Looking for the Best in Tires
When it comes to your tires, your number one concern should be that of safety. And by safety, we are talking about how well your tires perform under a wide range of driving conditions where road slippage under dry, wet, and ice conditions occur; wear that can be affected not only by the type of terrain your frequent, but also how it holds up against tire-puncturing road debris; and tread life, so that you can factor in cost against and tire life expectancy when comparison shopping between tire brands and types.
According to Consumer Reports latest rating of the best car tires available this year, CR analysts explain that choosing the best tires for your car is complicated not only by the technology that goes into manufacturing tires, but also by marketing claims that are more fluff than substance.
“Tires look simple and can easily be taken for granted, but their design can be quite sophisticated, from the rubber compound chemistry to the tread design. Differences among tires can have an impact on braking, handling, ride, noise, and even fuel economy. Given how complicated tires are, choosing the right replacements can be challenging, especially if you depend on word of mouth or in-store marketing messages. That’s where Consumer Reports can help.”
As such, automotive analysts from Consumer Reports recently released an update of their last tire analysis of what they say are the “Best Tires of 2023” covering car tire recommendations in several key categories that include: all-season, performance all-season, ultra-high-performance all-season, ultra-high-performance summer, winter/snow, and performance winter/snow.
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 analysts.
That said, here is a summary of CR’s best car tires in several key categories.
Best Car Tires of 2023 Update
1. Best All-Season Tire: The Michelin Defender T+H---CR's top choice for new cars, larger SUVs, and trucks due to its superior dry surface braking, road handling, and all-weather grip.
Priced at $179 per tire, this all-season tire provides a good overall blend of the aforementioned tire qualities during testing including an estimated 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 an estimated tread life of 70,000 miles.
2. Best Performance All-Season Tire: Michelin CrossClimate2---According to CR analysts “It’s one of a new breed of all-weather tires, an emerging category that uses unique tread designs and enhanced rubber compounds that increase traction across a broad temperature range. This Michelin, like other all-weather tires, carries the same mountain/snowflake symbol on its sidewall as winter/snow tires.”
Priced at $200.99 per tire, it’s a reasonable buy for a tire that has an estimated tread life of 85,000 miles.
For a less expensive cost-saving alternative in this category CR analysts recommend the Continental PureContact LS ---a well-rounded tire that performs better than average in several key areas delivering a good balance of all-weather grip and handling, and 75,000 miles of predicted tread life.
3. Best Ultra-High-Performance All-Season Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4---This one is CR’s choice based on top marks for dry braking, hydroplaning resistance, and noise, in addition to long-lasting wear at an impressive 60,000 miles. Priced at $189, these tires are a step up from performance all-season tires and are designed to provide better handling and more responsive steering in wet and dry conditions.
A suitable alternative is the BF Goodrich G-force Comp-2 A/S plus that tied with the Michelin for Overall Score, but with subscores that reveal different strengths and weaknesses. This tire has a predicted tread life of 60,000 miles.
4. Best Ultra-High-Performance Summer Tire: Michelin Pilot 4S---These seasonal tires are designed to maximize warm weather dry and wet grip road conditions for sports cars and high-performance sports sedans. However, CR analysts warn that their impressive traction “…fades as temperatures drop. They’re not intended for cold weather use and won’t provide much grip in snowy or icy conditions.” The cost is $236.99 per tire.
For a less expensive cost-saving tire choice, “…the second-rated Continental ExtremeContact Sport 02 or the third-ranked General G-Max RS are the recommended alternative value choices in this category.”
5. Best Winter/Snow Tires: The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90---A tire that 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 Bridgestone’s Overall Score; however, its handling score tested below average, and is a more expensive tire.
6. Best Performance Winter/Snow Truck Tire: Bridgestone Blizzak LM005---“These are the go-to tires for providing good winter traction for vehicles equipped with UHP all-season or summer tires. They’re designed to provide decent performance on clear roads and a tenacious grip on snow and ice. These are meant to be used just during the challenging winter months,” report CR analysts.
A capable alternative is the Hankook Winter I*cept Evo3 that matches the hydroplaning resistance, snow traction, and ice braking ratings of the Bridgestone, but offers less in other factors that the Bridgestone excels at.
For additional car tire and 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.
Image source: Deposit Photos