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New tire trends and testing gain traction

A peek at the tires coming down the road

Published: December 04, 2013 06:00 PM

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It looks to be a busy year coming up at the Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, with an expected 55 to 60 tire models in our evaluation of all-season, all-terrain, and winter tires. Many of these tires are new or at least haven’t been tested by CR before.

Along with the customary flagship brands, we plan to test some less-common, China-sourced models that are sold as low-priced, entry-level products. We want to find out if there are any worthwhile bargains among these less-familiar imports. We expect a final list of models to share with our subscribers in the upcoming weeks, something that is sure to be a discussion topic in our Tire Talk forum.

Industry tire buzz

We recently returned from the 2013 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show in Las Vegas, where we met with many tire manufacturers to recap our last tire program (ultra-high-performance tires), our next report (truck tires), and to hear the latest trends.

The common thread among the manufacturers was the goal of designing tires that maintain all-weather grip as they wear. Advances in tread design and rubber formulations are on the minds of many manufacturers seeking to extend wet grip in particular throughout a tire’s life. We’ll be watching how these products play out in the coming year or two and evaluate these new tires to compare performance with full- and half-tread-depth tires.

Some manufacturers continue to offer eco-friendly tires—models made with natural oils and materials that replace petroleum-based products. These were trendy products just a few years ago, but the appeal seems to have faded. Buying eco tires is a "feel good" purchase, but manufacturers concede that market is constrained by the cost penalty of using some of these renewable resources.

All manufacturers we spoke with agree that most consumers continue to rely on making tire choices commonly by price and tread wear. You, of course, can shop by price, but our Ratings clearly illustrate significant performance differences that you need to consider before making a tire purchase. They may all be black and round, but tire performance varies widely.

See our latest tire Ratings.

—Gene Petersen


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