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Help needed: aftermarket front pads for Golf R/PP brakes that don't clunk, squeal, or aggravate...

What are your favorite low-dust, low-noise, street performance brake pads?

  • Akebono Euro ceramic

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Bosch QuietCast ceramics

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Brembo NAO Ceramic

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Centric Posi Quiet Semi-Metallic

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • Centric Posi-Quiet Semi-Metallic

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Hawk HPS (high performance street) pads

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Hawk HPS 5.0 (their newest street offering)

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • i-Sweep is1500

    Votes: 3 50.0%
  • i-Sweep is2000

    Votes: 1 16.7%
  • StopTech Street Performance

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    6

GoatAutomotive

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Austin, TX
This discussion is primarily for the FRONT brake pads on Golf R and PP-brake equipped vehicles.

39k miles on the car. Still well over 50% front pad life remaining. But I am DONE with the OE pad formula, chiefly for wheel dust.

(I also may be the only person who doesn't find the OE pads to be grabby, as others have described.)


I'm ready to purchase a good (to very good) set of front pads for my daily-driven GTI, for normal to high speed street use, for as close to $100 as possible.

If it's even possible, I want something with more "bite" after 15-20% brake pedal input, and a lot less dust in normal driving.


If I pay more than $100 for the front set of pads, they need to offer a noticeable improvement in stopping performance with low-dust attributes.

That's the elasticity of cost we're working with. $100 pad budget. $150 is the ceiling. This rules out i-Sweep 2000 and above; Endless, Carbotech, and other expensive choices costing $200-350 for one axle set.


Topics covered below: Ceramics, aftermarket options, and the dreaded brake pad clunk that is unique to the Golf R caliper brackets.


I need input from folks who have walked this road and found satisfaction from their pad choice, because I'm not finding a definitive answer.

...After ~9-10hrs (over the last week or so) of reading through reviews on Google, ECS, TireRack, here, and other car forums for BMW, Corvette, etc. The search for good pads on a medium budget has become a loop.

I suspect part of this is because brakes, like tires and suspension ride quality, are highly subjective for the driver.

Folks can have very different driving styles, and varied thresholds for what type of noise from their brakes is acceptable.


CERAMICS
With most ceramic pad formulations reviewed, folks loved their silence and low-dust experiences, at the expense of dull or reduced friction and [what some refer to as] "bite". Semi-metallic formulations will generally offer more bite and heat tolerance than a ceramic. We know and accept this.

Some folks liked the feel and grab of the ceramic pads, found it comparable to stock and overall satisfactory, but they had the dreaded clunking issues described a little further down in this post.

***NOTE: I am open to a ceramic pad if I can find a formulation that is kind to the rotors, and offers a good friction coefficient from ambient to ~500* (aka "bite" and grab as felt through the pedal when applying it)



The dreaded PP aftermarket brake pad clunk...

Every time I THINK I found the pads I'll be purchasing, I read about fitment issues with the tabs, and the clunking noises that ensue from poorly machined/manufactured aftermarket backing plates and hardware. Folks running standard GTI brakes likely haven't experienced this, so it may be lesser known, and isolated to the Golf R caliper brackets.


Out of experimental desperation, I was willing to try the same budget-friendly Duralast DGs (made by Bosch) that I've used on customer cars with good results; Part# DG1633.

Quick search on the DGs: bad reviews abound across the board on those from folks who had the dreaded loose-fitment/clunking issue.


So I'm starting a poll. Hopefully this thread can stay positive and collaborative, and help anyone in similar circumstances to me avoid having to spend countless hours getting lost down the rabbit hole of "the Research Loop."


Good replacement street pads on a car need to meet or slightly surpass stock brake performance (so far as stopping power on the street) with minimal brake dust and noise in normal operating conditions (can't speak for sub-freezing temps...I'm in central TX).

I'm not expecting miracles. Just something that doesn't produce buyer's remorse and coat my beautiful wheels with soot like a kid in a 19th-century coal mine.
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<---Wheels with stockVW/Audi/BMW brake pads inside...


Top candidates thus far:

...i-Sweep 1500 and Hawk HPS 5.0 are on the upper end of the budget, with mostly positive reviews. $138 and $122, respectively.

...VERY little first-hand info available from users on the i-Sweep 2000s, which are ~$194.

i-Sweep's data charts make the 2000s look very promising, but how is their dust level in normal driving conditions?
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...Brembo and Centric PosiQuiet have some options that have received mixed reviews (some excellent, some dreadful or just disappointing).
See their pads and pricing here: Brembo, Akebono, Centric pads on TireRack.com

Lots of folks reviewing the Centric PQs fail to list if they are using the Semi-Metallic or Ceramic formulation. Centric offers both within a few dollars of one another.

Brembo accordingly has their Ceramic, NAO Ceramic, and Low Metallic formulas, just to add to consumer confusion and analysis paralysis.


...Mixed reviews on Porterfield R4S, which I used as a street pad on my much heavier 640hp GTO (3450-3500lbs w/o driver, lots of weight reduction). Some loved them and said they were low dust. Others said average dust and soft brake pedal (like an average ceramic or NAO pad)

...Stop Tech Street Performance pads received mostly good reviews, offering improved pad bite. Some said dust matched stock. Some said it was even worse. No clue what to think here without talking to current users.

...Hawk HPS have been good to many users, but are also known to be harder on rotors due to their semi-metallic formulation, and after so many months or miles (even when textbook install & break-in procedures are employed)...the Hawk HPS will produce unwanted squeals and increased brake dust. This is speaking from dozens of online reviews, and person experience using them on my GTO many years ago as a street pad.

...As of ~2018, the Hawk HPS 5.0 is touted to offer comparable grab to the HPS, possibly with less noise and a more rotor friendly formulation?

I'd love to hear from anyone here using HPS 5.0 pads on the street and for spirited canyon runs around mountains.

...And lastly in this compilation - TRW offered a 1633C ceramic pad for the Golf R calipers with outstanding customer reviews.

I would buy these right now if I could! These were affordable (under $70) and received universal praise from folks who reviewed them, for matching stock brake pad friction with none of the dust production of OE euro pads.

But like your favorite TV shows, they were discontinued unexpectedly a while back, to great disappointment of the folks who knew about them. Illustrations below. Pour out a little liquor...

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...So now you see...I'm back in the the Research Loop.


Anyway...this is a long-winded but necessary start. We need a consolidated thread where people can speak freely about their street/mild performance pad experiences.

Fire up the polls!

(And let's hope Twatter and FakeBook don't compromise this electoral process)

Start your street pad reviews...GO!
 

GoatAutomotive

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Austin, TX
That was the maximum number of entries I could fit inside the poll.

As an aside, and in a further effort to contribute some knowledge, here are my experiences with various street and performance pads over the last 15 years in other vehicle applications:

Hawk HPS pads on a hefty 2005 GTO making anywhere from 360-550whp, 3750lbs eventually down to 3450lbs. Paired w/DBA drilled/slotted rotors. Amazing upgrade for the first ~8 months of daily street use. Then, like a girlfriend who moves in with you, they started to let their true colors show. Lots of brake dust. Slight squealing at inconsistent times. And rotors taking a beating with physical grooves dug into them from the metallic nature of the pads. I got rid of the HPS after maybe 2-yrs and moved (temporarily) to an off the shelf auto store pad, below,.


Advance Auto Wearever Golds (before they were CarQuest branded/integrated) - a decade ago, Advance and their brake pad makers offered a semi-metallic version for the ubiquitous 731-numbered pad applications. 731 pads fit the OEM 2-piston floating calipers and ~12.60" rotors on C5 Z06, 05-06 GTO, and 98-02 F-body (4th gen Camaro SS/Trans Am). I loved these pads. Truly.

I ran the semi-metallic formula as a replacement to the Hawk HPS, and to my surprise, they had identical braking performance and pedal feel, with NONE the bad qualities of the HPS (brake dust, noise, rotor teething), and they were ~$45 my cost, compared to $150-170 an axle on the Hawk HPS. #winning...
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...Wagner Thermoquiets - I ran these less than a week and promptly removed them. This was in a street-driven application circa ~2011-2012, so I cannot comment if they have improved their pad quality. They were supposed to be our premium brake pad offering at the auto stores I managed, but we seldom ever recommended them to customers.

Their bite and stopping power were as inspiring as a sleepy Joe Biden speech. Stumbling, mumbling, disorientation and all. "Nothing further, your honor."

Advance Auto Wearever Platinums - these were my go-to pads for customer cars when I first started repairing vehicles professionally ~10yrs back. Good stopping power and feel. Low dust. New hardware always included. Fair price. I thought we'd be happily married forever...

But after ~6-12mo, customers were experiencing intermittent brake squeals when going from ~15-0mph in traffic. I ended up doing a ton of warranties and never went back to these. They turned out to be the Amber Heard of brake pads...

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NAPA SS pads (they have changed the name since then, it's their mid-grade pad, right below their Adaptive One top tier pads) - I don't recall ever having an issue. On RARE occasions we had warranty-related issues at the shop I worked at with pads on rotors that were turned (resurfaced), but on new rotor installs, never an issue with NAPA pads. They are not cheap, however. Even at my commercial discounts.


Raybestos Element3 (EHT) pad and rotor sets - "enhanced hybrid technology": zero complaints. Fairly consistent product quality for a budget-friendly Chinese part. Only used them on low-powered daily driven street vehicles for customers thus far. Never a single warranty complaint or issue.


PowerStop Evolution Ceramic pad & rotor combo (their basic OE replacement formulas) - even better quality and street manners than Raybestos E3s.
As good or better bite than OE pads on Japanese cars (which is saying a lot on Honda/Acura, whose OE pads were amazing when I was working for them).
I am a big fan of these for normal street and passenger cars, light 1/2-ton trucks, etc.


AutoZone Duralast Gold (ceramics) - 2-fold. I worked for a large automotive shop for 2 years from 2018-2019. At that time, they basically had to warranty more than half the Duralast Gold pad brake jobs they'd done for people due to issues with noise and bad street manners. We moved away from AZ completely after that. The warranty paperwork and reimbursement process wasn't fun.

AZ came back 6-9 months later and informed us they had moved away from that pad supplier and were having better customer feedback. Politely begged us to take them back on.

Duralast, like Wearever, Carquest, Beck Arnley, and ACDelco, are essentially boxing companies. They purchase and sell parts from other companies in their product catalog, boxes, etc.

My understanding is Autozone Duralast Gold pads are now made by Bosch, but I cannot confirm which Bosch ceramic formulation they most closely resemble (Blues, QuietCast, etc)

Anyway, fast forward to 2021, and the times I have used Duralast Gold pads and their premium coated rotors for customer car applications? Zero issues.

Hence why I was eager to give them a go as a street pad on the GTI. But PP brake users reported the clunk and fitment issues intrinsic to the Golf R calipers.


...EBC RedStuff (strap in) - I try to be generally positive, considerate, and open minded. Especially where people and companies are concerned. But as a product...$#@! these pads and their marketing. Seriously.

Some folks love and swear by EBC products. Others have 1-2 bad experiences and never return.

I spent the big bucks and tried their pads for the front of my daily driven Toyota Camry V6, seeking better bite and less brake dust, since I drive quickly and spiritedly (even in that old, low-powered sedan).

These may as well have been Hawk Blues or some type of hard, metallic track-only pad designed for high temp use.

Their infamous break-in procedure (and whatever coating they employ) took a full 1000 miles to finally wear off.

Let that sink in. After a proper bed-in procedure per their instructions, the pad compound and its coating was so hard, it took 1k miles to break in.

LOTS of break squeal and rotor teething. Embarrassing at every stop light and speed bump slow-down (think Hawk HP+ from 10 years ago).

1667343782730.png
<----Tartar Sauce (rest her soul!) reviews EBC RedStuff pads...

I can't comment on brake dust for RedStuffs, because I was so livid at wasting $150 on specialty brake pads, and having to re-do the job, plus warrantying new rotors (these were wrecked from the EBCs), that I didn't care about dirty wheels.
#buyerbeware #NothingFreeOnEBCs

I then moved to Akebono Ceramics on the front of the Camry. Mostly positive experiences. Bite is nothing special (not terrible), but when you have an emergency and hammer on the fat pedal, they won't let you down. I went through this yesterday at ~60mph with both kids in the car when traffic in front of us halted abruptly.
God bless well-maintained cars and quality parts!


And last but not least, the lesser known (to the VW crowd)... Porterfield R4-S pads.
These are very popular in the BMW/MB communities, generally a "darling pad" to the enthusiasts.

These are a true street pad formulation (hence the name) for folks already using or impressed by the proven Porterfield R4 track day pads.
You can actually switch between the R4 and R4-S on the same rotors without issue if you like (and if you don't destroy said rotors on track days). This is per Porterfield and several HPDE enthusiasts.

I ran the R4-S as the last and current performance street pad on my 2005 GTO (a violently fast setup). My consensus:
-Less dust than the Wearever Gold Semi-Metallics
-WAY less dust than the Hawk HPS. Zero noise issues.
-Easy to modulate.
-A little annoying to clean the spoked aftermarket wheels (this is partially a design deal on multispoked rims...the brake dust would cake into tiny spots where the spokes met the barrel)
-No real complaints, unless you ask them to slow a 3750lb car down from speeds above 100mph. So at normal freeway speeds and below, the R4-S was great.


DISCLAIMER: At higher speeds, I don't completely blame the pads. This setup was on stock dimension 05-06 GTO PBR (Aussie) 2-piston floating calipers (single piston rears); upgraded 12.60" coated stock sized rotors; Russell DOT-approved SS lines x6 (IRS), and ATE Typ 200 DOT-4 fluid.

On a lighter ~3100lb C5Z, or with a much stronger, modern Brembo fixed-caliper with 4-6 pistons, these probably would have been a KILLER street performance setup.


There you go. 15 years of brake pad experience in a single post. Some irreverent humor peppered in at the right moments. Enjoy!
 

tigeo

Autocross Champion
You have both Centric choices as "semi-metallic" and I believe you wanted one ceramic/one semi-metallic so I just picked one. I run Centric Posi-Quiet ceramics on our Atlas and they are the lowest dust pad I've ever used and dead quiet. Calipers should be similar to your R/PPs...I have no pad fit issues. Stopping is as any street pad does...they work fine but certainly not a performance pad. I'd run these as street pads on any vehicle I own if I was looking for street only/basic daily use. I have run EBC Reds and while they were quiet (I never had noise issues) and worked well, my issue was dust when run with slotted rotors - for as much dust as I had with these I'd just assume run Yellowstuff for pads that handle heat/aggressive driving much better (I run Yellowstuff for my rears now) -there is nothing special about Redstuff above any other basic street pad that I can see. My driveway was stained from where I washed out my wheels. I have run Napa Adaptive One ceramic pads up front on another of our vehicles with about the same results - great daily pads with zero dust.
 

GoatAutomotive

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Austin, TX
You have both Centric choices as "semi-metallic" and I believe you wanted one ceramic/one semi-metallic so I just picked one. I run Centric Posi-Quiet ceramics on our Atlas and they are the lowest dust pad I've ever used and dead quiet. Calipers should be similar to your R/PPs...I have no pad fit issues. Stopping is as any street pad does...they work fine but certainly not a performance pad. I'd run these as street pads on any vehicle I own if I was looking for street only/basic daily use. I have run EBC Reds and while they were quiet (I never had noise issues) and worked well, my issue was dust when run with slotted rotors - for as much dust as I had with these I'd just assume run Yellowstuff for pads that handle heat/aggressive driving much better (I run Yellowstuff for my rears now) -there is nothing special about Redstuff above any other basic street pad that I can see. My driveway was stained from where I washed out my wheels. I have run Napa Adaptive One ceramic pads up front on another of our vehicles with about the same results - great daily pads with zero dust.
Thank you, Tigeo! This is very helpful.

I went back and tried to edit the poll choices, but it will not let me change/edit the options. You are spot-on: one entry was supposed to say Centric PQ Ceramics.

Se la vi!

Can you comment at all on how the Centric PQ Ceramics *feel* compared to stock VW pads on your Atlas? Bite and initial pedal feel, medium inputs, etc?

As for EBC Reds, you're right. I remember now that the brake dust and/or break-in material actually discolored the clear coat on my front aluminum wheels during the Camry experiment... It wasn't simply that they were dusty. It's that the dust was unkind to the wheel surface. Not sure if others have had this result on RedStuffs. I can only speak for myself there.

Thank you for including the Adaptive Ones in your synopsis as well. ✌️🍺
 

GoatAutomotive

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Austin, TX
So far after researching these across multiple sites, I may bite the bullet and try the HPS 5.0, despite previously swearing off all Hawk pads after my HPS experiences on the GTO.

The 5.0 seems to address the bad manners of the HPS compound (dust and noise)...at the expense of forfeiting that initial "performance bite" that many with the HPS pads love and rave over.

Example from one of our vendors (with ~3 reviews on this specific pad in a Golf R application): HPS 5.0 pads for Mk7 Golf R

TireRack has an outstanding sale on the HPS 5.0 right now that fits right inline with my budget and the equally tempting i-Sweep is1500:
TireRack performance brake pads for Mk7 Golf R

I still look forward to hearing from others on their experiences with the pads on the poll. 😎 🥃
 

tigeo

Autocross Champion
Thank you, Tigeo! This is very helpful.

I went back and tried to edit the poll choices, but it will not let me change/edit the options. You are spot-on: one entry was supposed to say Centric PQ Ceramics.

Se la vi!

Can you comment at all on how the Centric PQ Ceramics *feel* compared to stock VW pads on your Atlas? Bite and initial pedal feel, medium inputs, etc?

As for EBC Reds, you're right. I remember now that the brake dust and/or break-in material actually discolored the clear coat on my front aluminum wheels during the Camry experiment... It wasn't simply that they were dusty. It's that the dust was unkind to the wheel surface. Not sure if others have had this result on RedStuffs. I can only speak for myself there.

Thank you for including the Adaptive Ones in your synopsis as well. ✌️🍺
The Atlas brakes have a strong initial bite but I can't recall without doing back-to-back how the stockers were. On my GSW, I run more performance-orientated pads so I'm used to a bit less initial bite trading for more outright performance so when I drive our Atlas I'm always shocked at how "grabby" they are but it's more me and muscle memory of using more force with the pads on my GSW (APR BBK w/their middle-compound street/track pads).
 

GoatAutomotive

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Austin, TX
The Atlas brakes have a strong initial bite but I can't recall without doing back-to-back how the stockers were. On my GSW, I run more performance-orientated pads so I'm used to a bit less initial bite trading for more outright performance so when I drive our Atlas I'm always shocked at how "grabby" they are but it's more me and muscle memory of using more force with the pads on my GSW (APR BBK w/their middle-compound street/track pads).
All solid points on the Atlas pads. I'll bet the $$$ APR BBK on your GSW feels amazing in all conditions!
 

tigeo

Autocross Champion

GoatAutomotive

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Austin, TX
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Acadia18

Autocross Champion
Location
Rhode Island
Car(s)
2017 VW Golf R
For a daily driver, street driven car, I swear by Powerstop Z23s. Cheap, low dust, no noise, good stopping power, and cheap. Like, $50 for a set. Used them on my GTI with non-PP brakes, on the Macan Brembos when I swapped them on, and now on my R brakes. As well as a Nissan and Mazda before my VWs, but nobody gives af about those 🤣
 

GoatAutomotive

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Austin, TX
For a daily driver, street driven car, I swear by Powerstop Z23s. Cheap, low dust, no noise, good stopping power, and cheap. Like, $50 for a set. Used them on my GTI with non-PP brakes, on the Macan Brembos when I swapped them on, and now on my R brakes. As well as a Nissan and Mazda before my VWs, but nobody gives af about those 🤣
Excellent! Thank you.

Yes, those check all the boxes, and PowerStop (Z17s) have been outstanding on every customer car I've put them on. Z17 being their stock ceramic replacement.

PowerStop has a BUNCH of different pad lines, which had me a little confused in this research.

If you search for "PowerStop pad reviews Mk7 Golf R" using the California oracle, you find some folks are running the Z23, others the Z26, which could be better or worse.

My only fear was the dreaded pad-clunk issue, which it sounds like you didn't experience on your R. 👌
 

Lustig

New member
Location
Newport, KY
Car(s)
'18 Alltrack '08 EOS
Hawk HPS 5.0 are still dusty. I have an Alltrack with OE brakes and EOS with Hawk HPS 5.0. Same brake calipers (same as non-PP GTI). The Hawk has less initial bite. It's perfectly fine and controllable for stomping on the brakes on off-ramps, which I do regularly. They've been very quiet.
 

GoatAutomotive

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Austin, TX
Hawk HPS 5.0 are still dusty. I have an Alltrack with OE brakes and EOS with Hawk HPS 5.0. Same brake calipers (same as non-PP GTI). The Hawk has less initial bite. It's perfectly fine and controllable for stomping on the brakes on off-ramps, which I do regularly. They've been very quiet.
Thank you, friend. ✌️

This is pretty consistent across the board with what other folks have said (including many other platforms) about the HPS 5.0.

"Good bite when you apply more pedal pressure, but nothing remarkable in normal driving and light braking."

"Less bite than the stock pads, but still good."


Acadia's input (coupled with your own) has me seriously contemplating the Z23s:

Even if I don't like them, it's a sub-$50 investment. My expectations going in are much lower, and PowerStops have already been good to me in other applications.

I was going to save my OE pads (which still have a ton of meat left on them), clean and box them up, to use for a novice HPDE if the need ever arose.

Even if they only last one event (3x 15-20-min sessions), it'd be worth it to give them a proper send-off. 😎

I'm continually surprised how many new cars with OE pads in the last ~10yrs can handle a couple laps around a track by merciless editors...or survive the repeated 70-0 braking torture tests, often better than aftermarket pad offerings.

The main thing that started me down this path (seeking alternative pads) is the damned euro brake dust.

FIVE YEARS TODAY of cleaning the coal from my rims on this beautiful little car... (took delivery 10/30/17) 😩 😖
 

SouthFL_Mk7.5

Autocross Champion
Location
South Florida
Car(s)
2019 GTI S
I’ve specifically run Porterfield R4S on our PP GTI. Never a clunk nor squeal. Initial bite is just a bit less than factory but you can really modulate them and pound on them when pushing hard at autocross or spirited street campaigns without upsetting the load transfer from rear to front- that’s why I like ‘em.
I did try the R4S up front once at Sebring and they would give me about 20min before begging to come back in. What I do for track days is swap in R4 race pads up front- these do clunk and squeal but take a beating at the track. I leave the R4S in back at the track and they hold up fine at the rear calipers.
Dust for the R4S is moderate.

On my Acura ILX I run Powerstop Track Day. They’re absolutely great for street driving. No noise. Stronger initial bite than R4S. Moderate to low dust. At a recent track day they started giving up around 12-15 minutes in to my sessions, but survived. I’d recommend these over my tried and true R4S only because they are a much newer pad compared to the R4S and promise similar performance but they do offer more initial bite and dust less than the R4S.
 

GoatAutomotive

Go Kart Newbie
Location
Austin, TX
I’ve specifically run Porterfield R4S on our PP GTI. Never a clunk nor squeal. Initial bite is just a bit less than factory but you can really modulate them and pound on them when pushing hard at autocross or spirited street campaigns without upsetting the load transfer from rear to front- that’s why I like ‘em.
I did try the R4S up front once at Sebring and they would give me about 20min before begging to come back in. What I do for track days is swap in R4 race pads up front- these do clunk and squeal but take a beating at the track. I leave the R4S in back at the track and they hold up fine at the rear calipers.
Dust for the R4S is moderate.

On my Acura ILX I run Powerstop Track Day. They’re absolutely great for street driving. No noise. Stronger initial bite than R4S. Moderate to low dust. At a recent track day they started giving up around 12-15 minutes in to my sessions, but survived. I’d recommend these over my tried and true R4S only because they are a much newer pad compared to the R4S and promise similar performance but they do offer more initial bite and dust less than the R4S.
This is solid review. You're also the first I've heard discussing Powerstop Track Day pads. I would have pegged those for noisy and dusty like most track compounds.

Thank you for putting this out there!
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