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SUV and pickup tires: Latest tests reveal a lot of good choices

Consumer Reports News: September 15, 2011 12:38 PM

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We have posted the latest SUV and pickup truck tire test results online, covering 46 models. These new ratings cover 23 all-season, 13 all-terrain, and 10 winter models, and they are the result of an intensive, year-long program. In general, we found that there are a lot of good choices in these highly competitive tire categories, but not all tires are created equal.

In general, all-season models are designed to provide good grip in all weather conditions. All-terrain tires can be a bit noisier, but their more aggressive tread design offers better grip on unpaved roads; the ones we tested are intended for paved road driving with some light duty off-roading capability. Winter truck tires provide optimum grip on snow and icy roads, but often compromise grip on cleared pavement in comparison to all-season tires and they wear out quicker -- reason enough to remove them soon as spring arrives.

Winter-truck-suv-tire-testing-snow-Tahoe.jpgIn our ratings, we provide an overall score based on each model undergoing up to 14 different evaluations ranging from our core braking, handling, and hydroplaning resistance tests to cold weather evaluation of snow traction and braking on ice. We also include comfort and rolling resistance ratings.

For further insight, we put 16,000 vehicle miles on 96 tires traveling on the federal government’s road course in San Angelo, Texas, to assess the wear potential on all-season and all-terrain tires. Every year there seems to be at least one major challenge in the test program; this time it was the wild fires in Texas that threatened our schedule, but we managed to complete the tests on time.

What did we find?
Consumers have many good choices. For example, most all-season and all-terrain tires score well in dry and wet braking and hydroplaning resistance. Collectively, all-season tires tend to handle better than all-terrain models, but all-terrain tires generally get the nod for better snow traction. And when it comes to driving in the snow, all the winter tires were up to the task, achieving excellent snow traction ratings. Also, most had sure-footed grip when it came to stopping on ice.

You can choose a tire by its overall score, but we strongly suggest you peer at the ratings since no one tire excels in every test. Start by looking for a tire that stops well, has good handling and hydroplaning resistance, and then narrow your choices to your priorities of winter driving, comfort, and tread life. Use rolling resistance as a tie-breaker if you have more than one model in your final selections.

See our complete tire buying advice and ratings. The truck tire ratings will also be available in the November issue of Consumer Reports.

Gene Petersen

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