In tests, the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season (*Est. $150) is the standout among standard all-season tires, showing no significant performance weaknesses in any test. It's an upgrade to the original TripleTred. It keeps the same three-zone tread pattern, with a reinforced dry-road zone on the outer edges for confident handling, a central rib with heavy siping (tiny cuts) to stick to snow and ice, and diagonal grooves in between to siphon away rainwater.
The new 2012 version of the Goodyear TripleTred All-Season tires starts with dual steel belts reinforced with spirally wound polyamide and a polyester cord carcass for a durable, comfortable ride, TireRack.com says. It adds volcanic sand and glass fibers to the central rib for better ice grip, more continuous shoulder tread blocks for improved dry cornering feel, longer wear and a quieter ride, plus something Goodyear calls "evolving traction grooves." TireRack.com's Doc Horvath explains: "As most drivers have experienced, a tire's wet traction tends to diminish as the tread wears down and loses the tread depth needed to pump water out from under the contact patch." The new Goodyear has sipes designed to sidestep that problem. They start out 1/10-inch wide when the tire is new, broadening as the tire wears to channel water more effectively and get better grip in snow.
Wet grip is outstanding: In the latest all-season tire shootout at TireRack.com, the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season tire outclasses all the other tires in almost every way on wet pavement -- cornering, steering, handling and more -- and it posts the fastest time on the dry track, too. The tradeoff? It's somewhat noisy and firm-riding, testers say, but "a good option for drivers who place a high priority on wet and dry traction."
No experts had tested the new 2012 TripleTred All-Season on snow or ice when we checked. However, the original TripleTred grips well on both snow and ice in one test, and consumers who post reviews at TireRack.com rate both the new and old TripleTred versions as very good on winter roads and outstanding on wet or dry pavement.
For less money, the Hankook Optimo H727 (*Est. $90) actually outperforms the original Goodyear Assurance TripleTred in one top test, where experts find the Hankook delivers better grip on snow and ice and a more comfortable ride. Both tires also perform very well in that test on dry and wet roads, with good rolling resistance (which can mean better gas mileage). Like the Goodyear tire, the Hankook tire is also a favorite among owners who post reviews at TireRack.com (in the all-season and touring all-season categories, respectively). Owners say the Goodyear tires grip slightly better on wet and dry roads, while the Hankook tires score better for snow and ice traction, ride comfort, noise and tread wear. Ultimately, both rate very well or outstanding on all measures.
But when the experts at TireRack.com start flinging the Hankook around the test track, it can't quite keep up with the new Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season. On dry pavement, "the Optimo H727 felt a little out of its element and a little unbalanced, slipping and sliding somewhat during rapid transitions," testers write. In the wet, the Hankook "trailed the group by a significant margin, feeling very slippery during braking and cornering, and somewhat unsettled during rapid transitions." It does deliver a soft, quiet ride, though. Testers call it "a comfortable tire for drivers who do not emphasize wet traction."
Like the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred tires, the Hankook Optimo H727 is heavily siped for winter traction, with four circumferential grooves to channel water away. TireRack.com says the Hankook tire's dual steel belts and nylon cap ply make for a stable tread, good handling and a durable tire. Both tires include long tread-life warranties -- 80,000 miles for the Goodyear T- and H-speed rated versions (70,000 miles for the faster V-rated models), and 100,000 miles for the Hankook -- and the tread holds up well in independent wear tests, although a few tires do last longer.
Just about every major manufacturer now sells an all-season tire that promises to help drivers consume less fuel. Special tread compounds and shapes reduce rolling resistance, which can translate to improved gas mileage.
But does this approach work? To find out, experts at TireRack.com round up three fuel-miser tires and test them against a regular all-season tire, the Yokohama TRZ (*Est. $95). They fit the tires to a BMW 328i coupe and hit regular roads as well as dry and wet test tracks -- keeping track of mpg numbers all the while.
The Continental ProContact EcoPlus (*Est. $95) outperforms them all, surpassing even the regular Yokohama on nearly every measure of performance. The Continental tire rides the most quietly and comfortably, too, but it doesn't save any gas compared to the regular all-season tire.
The other two eco tires actually do save a little gas -- 0.3 mpg for the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max (*Est. $110) and 0.6 mpg for the Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 (*Est. $105) -- but testers note that that'll save the typical driver only around $47 a year at most at the pump, while sacrificing a noticeable amount of traction in the bargain.
On the dry track, the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max tires "felt less precise" than the Continental and Yokohama tires, and the Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 "lacked the ultimate traction of the other tires" and felt "somewhat sluggish and out of its element" when cornering hard. In the wet, the Bridgestone felt "somewhat slippery" and the last-place Goodyear "trailed the group with noticeably less traction combined with sluggish handling."
With fuel-saving tires, "there is no free lunch," testers conclude. "At least for now, it appears there are trade-offs in some areas of tire performance when trying to maximize capability in others."
ConsumerReports.org also weighs rolling resistance against traction. In tests there, some tires designed for low rolling resistance grip very well, while others prove mediocre. "Put safety first," editors recommend. Opt for tires that win braking, handling, hydroplaning and traction tests, and "let tread wear, ride comfort, noise, and rolling resistance be tiebreakers."