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Findings from our family car all-season tire tests

Consumer Reports News: July 02, 2012 10:08 AM

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The evaluation of 79 different tire models scheduled for the November CR tire report is winding down. (We reported 80 tires in this group previously but eliminated one model.) Along the way, we've had a few surprises.

Most of the testing is done, excluding some tread-wear testing that we hope to finish later this summer, just in time to prepare thorough analysis and rating assignment. We can share some interesting trends that we've noticed thus far among 20 T-speed-rated all-season models. (This tire type is typically found on older cars and light-duty trucks and are claimed to have good all-weather grip and long tread life).

Here's what we've found:

Winter traction
When it comes to stopping on icy surfaces and snow-covered roads, your best bet is to be riding on a winter tire. However, if you're looking for a good all-season model to handle moderate winter conditions, the Continental ProContact with EcoPlus Technology and Hankook Optima H727 are good choices. A number of other all-season tires also had commendable grip on either snow or ice.

Rolling resistance
Tire rolling resistance is a factor in fuel economy--the lower the rolling resistance, the better your fuel mileage. Just don't expect huge gains. But regardless of the tires you put on your car, if you don't maintain tire air pressure regularly, you'll be wasting gas. We netted a 1.9 mpg difference on our highway fuel economy test comparing low- and high-rolling resistance tires. Most of the all-season tires have reasonably low rolling resistance.

Braking on dry and wet pavement
We saw a number of good performers here, particularly for stopping on dry pavement. On wet pavement, it's a similar story, with the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season making a good impression.

Handling

We provide a handling rating based on a weighted average of dry and wet cornering around our skid pads, subjective on-center steering feel, and emergency handling. T-speed-rated models are not generally thought of as sporty tires, but the Michelin Defender has precise, responsive steering feedback and tenacious cornering grip. In our avoidance maneuver, all the tested tires had predictable limits and good controllability. There are good performers in this category, including the Pirelli P4 Four Seasons and the Firestone FR710.

Tread wear
Mileage projections from our 16,000-mile road test show there are many long-wear tires among this group. Two noteworthy models are the Michelin Defender and Yokohama Avid Ascend. Normally, we don't read too much into the government UTQG ratings (which stands for "Uniform Tire Quality Grade Standards"--a federal grading system that compares tires' tread life), but in this case our results are in line with the class-leading government ratings of 820 and 800 for the Michelin Defender and Yokohama Avid Ascend, respectively.

Top-rated tire?
Well, you'll have to wait until we've put the final touches on our report. But we can tell you that best tire will be the one that can deliver high marks in all or in nearly all test categories. And we've seen a number of models that perform well in one or more tests. This group of tires is a highly competitive bunch, and no tire is perfect, so it will be interesting to see how they all shake out in our final analysis.

Gene Petersen

   

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