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Archive for Saturday, November 11, 2006

Steer toward performance

November 11, 2006

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No car tire does it all. Each type is a compromise, trading good performance in one category for weaker performance in another.

Performance all-season tires generally provide better handling and braking - on wet and dry roads - than all-season tires, albeit with some sacrifice in tread life and ride comfort. Although not as sporty as ultra-high performance tires, performance all-season models tend to do better in wintry conditions.

Sizing up tires

Performance tires often are the best choice for more performance-oriented late-model cars. As we define them, performance all-season tires come in two speed ratings:

¢ H-rated tires are designed to handle a maximum sustainable speed of 130 mph. Most of the H-rated all-season performance tires we rated were very good or excellent in our tests of braking and handling on both wet and dry pavement.

And most were good to excellent at resisting the tendency to hydroplane or lose grip when they hit standing water. Fewer than half, however, were competent at coping with snow and ice, scoring on a par with good conventional all-season tires.

¢ V-rated tires (149 mph) are generally more tuned to performance than H-rated models. Some we tested sacrificed winter grip for superior cleared-road handling and traction. Others, however, behaved more like H-rated tires, with good all-season qualities but less ultimate grip than the more performance-oriented models.

Consider the conditions

Several H- and V-rated tires emerged from our tests as very good or excellent for all weather conditions:

¢ H-rated: Dunlop SP Sport 5000 ($81 per tire); Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S ($78); and Falken Ziex ZE 512 ($56).

¢ V-rated: Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 ($148); Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S ($136); and Continental ContiProContact ($119).

If winter grip isn't important to you, consider:

¢ H-rated: Continental ContiProContact ($77); Michelin Pilot XGT H4 ($98); and Bridgestone Potenza RE950 ($80, at Sam's Club).

¢ V-rated: Yokohama Avid V4s ($92); Falken Ziex ZE 512 ($67); and Bridgestone Potenza RE950 ($122, at Sam's Club).

Tops in tread wear

Performance all-season tires either don't come with a tread-wear warranty or it ranges between 30,000 and 80,000 miles.

Our own tests found that actual wear did not necessarily reflect warranties.

H-rated tires that demonstrated long wear were the Michelin Energy MXV4 Plus ($103), the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred ($85) and the Kumho Solus KH16 ($49).

Three V-rated models that stood out for long wear - all Michelins - were the Pilot HX MXM4 ($148), the Pilot Exalto A/S ($136) and the Energy MXV4 Plus ($96).

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