pollution. Natural rubber is non-toxic for the environment, and plantations can suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, so the industry is embracing the use of the plant.

The use of natural rubber is usually positive for the environment, but the rubber must be harvested and grown responsibly in order to provide a net environmental benefit. With no structure in place for increasing natural rubber supply, giant rubber farms can overcrowd neighboring forests and habitats, wreaking environmental havoc. The Global Platform for Sustainable Natural rubber sets up a framework by which rubber producers can expand sustainably and cleanly, maximizing the benefit of using these materials.

Habitat for Humanity

Falken’s USA headquarters has a partnership with San Diego’s Habitat for Humanity branch, where the company’s leaders and employees collaborate with the non-profit. The two organizations work together to help create affordable living for housing-insecure San Diegans. Falken’s leadership team realizes the importance of accomplishing meaningful and rewarding work alongside the company’s main goal of delivering premium tires to the market.

Falken Tires and Auto Racing

Racing at the Nurburgring

Perhaps the most famous race track in the world, the Nurburgring hosts a yearly 24-hour race that is one of the most demanding of the season. Many manufacturers participate each year not only for international exposure, but also for the development opportunities the racing presents.

24-hour racing causes unique strains on equipment and vehicles. Engineers from all over the world come each year with new prototype tires to test and evaluate for performance. New tires contain innovations like new rubber additives, tread patterns, and technologies. Innovations that are successful at the Nurburgring typically trickle down for use in consumer tires.

Rally Racing

Due to the multi-surface popularity of rally racing, the sport is a unique opportunity for Falken to simultaneously test and market products. In the past, Falken has participated in the multi-continent Paris-Dakar rally which takes place yearly. Although the race has now moved from Europe to South America, Falken first participated in the race in its original form, a loop around the Mediterranean.

Falken teams also take part in other smaller rallies across the world, however, they’ve been notably absent at the Baja 1000 due to the company’s focus on tires for smaller cars. The company simply doesn’t have the proper tires to outfit the huge racing trophy trucks at the race.

Formula Drift

As a Japanese company, it is practically mandatory to have a drift racing presence. Falken began to expand into the international market at the same time that drifting came into popularity, and the company’s success follows the spread of drift racing. Falken tires were some of the best-performing models to come out of Japan, so drifting culture became tightly interconnected with Falken.

Now Falken sponsors drift series on multiple continents, patronizing drift racing in Japan, the United States, and Europe. Falken has won races all over, and the company continues to use drifting as a key cultural component of their brand.

Falken in the Car Enthusiast Community

Falken is well known by enthusiasts for being a performance brand with reasonable prices. While very high-end tires from other brands can be purchased for over $1,000 per tire, Falken manufactures high-end tires at a lower price point. That’s not to say their tires are cheap, they most certainly are above average in price, but for enthusiasts looking for a less expensive performance tire, a Falken can be a good fit.

Several of Falken’s tires are particularly suited for drifting, as they are performance tires that use a harder rubber compound. Drifting does not require traction as much as other disciplines, so the harder rubber of Falken can be an advantage to a certain style of driver. Harder tires also last longer.
falken tire at car show

Falken’s Best Selling Tires

Although the company became internationally recognized due to its high-performance racing tires, Falken has expanded its range in recent years and now offers a few all-season road and truck models alongside its high-performance lines.

ZIEX Series

The ZIEX Series is Falkens newest tire, with a range of sizes fitting everything from small sports coupes to mid-sized crossovers. With this tire model, racing performance takes the back seat to more practical aspects like mileage, all-season handling, and safety. Utilizing the company’s Dynamic Range Technology, a silicon-based rubber compound keeps rolling resistance low and wet-weather grip high.

  • ZIEX ZE950: The ZIEX ZE950 A/S is the most common ZIEX model with over 100 different size options. Popular with sedan owners, the tire comes with three separate speed ratings.
  • ZIEX CT50 A/S: With bigger sizes available, the CT50 A/S comes stock on Mazda CX-9 and Chrysler Pacifica.

Sincera Series

Since the Sincera was launched as Falken’s first non-racing tire in the late 1980s, it has been a steadfast part of the company’s tire lineup. The Sincera has proved to be wildly popular, outfitting blockbuster cars like the Volkswagen Jetta and the Nissan Altima. With an 80,000-mile treadwear warranty, its no wonder that the tire earns a spot on ‘best-in-class’ lists year in, year out.

  • Sincera SN250A A/S: The Sincera SN250A A/S is a completely conventional all-season tire that brings decent all-weather handling and long-range durability to the table. Functional in light snow, the tire is perfect for heavier coupes and standard sedans.
  • Sincera Ecorun: The Sincera Ecorun has seen limited availability in the United States, but the directional tire balances wet-weather and all-season driving characteristics with better fuel-efficiency than most in the category.

Azenis Series

The Azenis line is Falken’s revamped racing series of tires, expanding on the technological racing innovations that Falken has made over the years. Although the tire can be a little twitchy at times, it’s more of a race tire than a weekender, so a little over-responsiveness can be excused. Due to the tire’s relatively soft rubber, the expected lifespan is not great—the most expensive models don’t even carry a treadwear warranty.

  • Azenis RT615K+: Fit for supercars, the Azenis RT615K+ is a high-end offering with ultra-soft rubber and zero slipping during acceleration. A similar model formerly outfitted the Porsche Macan.
  • Azenis FK510: With a lower price than most premium tires, the $125-ish dollar Azenis FK510 brings the features of much more expensive tires at a shockingly low price. Included are an asymmetric tread, a silica-based compound, and four wide circumferential grooves.

WildPeak Series

Falken’s WildPeak line is an excellent first attempt for a sturdy off-road tire suitable for all types of terrain. The WildPeak is available in a huge range of sizes, so you can find versions suitable for everything from small crossovers to large trucks and SUVs.

  • WildPeak A/T Trail: The WildPeak A/T trail is a road-capable off-road tire that will work on the highway and at the job site. Although the price is good for its features and warranty, the tire is a gas guzzler that bogs down in snow and heavy mud.
  • Wildpeak M/T: To respond to burly off-road tires like BFGoodrich’s Mud-Terrain line, Falken top to bottom reengineered the WildPeak line to make an ultra-capable off-roading tire at a slightly lower price point. Huge tire blocks create tractor-pull level traction, a three-ply sidewall prevents flats.

A List of Falken Tires Models

Passenger Tires

High Performance Summer Tires

Azenis RT615K+
Azenis RT660

Performance Summer Tires

Azenis FK510

Grand Touring All-Season Tires

Sincera SN250A A/S

Temporary/Compact Spare Tires

FK-090

Light Truck and SUV Tires

Street and Sport Truck Summer Tires

Azenis FK510A SUV

Crossover and SUV Touring All-Season Tires

WildPeak H/T HT01A
ZIEX ZE950 A/S
ZIEX CT50 A/S
ZIEX ZE001 A/S
ZIEX ZE001A A/S

On and Off-Road All-Terrain Tires

WildPeak A/T Trail
WildPeak A/T Trail 01A
WildPeak A/T3W
WildPeak A/T3W A

Off-Road Maximum Traction Tires

WildPeak M/T