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High Performance All-Season tires are designed to meet the needs of drivers who are looking for sporty handling that doesn't abandon ride quality and treadlife, while still retaining traction in all four seasons. Sounds simple enough in theory, but in practice becomes much more challenging for the tire engineers.
To find out if new designs are really an improvement over established favorites, we conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive to compare three new tires - Firestone's Precision Sport, the Sumitomo HTR A/S P01 and Yokohama AVID ENVigor - with a long-time consumer favorite according to our online driver survey results, the Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S. Our evaluation used four identical 2011 BMW E92 328i coupes, with new, full tread depth 205/55R16 tires mounted on 16x7.5" wheels.
What We Learned on the Road
Our 6.6-mile loop of expressway, state highway and county roads provides a great variety of road conditions that include city and highway speeds, smooth and coarse concrete, as well as new and patched asphalt. This route allows our team to experience noise comfort, ride quality and everyday handling, just as you would during your drive to school or work.
Out on the road we found all four tires drove well. Our team gave the Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S high marks for its responsive handling. Close behind was the Yokohama AVID ENVigor with a nice, linear feel to the way it responded to steering inputs. The Sumitomo HTR A/S P01 displayed quick response to small inputs, but seemed to lag a bit as a larger turn of the steering wheel was made. The Firestone Precision Sport rounded out the group, with slightly slower steering response.
The HTR A/S P01 showed a small advantage over the others for overall ride comfort, doing a good job minimizing the harshness of impacts. Right on its heels was the Pilot Exalto A/S, which also kept much of the road's harshness away from the driver. The AVID ENVigor allowed some of the smaller bumps to be felt, while the Precision Sport produced a small thwack felt as it encountered potholes and other larger impacts.
The HTR A/S P01 showed a noticeable advantage for road noise, doing the best job at hiding the sound of the tread pattern as the tire rolled over the road's fine texture. The Pilot Exalto A/S also did a very good job minimizing any annoying drone. The AVID ENVigor produced a little more tread noise, while the aggressive-looking tread pattern of the Precision Sport generated some noticeable growl across most surfaces. While not tested here, we expect the aggressive tread pattern of the Precision Sport will pay back come wintertime with good snow traction.
What We Learned on the Test Track
Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, lane changes and simulated expressway ramps. Run in both dry and wet conditions, the test track allows our team to experience the traction, responsiveness, handling and drivability normally only encountered during abrupt emergency avoidance maneuvers or competition events.
In dry conditions, the Sumitomo HTR A/S P01 shined with quick steering response, good cornering traction and short braking distances which helped this tire post the quickest lap time. The Yokohama AVID ENVigor was close behind, feeling predictable and stable. Subjectively, the Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S felt faster than it was, seeming to go about its business with apparent ease. But its overall lap time was just behind the Firestone Precision Sport which was able to lap our handling course a little faster according to the timing equipment, but did not feel quite as composed.
In the wet, the Yokohama and Sumitomo tires switched positions, with a small advantage going to the AVID ENVigor. Both handled well, displaying good overall traction and excellent stability during hard cornering and braking. The Pilot Exalto A/S was also easy to control at the limit, but simply lacked the overall grip of the Yokohama and Sumitomo tires. Rounding out the group was the Precision Sport, which also didn't have the overall grip of the leaders, but was well-tuned and reasonably easy for our team to drive at its limit.
Fuel Consumption Results
Our Real World Road Ride uses a 6.6-mile loop of public roads with little elevation change. It includes 65 mph expressway, 55 mph state highway and 40 mph county roads along with two stop signs and one traffic light every lap. Our team drove approximately 500 miles over the course of several days.
Since we wanted to compare fuel consumption results that typical drivers would experience, our drivers were instructed to maintain the flow of traffic by running at the posted speed limits and sustain the vehicle's speed using cruise control whenever possible. They did not use hypermiling techniques to influence vehicle fuel economy.
The observed vehicle fuel economy recorded while driving on each tire is shown here:
While none of the tires in this test were designed with low rolling resistance as a high-priority, differences in their rolling resistance did influence our observed vehicle fuel economy. Based on our results the 0.8 mile per gallon difference between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy would result in an annual difference of about 15 gallons of premium gasoline. At the current cost of $2.75/gallon, it would amount to about $41.25 for drivers traveling 15,000 miles a year.
It's important to note our test's fuel consumption measurements follow consistent procedures designed to minimize variables that could influence the results, however they do not represent an exhaustive long-range fuel consumption study. While our procedures require the test vehicles in each convoy to run under the same prevailing conditions, the week-to-week differences in ambient temperatures, barometric pressures and wind speeds that we experience over a season of testing can influence vehicle fuel consumption and prevent the absolute mpg values of this test from being compared directly against those of others.
Larger differences in consumption between tires may indicate a difference that might be experienced on the road, while smaller differences should be considered equivalent. As they say, your mileage may vary.
Firestone Precision Sport (205/55R16 91H High Performance All-Season): The Precision Sport is Firestone's High Performance All-Season tire developed to deliver year-round performance for the drivers of sport cars, coupes and sedans. The Precision Sport is designed to blend treadwear, handling and traction on dry and wet roads, as well as in light snow. Read more.
Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S (205/55R16 91H High Performance All-Season): Pilot Exalto A/S radials are the entry-level High Performance All-Season members of Michelin's Pilot family of performance tires. Pilot Exalto A/S radials are designed for sports cars, coupes and sedans to blend responsive handling and long wear with year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Sumitomo HTR A/S P01 (H- or V-Speed Rated) (205/55R16 91H High Performance All-Season): The Sumitomo HTR A/S P01 (High Tech Radial, All-Season, Premium 1st Generation) tire line includes H- and V-speed rated High Performance All-Season radials developed to meet the year-round driving needs of sports car, coupe and sedan drivers by blending dry and wet road performance with all-season wintertime traction. The HTR A/S P01 radials use Sumitomo's high-tech materials and manufacturing methods to blend high performance with year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Yokohama AVID ENVigor (H- or V-Speed Rated) (205/55R16 91H High Performance All-Season): The Yokohama AVID ENVigor tire line includes H- and V-speed rated High Performance All-Season radials developed to meet the year-round driving needs of sports car, coupe, sedan and crossover drivers. AVID ENVigor tires are designed to combine performance, comfort and treadlife along with year-round traction, even on light snow-covered roads. Read more.