Tire Classifications for SUVs and Trucks
Shopping for new tires for your vehicle can be confusing. Yes, you may own an SUV. But is it a compact SUV, a mid-size SUV, or a large SUV? Which matters quite a bit. In general, the smaller SUVs can use traditional car tires that offer a lower cost in tire replacement. However, larger SUVs and trucks need tires designed for more rigorous wear and tear.
As such, automotive analysts from Consumer Reports recently released their latest analysis of tires designed for the larger SUV models and trucks that are categorized as all-season SUV, all-season truck, all-terrain truck, and winter/snow truck tires. Their findings within each classification of tire include those tires that make smart shopping sense for consumers who need to replace their original tires or change over to meet the demands of winter driving.
Related article: What You Need to Know About Mixing Car Tires
The Tire Tests
Rather than take for granted what tire manufacturers claim with their tire’s performance on the road during both good and foul weather, Consumer Reports' analyst’s road tested a wide selection of tires on closed tracks, open roads, and yes---even on an ice-skating rink to provide a controlled test surface to compare tires under identical ice conditions.
“We test them at our track in Connecticut for wet and dry braking and handling, ride comfort and quietness, and resistance to hydroplaning (when water gets between the tire and the pavement). We perform our snow-traction tests at our Auto Test Center and in New York state. Ice-braking evaluations are performed at a nearby skating rink.”
“We also commission outside labs to measure each tire’s rolling resistance, which affects fuel economy, and extensive 16,000-mile treadwear tests are conducted on public roads in western Texas,” states CR analyst.
That said, here is a summary of CR’s best SUV and truck tires in several key categories.
Best SUV and Truck for Winter 2023
1. The Top Recommended Best All-Season Tire: The Michelin Defender T+H---CR's top choice for larger SUVs and trucks due to its superior dry surface braking, road handling and resistance to hydroplaning performance.
Priced at $179 per tire, this all-season tire provides a good overall blend of the aforementioned tire qualities during testing including a projected tread life of a remarkable 85,000 miles.
For a less expensive cost-saving alternative in this category, they also recommend the General Altimax RT43 as a solid performance tire with a projected tread life of 70,000 miles.
2. The Top Recommended SUV All-Season Tire: Michelin CrossClimate---Especially notable for crossover vehicles, this tire impressed the analysts that despite having excellent snow-gripping traction, it also did very well on cleared roads without losing any of its traction abilities.
In addition, it is available in a wide range of sizes to cover the most popular SUVs. Priced at $205.50 per tire, it’s a reasonable buy; however, it’s estimated tread life is less than other similarly rated tires at 40,000 miles.
For a less expensive cost-saving alternative in this category CR analysts recommend the Vredestein HiTrac---a well-rounded tire, delivering a good balance of all-weather grip and handling, and 55,000 miles of predicted tread life. It particularly shines for snow traction and noise reduction. Another good alternative is the Goodyear Assurance ComfortDrive.
3. The Top Recommended All-Season Truck Tire: Continental’s TerrainContact H/T---This one is CR’s choice based on its high performing all-weather grip and long-lasting wear at an impressive 95,000 miles. Priced at $213.99, it came out on top over other similar brands of tires.
A good alternative is the General Grabber HTS60 that came in as their second-ranked tire choice.
4. The Top Recommended All-Terrain Truck Tire: The Continental TerrainContact A/T---Engineered for a mix of some off-road and paved-road use for all-terrain capable trucks.
Consumer Reports analysts found that the Continental TerrainContact A/T was surprisingly quiet for an all-terrain tire and earned average or better scores in all test categories and is expected to last up to 65,000 miles. At $122.99 per tire, it’s a good choice.
For a less expensive cost-saving alternative in this category, they also recommend The Michelin LTX A/T 2, “… is a close second place. It costs quite a bit more and is louder, but it’s projected to have a tread life of 100,000 miles, and our tests show that it has excellent hydroplaning resistance.”
5. The Top Recommended Winter/Snow Tire: The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90---It rates best with its excellent snow traction abilities as well as its above average dry braking, resistance to hydroplaning, and ride comfort performance qualities.
Because it is a winter/snow tire, it has extra deep tread that allows a vehicle to handle snow significantly better than an all-season tire, and therefore does not qualify for an accurate comparison when discussing expected tread life against other tire types. At a cost of $131.00 per tire, it is another reasonable tire buy.
An alternative tire is the Michelin X-Ice Snow that tied with the Bridgestone’s Overall Score; however, its handling score tested below average, and it is a more expensive tire.
6. The Top Recommended Winter/Snow Truck Tire: Nokian Hakkapeliitta R5 SUV---Although a pricey winter/snow tire at a cost of $246 per tire with an expected limited lifespan, the Nokian is a clear winner as an all-season tire.
“This is a category that combines the strength and durability of a truck tire with the temperature resilience and grip needed for enhanced winter traction. We don’t test treadwear on winter/snow tires because they have a limited life and are used just seasonally.”
According to their analysis: The Michelin Latitude X-Ice XI2 delivers excellent snow traction and rolling resistance in our tests, along with very good levels of noise. Its scores for handling and hydroplaning are just fair, and as is the case for all models in this category, wet braking distances are poor.
An alternative tire is the less expensive GT Radial IcePro SUV 3, which has “…has similar scores to the Nokian, even besting it for wet braking, making it a smart, value choice,” states CR analysts with this recommendation.
For additional winter-related articles, be sure to check out these selected two: “Everything You Need To Know About Buying Car and Truck Tires” and “Insulate Your Garage Door for This Winter.“
Timothy Boyer is an automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on “Zen and the Art of DIY Car Repair” website, the Zen Mechanic blog and on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites and Facebook for daily news and topics related to new and used cars and trucks.
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