June 2, 2006
There was a time when all sport utility vehicles (SUVs) on American roads were rough and ready, on- and off-road vehicles. The first SUVs were based on a pickup truck chassis fitted with an enclosed body providing seating for five passengers. Yet as SUVs gained popularity and became used for everything from commuting to work, taking the kids to events or a night out on the town, their pickup truck origin eventually proved to be extremely rough and only moderately ready.
This has allowed "crossover" vehicles to become one of the newest evolutions in automobiles today, however most drivers don't know what they're crossing over from, or crossing over to. While there's no literal definition for crossover vehicles, today's crossover vehicles are essentially car chassis-based SUVs that combine car and SUV traits, and appeal to drivers who want the benefits of both. Crossover vehicles are for drivers who don't need to carry heavy cargo or drive over rough terrain, and differ from conventional sport utility vehicles by offering fully independent suspensions, giving them better ride and handling on the road.
Well, if consumer demand is strong enough for the car manufacturers to change their vehicles, it certainly is strong enough to influence tire manufacturers to build kinder, gentler light truck tires for crossover vehicles and refined SUVs. To find out how tires are tuned for these vehicles, The Tire Rack team conducted a Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive to compare the Michelin Latitude Tour HP, Pirelli Scorpion STR and Yokohama Geolandar HT-S G052.
Our evaluation used three identically equipped 2006 Porsche Cayenne SUVs with the factory steel spring suspension, fitted with new, full tread depth 255/55R18 tires mounted on 18x8.0" wheels.
Our 5.6-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.
Our team found all three tires provided appropriate levels of road comfort and light handling to match up well with cross-over SUVs like our Porsche Cayennes. The Pirelli Scorpion STR had a slight edge over the others with its relatively quiet ride. The Scorpion STR also did a good job smoothing out the sharper bumps and expansion joints along the expressway. The Michelin Latitude Tour HP was close behind, also delivering comfortable road manners. The Yokohama Geolandar HT-S G052 followed, making just a bit more tread noise and feeling a little harsher over the bumps than the other two tires.
All three tires also had a solid feel through the controls, with the Michelin and Pirelli tires rated as 1-2 by our team. The Yokohama felt somewhat less responsive, however, requiring more steering input to navigate the tighter turns and sweeping off-ramps along our route.
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.
Fortunately, our test vehicles equipped with this trio of tires do not drive like a traditional pick-up when we took them onto the test track. Like on the road, the handling characteristics of all three tires were very similar, again with the Michelin and Pirelli tires feeling somewhat more responsive than the Yokohama. Ultimate cornering grip (average g's) had to be calculated to the 1/1000th to find a difference, while average lap times for the three tires were separated by just 0.29 seconds.
The differences between these three tires became more evident when there was water on the test track. The Pirelli Scorpion STR had a slight advantage over the Michelin Lattitude Tour HP, displaying better overall balance without the gentle understeer of the Michelin. The Yokohama Geolandar HT-S G052 struggled by comparison, feeling much more slippery during hard cornering, and less sure-footed under braking.
Michelin Latitude Tour HP (Crossover/SUV Touring All-Season): The Latitude Tour HP is Michelin's Crossover/SUV Touring All-Season light truck tire developed for the drivers of luxury SUVs and premium crossover vehicles. Initially used as Original Equipment on Mercedes-Benz M-Class and R-Class models, as well as the European Volvo XC90, the Latitude Tour HP was designed to combine desirable ride and handling qualities with all-season traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Pirelli Scorpion STR (Highway All-Season): The Scorpion STR is Pirelli's premium Highway All-Season tires that were designed to deliver the Stability, Traction and Ratings (STR) appropriate for today's light trucks by adapting their performance to the needs of crossover vehicles, sport utility vehicles and light duty pickup trucks. The Scorpion STR tires are designed to combine a quiet and comfortable ride along with ease of handling and year-round traction, even in light snow. Read more.
Yokohama Geolandar HT G052 (Street/Sport Truck All-Season): Geolandar H/T-S G052 Street/Sport Truck All-Season tires are designed for the drivers of light duty pickups and sport utility vehicles that want to enhance the sporty looks of their vehicle by combining large rim diameter wheels with wide, low profile tires that provide year-round traction, even in light snow.
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