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Latest high-performance tire test finds some top tires for bottom dollar

Consumer Reports News: October 11, 2010 08:08 AM

As shown in Consumer Reports' latest tire tests, car owners looking for a set of high-performance tires will find plenty of good choices. All of the 38 models we tested, including 21 "summer" tires and 17 ultra-high-performance (UHP) all-season tires, earned at least a "Very Good" score and five rated "Excellent." We also tested 15 performance winter tires and all turned in "Very Good" scores. (See our tire buying advice and ratings.)

UHP summer tires are so called because they are engineered for maximum warm-weather traction, and therefore concede performance in snow or ice. A growing niche, UHP all-season tires trade off a little dry and wet grip in exchange for better grip in wintry conditions, which can be a huge convenience, as well as a safety consideration.

Our tests gauge stopping distances and handling on wet and dry pavement, as well as resistance to hydroplaning and such subjective considerations as noise and ride comfort. We also measure rolling resistance, which affects fuel economy. For all-season and winter tires, we also rate snow traction and braking on ice. With summer and all-season tires, we score tread life, based on wear tests.

As the cold weather hits, people in snowy climes should consider winter tires. While UHP all-season tires can deliver respectable winter grip, performance winter tires provide a better all-around choice. For those who live in areas that receive significant snow accumulation, it's best to mount dedicated winter tires for the season.

The top-rated performance winter tires got impressive scores on snow and ice and good scores in our regular handling and braking tests. Still, don't expect winter tires to brake or handle as well on cleared pavement as a good set of all-season tires would.

Price is a moving target. At the time we shopped, we found good UHP tires selling for anywhere from just under $100 to well over $200, but bear in mind that prices differ from outlet to outlet and, seemingly, week to week. Research is necessary to ensure the tire excels in the performance parameters that matter most to your driving and to confirm the tire is a good value, relative to the competing options. With so many worthy candidates you should find at least one that fits both your preferences and your pocketbook.

Gordon Hard

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