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New tire tests and Ratings

Consumer Reports News: October 06, 2009 02:48 PM

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Michelin tires top four categories in our latest Ratings of 69 models of all-season (S and T speed ratings), performance all-season (H and V speed ratings) and Winter tires--the largest group ever tested by Consumer Reports.

The Michelin HydroEdge was the top scoring model among S- and T-rated all-season tires, and the Michelin Primacy MXV4 and Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S took top honors among H- and V-rated all-seasons, respectively. The Michelin X-Ice XI 2 topped CR's ratings for winter tires for passenger cars.

CR's tire engineers rated models based on a variety of categories including dry and wet braking, handling, hydroplaning resistance, snow traction, ice braking, ride comfort, noise, rolling resistance, and tread life. Despite top scores, the Michelin models aren't necessarily the best in every area and they are also among the most expensive tires CR tested, but drivers don't have to pay top dollar to get good performance.

Other high scoring all season tires include the Hankook Optimo H727, Nokian WR G2, Dunlop Signature in the all season and H and V speed rated all season categories, respectively. In the winter category, the General Altimax Arctic was a runner-up to the Michelin X-Ice XI 2.

Consumer Reports' testers put tires through a number of objective and subjective tests. Testers measure braking and lateral grip on dry and wet surfaces, handling in CR's emergency avoidance maneuver, and hydroplaning resistance, which measures how well a tire maintains contact with the road in standing water. CR rents a local skating rink to test braking on ice and has outside labs evaluate tread life and rolling resistance. To ensure consistency, testers buy each tire model in the same size and mount them on the same test cars.

CR's latest tire ratings have changed from previous tests. Starting with these tests, CR's ratings are now designed so that readers can compare the individual performance of one type of tire with another. For example, you can compare the ratings of all-season and winter tires to see how much dry and wet grip you give up with winter tires in return for better snow and ice traction. The overall score, however, is still relative to each tire category. Because tread life can influence driving safety, a tread-life rating is included in each tire's overall score.

Investing in better tires can give you a wider margin of safety when driving. A little extra grip, for example, can mean the difference between an accident and a close call. There are a lot of tire choices, and you can't tell by looking at them which ones will perform better. When you buy replacement tires, CR recommends sticking with the same size and speed rating of your car's original tires. You can find the specifications listed on a placard usually located inside the driver's doorjamb.

To see full details on the tire models we tested, check out our Ratings and recommendations (available to subscribers). In addition to our updated Ratings, all site visitors can access our free buying advice for tips on getting started, types of tires we test, features that are important in making a tire purchase, and general tire care. Also, be sure to check out our TireTalk forum to interact with our tire engineers and other drivers.

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