Whether you drive a modern or classic car, tires are often one of the most overlooked parts. Especially if they have all-wheel drive, some owners think they don’t need to invest in quality rubber. However, their design is surprisingly complex. Changing your tires can markedly improve a vehicle’s handling, braking, and even fuel economy. And there is a genuine difference between summer and all-season tires. Similarly, there is a difference between dry-weather and wet-weather ones. And below, we detail Consumer Reports’ best dry-weather tires.
What are ‘dry-weather tires’?
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A dry-weather tire isn’t technically a unique variant like ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ are. All-weather tires, Car and Driver reports, do exist, as a kind of compromise between all-seasons and winter tires. However, there isn’t a specific ‘dry-weather’ category. Instead, the term refers to tires primarily designed for dry weather conditions. I.e., the road isn’t wet.
However, as The Drive explains, just because snow melts, doesn’t necessarily make all winter tires good wet-weather ones. Car and Driver reports some lose a bit of performance in slushy conditions to improve dry-road grip. That’s because wet-weather traction isn’t just down to the rubber, but the tread design, too.
What really sets winter tires apart, Road & Track and Edmunds.com report are their rubber compounds. These let the tires stay pliable and grippy even below freezing. But, based on their tread design, some may be less efficient at removing water from the contact patch. However, while that increases the risk of hydroplaning when it’s raining, there are genuine benefits in the dry.
Fewer, shallower treads mean more rubber on the road. That improves grip and handling and shortens braking distances. It also improves steering feel, which improves the driver’s knowledge of their vehicle’s behavior, increasing confidence and security. This doesn’t just apply to winter tires, but summer, off-road, and performance ones, too. And it was these metrics—handling, braking, and steering feel—that CR used to determine its best dry-weather tires.
All-season tires aren’t really ‘all-season.’ They’re more of a compromise between hot and cold climates. If you experience regular heavy snowfall, all-seasons won’t perform as well as winter ones. However, for relatively-mild climates and the average commuter, all-seasons will likely be all you need.
For dry-weather conditions, CR recommends 3 different kinds of Michelin all-season tires. For passenger cars, there’s the Michelin Defender T+H. Reviewers noted it made very little noise and has a long tread life of 90,000 miles. Plus, although it delivers ‘very good’ dry braking and handling results, it also performed well in CR’s hydroplaning test.
For pickup truck and SUV owners, CR’s best dry-weather all-season is the Michelin Premier LTX. It received excellent noise ratings, and its low rolling resistance makes for improved fuel economy. Also, if you do find yourself getting rained on, it has better wet grip than its competitors. However, CR notes its tread life of 40,000 miles is below-average.
Finally, for those interested in sportier driving and handling, there’s the Michelin CrossClimate +. Although it’s an all-season, CR calls its behavior “outstanding,” with ‘very good’ performance in everything from dry braking and handling to hydroplaning, noise, and even ride comfort. In addition, it also has a fairly-good tread life of 75,000 miles.
Best ultra-high-performance tires
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A step up from performance tires is UHP ones. These give up winter traction, and some measure of ride comfort, in favor of maximum grip and handling. Especially summer tires, which are formulated to withstand higher temperatures, such as on a racetrack, than all-seasons.
However, when it comes to UHP all-seasons, it’s tough to top the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3+. True, CR reports it is somewhat noisier on-road. However, when it comes to street-friendly performance tires, Motor Trend reports, Michelin’s Pilot Sport line is the usual recommendation. Tire Rack reports the Pilot Sport A/S 3+ out-performed its Continental, Goodyear, and Bridgestone competitors in dry-weather handling and braking, as well as in wet traction.
Even more impressive is the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S UHP summer tire. The Drive, R&T, and Automobile Magazine rave about it. It grips so well, Automobile reports, that it can actually be too much tire for some low-power sports cars, like the Toyota 86. R&T reports the tire grips and handles well even in the rain. It’s also, CR reports, one of the few UHP tires with a treadwear rating.
Best winter tires
Unlike some other winter tires, CR notes the Falken HS449 Eurowinter behaves fairly well in dry conditions. Although it’s best-suited to wet and snowy roads, the HS449 received ‘good’ ratings in CR’s dry handling and braking tests. Ride comfort was also rated as ‘good’, though it is somewhat noisy.
If you have a more performance-oriented car, though, or even an SUV, CR’s best winter dry-weather performance tire is the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4. It’s a bit less comfortable than the Falken, though it’s actually quieter. In addition, the Alpin PA4 beat out the Falken in dry handling and braking, as well as wet braking. Plus, the Michelins have a treadwear rating of 30,000 miles.
Although all-terrains aren’t quite as good off-road as mud tires, they are better-suited than highway-terrain ones. True, A/T treads are generally more focused on flinging away mud, gravel, and dirt, which can hamper on-road performance. However, that also means they can handle both wet and dry conditions.
For off-roading trucks and SUVs, CR’s best dry-weather A/T is the Continental TerrainContact A/T. It helps that, in an interview with Truck Trend, Continental’s Director of Marketing Travis Roffler claimed the TerrainContact was designed “for the driver who spends roughly 90 percent of their time on-road and 10 percent off-road.” As such, it delivers ‘very good’ dry handling and braking performance, and is fairly quiet for an off-road tire. It also has an above-average tread life of 65,000 miles.
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