November 24, 2004
Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza (Crossover/SUV Touring All-Season 235/65R17)
Goodyear Fortera H/L Edition (Highway All-Season 235/65R17)
Michelin Cross Terrain SUV (Highway All-Season 235/65R17)
2004 Volkswagen V6 Touareg SUV
It wasn't all that long ago that pickup trucks were reserved for the workaday life and SUVs ("Jeeps") were for park rangers or off-road enthusiasts. Today, in addition to these traditional occupations, we see a wide array of SUVs chosen as the primary family vehicle, and pickup trucks regularly used for a night on the town.
To better match how and where many of today's SUV and pickup truck drivers use their vehicles, tire manufacturers are developing premium Crossover/SUV Touring All-Season and Highway All-Season tires that combine the rugged sidewall styling of all-terrain tires with the refined road manners of passenger tires. As an added benefit, many of these newer tire designs are also benefiting from the latest in compounding and construction technologies, formerly reserved for high-end passenger and sports car tires.
To find out how several of these tires perform on the variety of roads surrounding our Indiana headquarters, the Tire Rack Team conducted a Real World Road ride comparing the Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza, Goodyear Fortera H/L Edition and Michelin Cross Terrain SUV. Our evaluation used three identically equipped 2004 Volkswagen V6 Touareg SUVs with the factory steel spring suspension, fitted with new 235/65R17 tires mounted on 17x7.5" wheels.
Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza
The Dueler H/L Alenza with UNI-T or UNI-T AQII is Bridgestone's Crossver/SUV Touring All-Season tire that was developed for the drivers of premium, luxury sport utility vehicles. The Dueler H/L Alenza is designed to provide elegance with an edge, as well as year-round traction, even in light snow.
All Dueler H/L Alenza sizes feature Bridgestone's UNI-T technology to increase comfort and control. In order to further enhance wet traction, select sizes have Bridgestone's UNI-T AQII technology which features dual layer tread compounds to resist the normal tread rubber hardening that results from the heat encountered during thousands of miles of use. As the tire wears, the special underlying high-grip rubber is exposed, helping offset the effects of wear and age on wet traction. The result is that UNI-T AQ II helps handle wet road conditions even as the tire wears. Our 235/65R17 test size features UNI-T AQ II technology.
On the outside, the symmetric tread pattern of the Dueler H/L Alenza has been ride and noise tuned to enhance comfort. Large shoulder blocks and a continuous center rib aid responsiveness and highway stability, while wide circumferential grooves, lateral notches and sipes help increase stormy weather traction. On the inside, twin steel belts (reinforced with spirally wound nylon for H-speed rated sizes) provide support under the tread area, while polyester cords stabilize the sidewalls and enhance ride quality.
Across the variety of road surfaces and driving speeds, the Dueler H/L Alenza received good marks for ride quality and noise comfort, both of which were rated as an improvement over the original Dueler H/L D683 version. In our instrumented stopping distance test, the Dueler H/L Alenza performed well under dry conditions. Stopping performance in the wet was competitive with the other tires. Because our evaluation uses new, full tread depth tires, we were not able to evaluate the long-term impact of Bridgestone's UNI-T AQ II technology on the wet traction, which has usually shown an increasing advantage as the tire wears and ages.
Goodyear Fortera H/L Edition
The Goodyear Fortera HL Edition is a premium Highway All-Season light truck tire that was developed to provide refined ruggedness for luxury sport utility vehicles, and a quiet, even ride along with overall responsiveness.
The Fortera HL features a long-wearing tread compound molded into a tread design that enhances traction and ride comfort while reducing noise levels. Staggered circumferential grooves and curvilinear sipes and grooves are integrated into the tread design to provide the biting edges that enhance year round traction, even in light snow. The tire's shoulder design and sidewall appearance offer rugged good looks to complement the vehicle's image. Internally, the Fortera HL uses a computer-optimized tire shape to reduce footprint sensitivity to load to provide an excellent balance of performance properties for lightly loaded to fully loaded sport utility vehicles (when properly inflated and within the vehicle's approved load limits). Its twin steel belts and two-ply polyester cord body help provide predictable handling while enhancing ride comfort.
During our road ride, the Goodyear Fortera H/L Edition provided a good blend of road handling and comfort, but was not rated first in class in either of these areas. Dry stopping capability was competitive with the other tires. In our wet stopping distance test, the Fortera H/L required less distance to stop from 50 mph than the other two tires.
Michelin Cross Terrain SUV
Featured in the well known TV commercial starring the Mr. Bib bobblehead, the Michelin Cross Terrain SUV tire is a premium Highway All-Season light truck tire designed to complement the way most Americans drive their sport utility vehicles, by combining the looks of a light truck tire with the low noise and ride comfort associated with a luxury car tire.
The Cross Terrain SUV features a silica-enhanced tread compound molded into a tread design optimized for car-like ride comfort and responsiveness in dry, wet and wintry conditions. The tire's sidewall offers a rugged appearance to complement the vehicle's image while its continuous shoulder tread ribs maximize wear qualities while minimizing noise levels. Full depth, interlocking zigzag sipes are integrated into the tread design to provide the extra biting edges that enhance year round traction and driving confidence in light snow. Internally, the Cross Terrain SUV features twin steel belts, a two-ply polyester cord body and Michelin's Bead Tension Structure to increase ride comfort and provide predictable handling.
Out on our road ride the Cross Terrain SUV offered responsive handling for a very connected feel, along with appropriate levels of ride comfort. Some team members found the level of tread noise to be slightly higher than the other two tires in this evaluation. Dry and wet stopping distances were competitive with the Dueler H/L Alenza and Fortera H/L Edition, but in both cases was a close third place.
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