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Which all-season tires are best?
Oct. 1, 2007 -- Consumer Reports rated the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 and Pirelli P-Zero best overall in tests of 21 different ultra-high performance summer tires for its November 2007 issue, with both models achieving “Excellent” scores.
Consumer Reports also tested a group of 15 different all-season, ultra-high performance tires for the same issue. In that group, CR rated the Falken Ziex ZE-912 and Nitto Neo Gen ZR best overall—again with “Excellent” scores.
The Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 achieved an overall score of 85 points in Consumer Reports testing, barely outpointing the Pirelli P-Zero. Both tires provide stellar dry and wet grip and handling. The Michelin had a slight edge in CR’s tests for hydroplaning resistance while the Pirelli had an edge in dry and wet handling.
There was a near-tie, too, in CR’s tests of the all-season ultra-high performance tires. A fraction of a point separates the Falken Ziex ZE-912 from the Nitto Neo Gen ZR. After scores were rounded, both finished with 85 points overall. The Falken and the Nitto offered impressive wet and dry braking. While only fair in snow, these all-season tires still are far better on wintry roads than those models made specifically for summer use.
Also known simply as UHP tires, these ultra-high performance models make up a small but important segment of the market. UHP tires are designed to offer tenacious grip and superior handling. Once found only on high-end sports cars, they are now on a wider variety of cars, including sports sedans and more-affordable sports cars. For instance, the Mazdaspeed3 and Saturn Sky recently tested by Consumer Reports were shod with UHP tires.
UHP tires are Z-rated, meaning that they're capable of sustained speeds of 150 mph or more, and they often come in wheel diameters of 17 inches and up. As a trade-off for grip and handling, these high-end tires can be hard-riding and quick-wearing. The summer tires are not designed for use on snow or ice.
Prices for the summer- and all-season UHP tires ranged from $80 to more than $200 apiece in the U.S. for the very popular 225/40ZR18 size that Consumer Reports tested.
Consumer Reports’ overall scores are a weighted average for both summer and all-season UHP models emphasizing safety-related characteristics such as braking, handling, and resistance to hydroplaning—where standing water causes tires to lift off the road surface, leading to a loss of grip and steering control. For all-season UHP tires, snow traction and braking on ice are also key factors.
Noise, comfort and rolling resistance, which relates to fuel economy, were also factored into the scores. Consumer Reports hired a contract laboratory in Texas to conduct tread-wear testing on a government-designed tread wear course; the road circuit is designed to mimic both city and highway driving.
Most summer UHP tires handled the important challenges on wet and dry roads very well. The all-season UHP models gave up a little performance in return for better capabilities in wintry conditions. Consumer Reports’ engineers found wide variations among the different performance categories, such as handling, braking, and noise, so there’s plenty of room for the consumer to choose a tire tailored to individual preferences.