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July 26, 2011
Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season (Passenger All-Season 205/55R16 94H)
Hankook Optimo H727 (Standard Touring All-Season P205/55R16 89T)
Michelin HydroEdge with Green X (Passenger All-Season P205/55R16 89T)
So you need new tires for your standard passenger car or family minivan. It's not a sports car, so basic passenger tires that deliver a blend of reasonable treadlife, good traction and a smooth and comfortable ride are what you need.
To that end, up until just a few years ago it was easy to narrow down your choices based on the tire's performance category, drawing a simple distinction between Passenger All-Season and Standard or Grand Touring All-Season tires. Traditionally, speed ratings were used as one of the key differentiators between these categories, with the level of tire technology and overall handling often moving up the scale as they transitioned from the basic passenger tire to the more advanced touring tire.
But today there is a growing trend that even basic passenger tires carry at least an H-speed rating to match up to what the vehicle manufacturer used as Original Equipment at the factory. To keep pace with this trend a number of tire manufacturers are now producing Passenger All-Season tires to fill that need. These higher speed rated tires also tend to bring along premium attributes through more advanced tread designs, high-tech tread compounds, and sophisticated internal construction.
Goodyear was one of the first to add premium features to their passenger tire range with the Assurance family of products. The latest is the Assurance TripleTred All-Season (replacing the original Assurance TripleTred tire), which packs plenty of new technology and carries an H-speed rating (in most sizes, with a few having T- or V-speed ratings based on target vehicle fitments). We wanted to find out just how advanced the new Assurance TripleTred All-Season is, so the Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track drive, comparing it with three popular options already in the marketplace: the General Altimax HP, Hankook Optimo H727 and Michelin HydroEdge with Green X. Our evaluation used 2011 BMW E92 328i coupes fitted with new, full tread depth 205/55R16 tires mounted on 16x7.5" wheels.
This evaluation compares a mix of T- and H-speed rated tires spread across the Passenger, Standard Touring and Grand Touring All-Season categories. While we would normally avoid cross comparisons like this, in today's world the four tires in our test often end up being frequent competitors when a driver is selecting replacement tires.
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.
The Hankook Optimo H727 did an excellent job softening the harsh bumps and sections of patched pavement along our test route. But after the initial impact this tire exhibited a small amount of continuing jounce and jiggle immediately after encountering the hit. Our team found the ride of the General Altimax HP to be just a little firmer than the Optimo H727, and without its unsettling "after-jiggle." The Michelin HydroEdge with Green X followed, feeling just a little firm but nowhere near objectionable. Trailing the group by a small margin was the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season which allowed a bit more of the road's small and large imperfections to pass through to the driver.
The Optimo H727 was very quiet as it rolled down the road, producing very little audible tread noise, although a distant booming sound could be heard in the background when this tire encountered medium and larger impacts. The Altimax HP was also quiet, producing a small amount of additional tread and impact noise. The HydroEdge generated a modest but noticeable tone from the tread pattern. The Assurance TripleTred All-Season produced the most noise of the group, with a notable tone that rose with vehicle speed.
Coming as no surprise, the Altimax HP from the Grand Touring All-Season category delivered the most responsive handling of the group. Not far behind was the Assurance TripleTred All-Season which felt well-connected and direct, offering a nice payback for its somewhat firmer ride. As we've found in the past the HydroEdge also provided a well-refined driving feel, with precise steering response and a solid feel on-center when driving straight ahead, especially at highway speeds. The soft ride of the Optimo H727 brought with it relatively sluggish handling, with a noticeable delay in the vehicle changing direction once steering input was initiated.
What We Learned on the Test Track
Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, five-cone slalom 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.
Subjective handling during the simulated avoidance maneuvers on our test track followed the same pattern we found during everyday handling out on the road. The Altimax HP felt balanced and stable thanks to its responsive and predictable handling. The Assurance TripleTred All-Season did not feel as stable, but showed it had plenty of ultimate traction that helped this tire post the fastest lap time of the test. The HydroEdge provided its characteristic precise steering and good feedback to the driver. The Optimo H727 felt a little out of its element and a little unbalanced, slipping and sliding somewhat during rapid transitions.
With water on the track to simulate a moderate rain shower the Assurance TripleTred All-Season showed a clear traction advantage over the other tree tires, feeling very stable and predictable. The Altimax HP was also easy to control, delivering a reassuring feel. The HydroEdge responded quickly to initial inputs of the steering wheel, but did not have the same level of ultimate grip as the leaders. The Optimo H727 trailed the group by a significant margin, feeling very slippery during braking and cornering, and somewhat unsettled during rapid transitions.
Fuel Consumption Results
Our Real World Road Ride features a relatively flat 6.6-mile loop of 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.
While none of the tires in this test were designed with low rolling resistance as a high priority, we did find a modest difference in observed vehicle fuel economy. Based on our results the 0.9 mile per gallon difference between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy would result in an annual difference of about 20 gallons of premium gasoline. At the current cost of $4.00/gallon, it would amount to about $82 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.
Driving In Winter Conditions
Winter weather is often unpredictable, and road conditions can change so fast that it's hard to know what waits for you around the next corner. For consistency, our snow testing is done at a dedicated winter test facility in Northern Sweden, and ice testing is done at a local hockey rink to simulate the glare ice often found at intersections and in other high-traffic areas. We measure each tire's ability to accelerate and brake in both conditions, as well as gather subjective ratings of how each tire feels from the driver's seat while driving through several inches of groomed snow on a handling course.
Contrary to its wet performance, the Hankook Optimo H727 was rather impressive in the snow, delivering very good overall traction and predictable handling. The Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season was the best of the rest with good traction levels when sliding/wheelspin was kept to moderate levels. The Michelin HydroEdge was very close behind, also with good overall traction. Trailing the others in the snow was the General AltiMAX HP which felt well-balanced, but with significantly lower overall grip.
Growth in the need for higher speed rated tires on common passenger vehicles combined with escalating capability in some of today's newest tires is helping blur the traditional dividing line between passenger and touring all-season tires. But just as in the past every tire has its strengths, allowing you to zero in on the tire that fits best with how, what and where you drive. The good news is we all end up driving on tires that deliver better traction and improved road manners as we roll down the road and rack up the miles.
General Altimax HP (Grand Touring All-Season): The Altimax HP is General Tire's Grand Touring All-Season tire member of their Altimax family of flagship tires. The Altimax HP was developed to be a smarter tire for smarter drivers by addressing many of the treadwear quality and year-round traction challenges faced by the drivers of today's sporty sedans and coupes. The Altimax HP is designed to combine reliability, comfort and tread life, as well as provide year-round traction, including in light snow. Read more.
Goodyear Assurance TripleTred All-Season (Passenger All-Season): The Assurance TripleTred All-Season is Goodyear's premium Passenger All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans and minivans looking for confident, all-season traction. The Assurance TripleTred All-Season is designed with three unique tread zones to provide year-round drivability and all-season traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Hankook Optimo H727 (Standard Touring All-Season): The Optimo H727 is Hankook's Standard Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans, minivans and crossover vehicles looking to combine good comfort, low noise, all-season traction and long tread life. Optimo H727 tires are designed to deliver a premium appearance and long wear along with dry, wet and wintertime traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Michelin HydroEdge with Green X (Passenger All-Season): The Michelin HydroEdge with Green X radial is a premium Passenger All-Season energy-efficient tire developed to meet the needs of the drivers of family coupes, sedans and minivans looking for great tread life, fuel efficiency and all-weather traction. The HydroEdge with Green X was designed to combine long tread wear and low rolling resistance with superb hydroplaning resistance and year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.