With the change of seasons, many consumers are looking for a change of tires. Fortunately, we just posted the results from our largest tire-testing project to date--78 family car tires--with several newly introduced models and many old favorites. And as the ratings show, performance varies significantly, even within tire categories.
These new ratings cover all-season, performance all-season, and winter tires. (See our tire buying advice and Ratings.)
The groups include T-speed-rated all-season tires, such as the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred and Michelin Defender, which are typically found on older cars, minivans, and some SUVs. T-speed-rated tires are made to sustain a maximum speed of 118 mph. H- and V-speed-rated tires are good for 130 and 149 mph, respectively.
Tires with higher speed ratings often provide better cornering grip and are more capable of handling heat buildup, especially when used on higher-performance cars, so don't be tempted to buy a lower speed rated tire than what came on your car as original equipment. Refer to your car's tire information placard--typically found on the driver's door jamb and the vehicle owner's manual--for specified size and speed rating.
Many newer cars wear H- and V-speed-rated all-season tires, what we call performance all-season tires. We tested 42 such models in all, including the Continental PureContact and Michelin Primacy MXV4. The results varied, with some models trading off performance in one area, while excelling in others. The better tires provide good year-round traction, with a comfortable ride and long tread life.
With winter tires, the emphasis is on cold-temperature traction on ice and snow. Tread wear and dry performance are common compromises. All 16 tested tires proved excellent at snow traction, and most were good to excellent at ice braking. But there were trade offs for all, warranting a close look at the ratings when choosing.
With summer is nearing an end, it's not too early to start thinking about a good set of winter tires. We know that dealers are starting to fill their inventories, so don't wait too long, for selections will dwindle and the waiting lines may grow.