While buying cheap rubber of any kind is never really advisable, having something is always better than nothing at all. The tires that came on our recently-purchased 1987 BMW 325e had no tread, and not because they were racing slicks ready for laps around a local track. These old tires were a mish-mash of brands, tread wear ratings, and even performance categories. But none of that mattered since they were completely bald anyway.
Until we decide on an upgraded set of wheels and tires for the BMW, we wanted to make sure the current set of wheels, dubbed “bottlecaps” by enthusiasts, at least had some tires that were safe to drive on. With performance nowhere to be found on the list of priorities, we went shopping for the cheapest set of new tires we could find.
Walmart listed a set of 195/60R14 tires for $37 each with free shipping. That’s almost less than what it takes to fill the gas tank! Two days later we were the owners of four brand new Westlake RP18 tires. Never heard of them? Neither have we. But for the sake of cheap and cheerful reviews, here is the Out Motorsports overview.
Grip is much better than you’d expect for such a tiny contact patch. Outright grip is clearly not the priority of the Westlake RP18 tires, however they behave well on the road without feeling too soft or twitchy. More importantly, they stay just as well-behaved when pushed to a more spirited pace. While I can assure you they are not happy driving at any sort of slip angle for long, they have enough poise for occasional moments of hoonery.
Steering Feel is surprisingly sharp. The delightful steering rack of the E30 makes it almost impossible to say there is no steering feel. However, response, willingness to change direction, and ride quality are all perfectly acceptable. The response actually feels better on these tires than the Continental DW’s I have on my BMW 128i. Those tires are no longer in production, but it goes to show how technologies trickle down.
Noise is a hard thing to judge when the whine of a 30-year-old Getrag 260 is the loudest thing in the car, but the Westlake RP18 are much quieter than any old, worn, or dry rotted tire you’d be replacing.
Most importantly, these Westlake RP18 tires are safe. Would we use them on a track, or for serious high-performance driving? Never. But you could take them to an autocross, have some very low-limit fun, and then drive them home, having spent the same cost for tires as your day’s gas bill and autocross entry.
With that said – your tires are the only thing that connects your car to the road, and we fully encourage you to buy the best performing set that suits your needs and budget. When performance is not your priority, but basic safety is, these Westlake RP18 tires show there are options out there for a driver with any budget.