TaylorMade’s AeroBurner and R15 Drivers: The best gets better

In Photo: AB Driver and R15 Driver Weights Neutral.

TAYLORMADE made its name with its drivers. The golf equipment titan has dominated the market since the debut of the R7 and hasn’t looked back. If anything, in their zeal to make the best drivers available to the public, they’ve often gone a bit overboard with new product introductions, which have tended to alienate some of the faithful. But be that as it may, there is no doubting the quality and effectiveness of their big sticks.

2015 is no different. TM has abandoned the wildly successful SLDR franchise, choosing instead to return to their R-nomenclature for their next generation adjustable driver, the R15. Wanting to be all things to all golfers, TaylorMade has also resurrected the Burner brand with the advent of the AeroBurner, a lightweight, nonadjustable driver for those seeking a simpler solution to the game off the tee.

TaylorMade R15

Ditching the SLDR name was, in our considered opinion, a huge risk for TaylorMade. The SLDR pioneered TM’s new sliding weight slot, eschewing the venerable weight ports of the past R-series drivers. This did two things—first, making the adjustments became a lot easier and provided more incremental adjustments to the club’s center of gravity (CG). Second, and possibly more important, this design moved the CG closer to the clubface, creating a low, forward CG that made massive reductions in the spin rate relative to other drivers in the market.

TM was never one to rest on its laurels and the development of the new low, forward CG drivers pressed on. The one thing about the SLDR was that it wasn’t the easiest thing to hit. In fact, the distance losses on off-center hits was significant. Also, TaylorMade wanted to push the low, forward CG design further forward and these two items became the design brief for the R15. This allows for a higher launch with lower spin, a combination that produces really big drives.

TaylorMade also doubled the number of sliding weights from one to two. The dual, 12.5-gram sliding weights offer the ability to fine-tune the trajectory bias and CG of the club like never before. Set both the weights to neutral for example, and the R15 is built for distance and power. Split the weights out to the edges, and the R15 becomes more stable, especially on mishits. Compared with the SLDR, the R15 is considerably more stable and forgiving in any configuration.

The sliding track is now much closer to the clubface. So much so that it functions as a Speed Pocket. Its effect on balls hit low on the clubface is readily apparent as the R15 is infinitely more forgiving than the SLDR on these mishits.

The R15 continues to leverage TaylorMade’s 4-degree Loft Sleeve that allows golfers to adjust loft, lie and face angle and comes in two basic variants, the R15 460 and slightly smaller R15 430 for those that need an even lower spinning driver. There are TP versions of both head sizes and the 460 head is also available in a black colored head. A ladies’ model rounds out the line.

The stock shaft for the R15 is the new 57-gram Fujikura Speeder Evolution and the TP is available with the 66-gram Speeder Evolution. If you’re willing to wait, TM’s custom program has a plethora of aftermarket shafts available as upgrades.

Setting the R15 up is a piece of cake if you have experience with a SLDR. Centering the weights in the track provide the lowest and most neutral CG. Moving both weights to one end or the other change the trajectory bias from draw (heel-side) to draw (toe-side) and points in between to fine-tune your ball flight like never before. Splitting said weights increase the club’s playability and forgiveness. One thing to note is that because the weight track is curved, with the apex of the curve at the lowest spot on the head, keeping the weights at neutral offers the lowest CG. Splitting the weights out to the edges actually raises the CG of the club and, in turn, can increase the amount of spin.

Behind the ball, the R15 is longer front to back than the SLDR and detail freaks will notice that the alignment mark extends further back than the one on the SLDR, as well. Feel at impact is slightly more muted than the SLDR but that doesn’t seem to affect performance one whit. As a former SLDR user myself, I was instantly at home with the R15 and it yielded the same piercing ball flight to which I’ve become accustomed. I tested it with the weights set to the neutral position, which I found produced the longest drives.

R1 and SLDR owners will be gratified to learn that their pet shafts are fully compatible with the R15 (the hosels are interchangeable), a big deal in these days of sixteen thousand Peso (or more) shafts.

TaylorMade AeroBurner

TaylorMade first introduced the Burner name with their original metal drivers and since then it has come and gone a few times, most recently when it was supplanted as the “hot” brand by the RocketBallz family. Now it is reincarnated again in the AeroBurner driver and the difference with the original driver could hardly be greater.

The Burner franchise has always been about great distance and to achieve this, you have to increase club head speed. TaylorMade has used different design strategies in the past—lighterweight, longer shafts and a more aerodynamic design. Although it moved away from that a bit with the RBZ line, the AeroBurner represents the first TM product to combine all three in one product.

The AeroBurner is very different from its immediate predecessor, the JetSpeed. The JetSpeed line never really took off. A shame really, as it is lighter and easier to hit than the SLDR. It got quite a lot of play on tour but no one really seemed to notice. Pity. It was a very good driver.

Where the Jet Speed led the way with Speed Pockets for drivers, the AeroBurner takes the design to another level with a Speed Pocket that is twice as long and much deeper and wider. This increases the ball speed on off-center hits to reduce the loss of distance and certainly the club felt very forgiving. The AeroBurner also comes in a black model as well as ladies, TP and Mini-Driver variants.

Pick up an AeroBurner and an R15 and the first thing you notice is just how light the AeroBurner feels. The AeroBurner comes with a Matrix RUL-Z 50-gram shaft and a TM Speed 43.5 gram grip. The shaft is TM’s de facto standard of 45.75″. It didn’t feel excessively long; in fact, it felt just right. TaylorMade opted to drop the JetSpeed’s adjustable hosel on the AeroBurner, reducing weight further. Not even the TP model is adjustable.

The final aspect of the design is the aerodynamics and TaylorMade has used a textured crown with a smooth raised center section to help the head slip through the air. This combines with the Aero Hosel, which is a small fin attached to the back of the hosel where it joins the head.

It’s tough to compare the AeroBurner with the JetSpeed because they’re really very different. The AeroBurner lacks the JetSpeed’s adjustable hosel so you need to be extra careful when fitting this driver to make sure you get the correct shaft in it. That said, the AeroBurner feels significantly lighter and easier to hit.

The aerodynamic claims make sense and if you need assistance with getting the ball going, then the AeroBurner is going to be better than the JetSpeed, not only because of the reduced weight, but also because it launches the ball higher with more spin. If you are between lofts then it could be a case of lofting down rather than up.

Some high swing speed players over around 95 mph may find the setup of the AeroBurner is too light, in which case there is a TP option with a 2o flatter lie and a choice of a heavier shaft. Again, if you’re willing to wait, you can custom order almost any shaft on the market for your AeroBurner.

At the TaylorMade demo day at the Army driving range in Fort Bonifacio, I spent a lot of time hitting the AeroBurner TP. This is a really solid club and was a favorite with many others there, as well.

It’s a pity that the stock shaft selection is biased toward the recreational golfer looking for more club head speed. This thing would be a weapon in the hands of an accomplished golfer.

Conclusion

TaylorMade has done it again with both the AeroBurner and R15 drivers. There are enough variations on both designs to suit every golfer on the planet. Both require a proper fitting to fully exploit their potential but do that and you’ll have a powerful driver with which to attack the golf course.

Personally, I’m torn between the two. The R15 has the better potential with its almost infinite adjustability and backward compatibility with my R1 and SLDR shafts, but I’m very taken by the AeroBurner’s accessibility and ease of use. The TP versions are the picks of the litter.

Whichever TaylorMade driver you choose comes down to fit and personal preference. There are no bad choices here; just better fits than others. TaylorMade has a couple of winners here. Again.

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