All-season tires are broken down into several categories, depending on their blend of performance and traction: standard, grand touring, high performance and ultra-high performance. Basic all-season tires traditionally carry S- and T-speed ratings, which can be appropriate for sedans and minivans. However, looking for a tire with a higher speed rating might be advisable for even those types of vehicles. But experts note a growing trend for even passenger tires to have at least an H-speed rating. These tend to be better tires in general, with more advanced tread designs and compounds, helping even standard vehicles to maximize ride performance.
To narrow down which all-season tire is best for you, consider each type's strengths and weaknesses. For the most comfortable ride, many grand-touring all-season tires provide a good balance between tread life and a smooth, quiet ride. High-performance all-season tires have higher speed ratings and excellent traction for rainy roads, with technology that is intended to improve hydroplaning resistance. However, experts warn that all-season tires cannot be expected to perform well on snow and ice. For that, you may want to consider a dedicated snow tire, which we cover in a separate report.
The Michelin Primacy MXV4 (Est. $105 per tire and up) is one of the best all-season tires because it "strikes the Grand Touring All-Season tire category's traditional balance between road manners and handling," according to editors with TireRack.com. It gets high scores from more than 1,390 owner reviews and in several professional comparisons (a leading consumer organization ranks the Michelin as one of the best all-season tires for snow). After including it in numerous comparisons, TireRack.com editors say, "The Michelin Primacy MXV4 continues to be one of the most refined during everyday driving and also provides good traction."
Another tire at the top of several expert reviews and owner surveys are the high-performance Goodyear Eagle F1 (Est. $145 per tire and up). In one professional test it earns Very Good scores in all handling and braking categories, Good scores for ride comfort and snow traction. At TireRack.com, where it's third out of 24 in the Ultra High Performance All-Season category, testers say, "It is designed to meet challenging road conditions with confidence-inspiring all-season traction, even in light snow." Owners agree, awarding it Superior scores for hydroplaning resistance, cornering stability, dry and wet traction and steering response. It even gets Excellent ratings, and good reviews, for light snow.
Two other all-season tires worth serious consideration are the Pirelli Cinturato P7 (Est. $115) and the Continental PureContact (Est. $130). In an extensive side-by-side comparison, one that includes our top pick the Michelin Primacy MXV4, the Michelin stands out with the most comfortable ride and quietest tread noise, but it doesn't take first place in every category. The Continental PureContact has the best traction and handling on wet pavement, according to TireRack.com, while the Pirelli Cinturato P7 is fast and responsive.
With "very good ultimate traction," experts with TireRack.com say, the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season (Est. $140) is a "capable tire for drivers who put a priority on traction." It maintains superb grip in wet and dry weather, but doesn't manage snow and ice well. While tread life and warranty are outstanding, the Assurance TripleTred trades in some comfort for performance -- owners say its ride isn't as smooth or as quiet as comparable all-season tires like the Michelin Primacy MXV4 or Pirelli Cinturato P7.
For about $80 per tire, experts say the Kumho Ecsta PA31 (Est. $80) is an excellent value. Experts say the Kumho offers a balance of good handling and traction, yet handles like a high performance tire in both wet and dry conditions. It gets high scores for its capability to handle some wintry weather as well. And, unlike many budget-priced tires, the Ecsta PA31 doesn't compromise on treadwear. Owners say it's long-lasting and durable, with a six-year, 50,000-mile tread warranty that's only slightly shorter than Michelin's coverage for the Primacy MXV4.
Run-flat tires, which we discuss in more detail in the introduction to this report, are built with very stiff sidewalls, enough so that if the tire loses pressure, the sidewalls will support the weight of the car for up to 100 miles -- enough to get to a service center. While run-flat tires tend to get much poorer reviews than traditional tires, the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus ZP (Est. $265 per tire and up) is a notable exception. It's the top-rated tire by owners at TireRack.com -- by a wide margin -- with Superior scores for hydroplaning resistance, wet and dry traction, cornering stability, ride quality, steering response, noise and treadwear. The latter two categories are what usually bring run-flat tires scores down significantly, so those are particularly important ratings. Experts at that site also rank it at number one, although by a narrower margin, saying it's "A performance run-flat tire that can retain its handling without a big sacrifice in ride quality." However, performance on snow and ice is very poor, according to both experts and owners, so you may want to consider snow tires if you live in a climate where winter weather is an issue.
Elsewhere in this report: