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Toyota Highlander: Hard to choose a good replacement tire

Consumer Reports News: April 21, 2009 11:09 AM

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As often happens, someone asked me to suggest an alternative to the tire model that came on their Toyota Highlander. Limited and Sport trim-lines of late model Highlanders come equipped with P245/55R19 tires. Two original equipment tire models are available -- the Bridgestone Dueler H/L 400 and the Toyo Open Country A20. Neither gets stellar feedback from comments scanned at Edmunds.com. Winter grip and quick wear seem to be common complaints.

Normally, I would recommend a replacement tire from one of Consumer Report’s Quick Picks or one that suits the stated needs from our SUV and pickup truck Ratings published in the November issue of Consumer Reports and also found online (available to online subscribers).

Unfortunately, my heart sank as I went through all 20 of the all-season truck tires we tested and found just one replacement model that came in the 19-inch size; it’s the Toyo Open Country H/T, a tire that placed just 15th out of 20 models. We tested the P265/70R17 size, which delivered just an average overall performance (and notably only fair results in our wet- and ice-braking tests). At least it has average tread life, comes with a 60,000-mile tread-wear warranty, and a far better government tread-wear rating of 640—versus the so-so rating of 300 and 400 for the original equipment Bridgestone and Toyo tires.

Still, feeling underwhelmed, I searched online at Tirerack.com and Discounttire.com thinking my choices would broaden. No dice. Tirerack showed just one model and it was the original equipment Bridgestone Dueler H/L 400; Discount Tire didn’t have any replacements available. Which brings me to my pet peeve: Here we have a fairly common SUV that is also our Top Pick among midsized SUVs and consumers’ replacement tire choices are just about nil.

The proliferation of tire sizes in the last few years has made it difficult for motorists to buy replacement tires locally, as stores face greater challenges in stocking the boutique sizes come to market to fit specific vehicles. Today, there are over 312 sizes available (up from about 213 in 2000), with most of the new sizes added in 18-inch wheel sizes or larger. The shear number of sizes almost guarantees many tire manufacturers won’t find it economical to build tires in all sizes and tire dealers certainly don’t have the means to warehouse them. Who loses? The consumer with limited tire choices. 

Our advice: Check out the tires that come on the car before you buy it and research online tire retailers to see the quantity and cost of replacements. If it’s a unique size with few choices you may want to consider other tire options often available on different trim lines. A little research now may save frustration later on. Learn how to choose the best tires for your needs and budget.

Gene Petersen

For more information, check out our tire hub, which includes buying advice, tips on tire maintenance and detailed Ratings for car, truck, and winter tires (for online subscribers).

   

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