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Tires tested tough: Consumer Reports completes UHP testing following forum

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Tires tested tough: Consumer Reports completes UHP testing following forum

The tires already had been chosen by the time of the dealer forum (see related article). Those of us in attendance even saw some of them being prepared for testing.

But it takes almost a year from start to finish for the engineers and editors from Consumer Reports to complete a comparison tire testing story. So none of the independent tire dealers visiting CR's Automotive Test Center in East Haddam, Conn., last February knew how the ultra-high performance tires being tested would fair against each other.

Now we all know. Thirty-six UHP tires, size 225/40ZR18, were tested in the magazine's November issue. Fifteen were classified as all-season UHP tires, while 21 were rated as summer UHP tires. And the winners were...

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All-season UHP

The Falken Ziex ZE-912, introduced at last year's Specialty Equipment Market Association Show, and the Nitto Neo Gen ZR were the highest-rated all-season UHP tires, with 85 points each. (The points were rounded; the Falken tire edged the Nitto tire for first place.) The Yokohama Advan S4 was third with 75 points. The overall scores emphasized "safety-related tests."

Both Falken and Nitto were "quick picks" by the CR engineering staff. "Both offered impressive wet and dry braking," said the review. "While only fair in snow, they're far better than any summer tire."

CR paid $123 for the Falken Ziex ZE-912, and $92 for the Nitto Neo Gen ZR, which made the latter "a relative bargain." That was the closest the magazine came to judging tire value, because the price paid did not influence the overall score.

Tread life testing also did not affect the outcome. For the record, the Falken was rated "fair" in tread wear, while the Nitto received "good" marks.

The Continental ContiExtremeContact, which finished sixth overall, and the Sumitomo HTR+, which finished ninth, also were quick picks for the reader who wanted more winter traction. Although their dry and wet braking were only "good," they were the only tires rated "excellent" in snow. They also had "very good" ice braking (as did the Nitto).

Continental was the only all-season UHP tire to receive an excellent tread life rating. All the tread wear testing was contracted out to a laboratory in Texas on the United States government's tread wear course. The tires were driven 12,000 miles.

Although not included in the overall ratings, long tread life is a consumer expectation, according to CR research. The CR tread life ratings "are worthy of consideration when considering which of two similar models to buy."

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Summer UHP

The Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 (85 points) and the Pirelli P-Zero (84) finished one-two in the summer UHP tire ratings. "Both provide stellar dry and wet grip and handling," said the magazine, explaining why they were quick picks. "The Michelin excels in hydroplane resistance; the Pirelli had an edge in handling."

At $209 and $234, respectively, they also were the most expensive tires of all 36 entries. Four other summer UHP tires received quick pick status: the Bridgestone Potenza RE050 A Pole Position (fourth place), Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2 (fifth), Continental

ContiSportContact 3 (sixth) and Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-D3 (eighth). "All were very good to excellent at braking and handling," said the review, while the Bridgestone stood out for its excellent hydroplane resistance. The Michelin Exalto was cited for excellent tread life.

You better shop around

Gene Petersen, lead tire test engineer for CR, says after determining what tire segment will be addressed, he and senior tire test engineer Jennifer Stockburger ask the manufacturers which of their tires they want tested.

"We ask them to give us the tire that will be current for the following year, because the last thing we want to do is publish a tire that is discontinued."

CR did not reveal where it purchased its tires it wrote about in November. However, it advised its readers to shop around. "Tire prices vary by region, retailer, or even the price of the raw materials used to produce them. Check independent and chain tire stores, online or mail-order stores, car dealerships, department stores and shopping clubs. Find out whether the price of the tires includes mounting and balancing."

Only two of the tires were footnoted: the Avon Tech M550 A/S and the Avon Tech M500, which are available at Tire Rack, according to the magazine.

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