The Michelin tires bested tests of 69 models--the largest group ever tested by Consumer Reports. That includes all-season and winter tires that fit most sedans, wagons, minivans, and some car-based SUVs. Prices for the Michelin models ranged from $106 to $126 for a size (P)215/60R16 to fit CR's two Chevrolet Malibu test cars. CR's engineers expect other sizes of the same tire models to provide similar performance.
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. For example, the HydroEdge had only fair snow traction, so drivers who live in snowy areas might want to consider another high-scoring tire.
The Michelin models 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 with well rounded all-weather performance 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.
Full tests and ratings of the tires appear in the November issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale October 6. The reports are also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org. Updated daily, ConsumerReports.org is the go-to site for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information.
Consumer Reports' testers put tires through a number of objective and subjective tests in the most comprehensive tire-test program of any American magazine or Web site. 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.
This month, CR's 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.
Finding the right tire
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.
When shopping, note if a tire model has asymmetrical or directional tread; those tires must be mounted in a specific way. Asymmetrical tires have different inner and outer tread, so they must be mounted with the correct side facing out. The tread pattern on directional tires requires that they be mounted so the tire rotates in the direction shown on the sidewall. In addition, directional tires can't be switched from one side of the car to the other during tire rotations because this would cause them to turn the wrong way and might reduce traction.
Don't buy used tires, because you don't know how they've been treated. If they've been overloaded, underinflated, or overheated, there could be internal damage that won't be visible.
Choose the right tire type for your car:
- All-season Best for year-round traction, long tread wear, and a comfortable ride. But they usually lack the precise handling and cornering grip of performance all-season tires. Speed ratings None, S, T. Tread-wear warranties 40,000 to 100,000 miles. Typical wheel sizes 13 to 16 inches.
- Performance all-season Best for improved handling and cornering grip, compared with standard all-season tires, without giving up too much comfort and wear. But many have lower treadwear warranties. Speed ratings H, V. Tread-wear warranties 40,000 to 70,000 miles. Typical wheel sizes 15 to 18 inches.
- Ultra-high-performance Best for maximum wet and dry grip and handling. But they usually provide less tread life than standard and performance all-season models. Summer versions aren't made for snow or ice. Speed ratings W, Y, Z. Tread-wear warranties None for most. Typical wheel sizes 16 to 20 inches.
- Winter Best for those who need maximum traction on ice and snow, particularly where winters are severe. But fast tread wear and less wet and dry traction limit them to winter use only. Speed ratings Q, R, S, T, H, V. Tread-wear warranties None. Typical wheel sizes 13 to 18 inches.