Car Buying

Ultra High Performance All-Season Tires: Worth the Investment?

RELATED READING
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon

author photo by Colin Ryan June 2015

Do you need ultra high performance all-season tires? Quite possibly. Let's look into why they could be a good idea.

Get a Grip

Of the many tire classifications, including studded winter/snow tires and extreme-performance summer tires, ultra high performance all-season is the top category before getting into dedicated summer tires. It represents a wide range of qualities. These tires need to provide grip in dry and wet conditions, tackle at least some light snow, offer a useful steering feel, and provide stability at speed and during cornering and braking. They also must be quiet and hard-wearing. That's a lot to ask. But by using special compounds, smart construction and ingenious tread-pattern designs, tire companies can deliver the goods.

Ultra high performance all-season tires work well for drivers who like to explore their cars' capabilities when the conditions are right, so it's good to have some capabilities worth exploring in the first place, such as a decent amount of power and handling talents to match. There are plenty of cars that offer this, such as the 2015 BMW 328i, 2015 Ford Focus ST, 2015 MINI Cooper JCW and 2015 Volkswagen Golf R.

Then you have to consider location: Drivers who live in areas that have tough winters will have different needs than those who live in drier and warmer parts of the country, as ultra high performance all-season tires aren't built to work well below 40 degrees Celsius.

Comparison Shopping

Because compromises are unavoidable, one brand is going to perform better than another at, say, dry traction but might lose out on road noise or ride quality. The trouble is that we consumers have to take somewhat of a shot in the dark, even though we're handing over a good amount of money for a set of four tires. We can do online research, read reviews and see what forum members say, but we can't feel the actual physical effect until the tires are on our own cars.

As a quick sidenote, my wife and I have leased a couple of Toyota Camry sedans from the same generation. The first had Bridgestone tires, while the second had Michelins (just passenger-car all-season tires). My wife is not a car person at all, but she saw a difference between the two and had a preference. We both agreed that the Michelin set felt more composed.

Between the Cones

To launch its newest product, BFGoodrich invited Autotrader to drive identical cars with different tires: the BFGoodrich g-Force COMP-2 A/S and Continental ExtremeContact DWS, which is the tire that BFGoodrich considers to be one of the best rivals. On the dry course, they tested two V6-powered 2015 Ford Mustangs, and on the wet course, they tested a couple of 2015 Scion FR-S models.

Each course involved a hard braking point, a slalom and a corner that gets tighter. It sounds like fun, and it was. But there's a serious side. Sudden braking is obvious, but going through the slalom is a useful indication of how a car (and its tires) will behave when an emergency lane change is necessary. We've all driven around an unknown corner and then had to turn the steering wheel more and more while worrying about how much grip we have before things go horribly wrong.

Taking to the wet track, both tires did a great job of expelling water and getting in touch with the tarmac in the FR-S. The BFG tire was able to brake over a shorter distance, though, and when weaving through the slalom, it allowed for less sawing away at the steering wheel when trying to correct turns.

On the dry track, the heavier and more powerful Mustang didn't change the overall picture. The BFG still stopped about half a car length shorter, and grip felt stronger when transitioning from one direction to another. After a day of mistreatment by tire dealers and reviewers, we could compare the two tires side by side to see how much they had worn. In the photo, the BFG tire is on the left.

Round Trip

It often seems that rubber tends to get overlooked when there are far more eye-catching aspects to a car, but buying good-quality ultra high performance all-season tires can pay dividends, both in terms of driving fun and safety. Just remember that bigger wheels mean bigger tires, which in turn leads to higher prices.

Two more things to keep in mind: Please check your tires regularly. Those tire-pressure monitoring systems should be seen as a final warning rather than a gentle reminder. Check the condition of the whole tire (make sure there are no cracks in the walls or screws in the tread), and make sure they're inflated to the correct pressure.

Even if you're not thrashing around a track, tires will need replacing at some point. Check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website for recommendations on when to replace your tires.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Ultra High Performance All-Season Tires: Worth the Investment? - Autotrader