If, like most SUV and light truck owners, you spend the majority of your driving time on paved streets and highways, an all-season tire is likely your best choice. These tires "have soft sidewalls (for a good ride) and a mild tread pattern (for quietness)," says Ken Brubaker at Four Wheeler magazine. If you do take your vehicle off road on a regular basis, look toward an all-terrain tire or mud tire instead (covered elsewhere in this report), as all-season tires don't offer the traction and durability to cope very well with more rugged driving conditions of off-road trails.
The Michelin Defender LTX M/S (Est. $195) is the successor to the still available Michelin LTX M/S2 (Est. $185). It's not been as extensively tested as the M/S2, but early indications are that it's a worthy and worthwhile step ahead. "Compared to the popular Michelin LTX M/S2 it replaces, the new Defender LTX M/S tires share the same highly functional tread pattern, and offer improvements in wear life/longevity to better meet the high-torque demands of modern trucks," the experts at TireRack.com say. Owners posting there agree thus far. While it hasn't racked up the number of reviews or miles driven as its predecessor, it still rises to the top in the highway all-season category in user reviews, with 100 percent thus far naming it as the best tire in its category.
The Michelin LTX M/S2 was a top performer in tests that we have seen over the years, and the Defender LTX M/S seems poised to follow in its path. Autoguide.com doesn't review a ton of truck tires, but it took the LTX M/S for a drive and comes away pleased. The tires are tested under a variety of conditions, on road and off, and on a variety of vehicles including a Ford F-350 Super Duty pickup and a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Road manners on asphalt were refined and "about as quiet as you could ever hope," says Craig Cole. Cornering is confidence inspiring as well, though Cole concedes that he didn't really push the tires too hard. "A top-heavy truck with live axles front and rear is hardly an ideal vehicle for slicing and dicing circuitous roads," he notes. Off road testing consisted of climbing to the top of a mountain via a ski slope access path. "We wouldn't have made it without these Michelins, though, to be fair, the Jeep's generous ground clearance, skid plates and low-range four-wheel drive deserve credit as well," Cole says. The Defender LTX M/S is available in versions that are load-rated for light trucks, so regardless of your vehicle, there's likely to be a tire in the series that fits your needs.
For a more high-performance experience, especially for small SUVs and crossovers, the Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season (Est. $155) looks like a terrific choice. The Pirelli excels on dry pavement, according to reviews, with slightly less traction on wet roads. In a comparison test by TireRack.com, editors say its handling is "responsive and nimble with a very direct feel in the steering wheel." Their test in the snow illustrates the Scorpion Verde's weakness, where it "could provide only adequate traction." That's confirmed in a large comparative test by an independent reviewer. The Scorpion Verde performs in the Very Good to Excellent range in all tested aspects, save for snow traction and ice braking. User reviews, while not plentiful, are plenty strong at TireRack.com. It's the top rated (by users) tire there in the Crossover/SUV Touring All-Season category, based on nearly 90 reviews and more than 500,000 driving miles. Pirelli covers treadwear with a 50,000-mile warranty.
As the price point shifts from premium to budget, many tires can maintain a high level of performance or durability, but they can rarely feature both. A reduction in life span is common -- and with the cost to mount and balance tires, some experts say it can be worth it to spend more on tires and replace them less often. For shoppers looking to spend $150 or less per tire, however, a few all-season models stand out. It may not seem like cost difference is particularly significant per tire, but when you're looking at cost across four tires, it adds up -- and difference can be much more pronounced at specific sizes.
Among budget tires, we once again give the nod to the Continental CrossContact LX20 EcoPlus (Est. $125). Tire experts, and tire owners, rate it highly. Editors with TireRack.com say it "offers excellent wet and dry traction." That opinion is echoed in a large comparative review, though the editors there say that things deteriorate in a hurry in icy conditions, where braking is only rated as fair. Users at TireRack.com rate the LX20 EcoPlus as the third best tire in the crossover/SUV category, with most saying that they are happy enough with performance and value that they would probably buy it again. The 6-year, 70,000 mile treadwear warranty is a plus, though treadwear itself only grades out as okay among both experts and users.
The General Grabber HTS (Est. $125) is another choice to consider. Editors with TireRack.com say that this tire focuses on "all-season traction and ride quality for drivers who never need to venture off paved roads and highways." Owners like its balance and wet-pavement traction, but say that tread life is shorter than the other all-season tires in our report. In one comparison, TireRack.com says it "offered the best road handling and driving feel of the group with excellent on-center feel when travelling straight at highway speeds combined with responsive steering when cornering." Another reviewer calls it "A very good choice for most weather conditions," but knocks it down a peg for its only "fair" rolling resistance, which impacts fuel economy -- and perhaps negates any up-front cost savings over the long haul.
Elsewhere in this report: