August 30, 2013
Picking a tire from the Standard Touring All-Season category is usually a great choice for drivers wanting a combination of good ride and noise comfort, all-season capability, and a longer tread life than more performance-oriented tires. Sounds like a lot to ask for, but the best tires in the category roll together a good balance of these characteristics that suit the everyday driving needs of many drivers and their vehicles.
Finding the right balance is the goal, as well as the hardest challenge faced by tire designers as they engineer new products for the category. But a number of the objectives can be diametrically opposed, with gains in one area meaning some level of trade-off in another. General Tire recently introduced their newest Standard Touring All-Season tire, the AltiMAX RT43, which aims squarely at striking a good balance across all parameters of the driving envelope. To see how well they did, we conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive comparing the AltiMAX RT43 with three other tires in the category, the Firestone Precision Touring, Hankook Optimo H727 and Sumitomo Touring LS T. Our evaluation used 2012 BMW F30 328i sedans fitted with new, full tread depth 215/60R16 tires mounted on 16x7.5 wheels.
Our 6.0-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 provided a very smooth and comfortable ride, doing an excellent job at isolating the driver from the harshness of a poor road's imperfections. The Firestone Precision Touring and General AltiMAX RT43 followed closely, also doing a great job at minimizing the jarring bumps and pounding noise that can come from patched potholes and bumpy expansion joints. The Sumitomo Touring LS T rounded out the group, delivering relative comfort and quiet, but not quite at the level of refinement and suppleness of the other tires.
Overall tread and impact noise levels were quite low with this group, and the rank order followed what our team found for the ride comfort, with the Optimo H727 leading the way by a small margin. Only when driving these tires side by side could most of our drivers discern subtle differences between the top three. The Touring LS T was also rather quiet, with only a hint of additional tread pattern noise than the others.
In the handling department, the AltiMAX RT43 showed a noticeable advantage over the other three tires, feeling direct, responsive, linear and reassuring. The other three tires were very similar to each other in steering response and feel, but a measurable step less responsive than the AltiMAX RT43.
Our 1/3-mile per lap test track course includes 90-degree street corners, a 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.
While none of these Standard Touring All-Season tires would be confused for grippy high performance tires, all four were predictable and stable during the maneuvers on our course. In dry conditions, the General AltiMAX RT43 led the way with the most responsive steering and highest overall grip of the group. Less than two tenths of a second separated the lap time of the other three tires. Among them the Firestone Precision Touring felt the most balanced with the Sumitomo Touring LS T close behind. The handling of the Hankook Optimo H727 was somewhat less crisp and responsive, but felt predictable and well-balanced.
As we often find, wet conditions become a big separator in tire traction and performance. So was the case this time, with the largest margin in performance we've seen to date across any test group. The AltiMAX RT43 held a clear advantage in traction, stability and responsiveness over the others. The Precision Touring felt competent and predictable, but didn't have the ultimate traction to match the AltiMAX RT43. A big step back to third place was the Optimo H727, which struggled for grip. Another big step back was the Sumitomo Touring LS T, which simply did not have enough traction to lap our course at anything close to the others.
Also of note was the spread in stopping distances in wet conditions. To simulate a panic stop we conducted a separate objective test measuring the distance needed to stop from 50mph using maximum pedal pressure to engage the Anti Lock Brakes during the entire stop distance. Like we found on the handling course, the AltiMAX RT43 led the way with a very good 119.6 feet to stop from 50mph. Distances were significantly longer for the other three tires, with the Touring LS T needing nearly 45 feet additional to stop than the AltiMAX RT43. Dry braking distances were all very close.
|50-0 mph ABS Stop (feet)||Wet||Dry|
|Firestone Precision Touring||131.8||89.0|
|General AltiMAX RT43||119.6||93.5|
|Hankook Optimo H727||141.3||91.5|
|Sumitomo Touring LS T||164.5||89.9|
Winter weather is often unpredictable, and snow-covered roads change with every passing vehicle as they churn snow into slush or pack it down to polished ice. A constantly changing test surface makes side-by-side comparisons difficult, so we use a dedicated winter testing facility in Northern Sweden with acres of groomed snow that provides the consistency we need to get reliable acceleration and braking comparisons. This facility also has a prepared snow handling course where we evaluate the stability and control of each tire during abrupt maneuvers. To simulate the icy conditions found at intersections or the black ice experienced out on the highway, we use ice at a local hockey rink and measure acceleration and braking traction.
The Hankook Optimo H727 led the group in the snow with very good traction and stable handling. The General AltiMAX RT43 also performed very well, combining predictable handling and acceleration with braking distances just a few feet longer than the Hankook tire. The Firestone Precision Touring felt stable during the subjective snow handling test, but took longer to start and stop than the Hankook and General tires. The Sumitomo Touring LS T provided poor snow traction, struggling to start, stop and turn the car, and took 44' longer to stop from 20mph in the snow than the best tire in the test.
Our Real World Road Ride features a relatively flat 6.0-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 each tire approximately 400 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.
@ 15,000 Miles
|% vs. Most Efficient|
|Firestone Precision Touring||31.9||470.2||-0.6%|
|General AltiMAX RT43||32.1||467.3||--|
|Hankook Optimo H727||31.6||474.7||-1.6%|
|Sumitomo Touring LS T||31.1||482.3||-3.2%|
|* Our evaluation used Linear Logic ScanGauge II automotive computers to record fuel consumption, and Race Technology DL1 data loggers to record true distance travelled.|
While none of the tires in this test were designed with low rolling resistance as a prime objective, we did find a difference in observed vehicle fuel economy across the group. Based on our results the 1.0 mile per gallon difference between our lowest and highest observed fuel economy would result in an annual difference of 15 gallons of premium gasoline. At the current cost of $4.00/gallon, it would amount to an annual difference of $60 for drivers driving 15,000 miles per 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.
Standard Touring All-Season tires are designed to provide a smooth and quiet ride, drive well and provide years of reliable service.
Among our test group, the General AltiMAX RT43 drove well, felt comfortable on the road and provided class-leading traction in dry and especially in wet conditions. It also performed well in the snow. The Firestone Precision Touring led the rest of the group, also providing a good blend of road manners along with good wet and dry and reasonable snow traction. The Hankook Optimo H727 promises very long treadlife with its high mileage warranty, and displays very good snow traction for an all-season tire. While it delivers a smooth ride it lacks the wet traction to match several of the newer tires in the category. The Sumitomo Touring LS T trails the group, and struggles to provide adequate wet or snow traction.
Firestone Precision Touring (Standard Touring All-Season): The Precision Touring is Firestone's Standard Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans, family minivans and crossover vehicles looking for year-round capability and comfort. The affordably priced Precision Touring is designed to blend long treadwear, a quiet ride and all-season traction on dry and wet roads, as well as in light snow. Read more.
General AltiMAX RT43 (T-Speed Rated) (Standard Touring All-Season): The AltiMAX RT43 (Road Touring) is General's Standard Touring All-Season tire member of their AltiMAX family of flagship tires. Designed to deliver impressive consumer value through even treadwear and extended treadlife, the AltiMAX RT43 combines a quiet, comfortable ride with year-round, 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.
Sumitomo Touring LS T (Standard Touring All-Season): The T-speed rated Touring LS T is Sumitomo's Standard Touring All-Season tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans, minivans and crossover vehicles. Designed to combine long wear and good comfort, Touring LS T tires provide all-season traction in dry, wet and wintry conditions, even in light snow. Read more.
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