AKRON-Goodyear's Aquatred placed first in stopping and cornering ability among a field of 10 all-season and wet-traction tires tested by Consumer Reports, according to the magazine's February issue. The Aquatred was rated ``excellent'' overall. Its nearest rival-the Bridgestone Turanza S-was judged ``very good'' in the publication's comparative tests.
Other tires tested (listed in descending order according to their overall scores) were: the Dunlop Axiom, General Hydro 2000, BFGoodrich Advantage, Sears Roadhandler Plus made by Michelin, Firestone FR680, Michelin XH4, Goodyear Invicta GS and General Ameri-Tech ST. All the tires tested were size P185/70R14.
Consumer Reports described the Aquatred as a ``fine performer wet and dry,'' whose wet braking deteriorated ``only a little'' after its tread was half worn.
Both the Aquatred and the General Hydro 2000 aquachannel tire were described as ``among the noisiest of the group.'' However, testers did not find the tires' noise objectionable, the publication said.
The Bridgestone Turanza was described as a ``quiet tire''-``excellent overall''-and capable of the shortest stopping distance on dry and the second shortest on wet pavement, while cornering well whether new or half-worn.
The tests were conducted using a Mazda 626, whose antilock brake system is easily disabled, permitting testers to record results with and without the antilock feature engaged.
Braking tests included a series of stops from 60 mph on dry pavement and from 40 mph on wet surfaces.
Cornering tests consisted of driving faster and faster around a circular skid pad over both dry and wet pavement until the tires lost their grip.
Testers did not check for tread life expectancy, load capacity or temperature rating inasmuch as the federal government requires manufacturers to evaluate and note those characteristics on the tire's sidewall, the publication explained.
To determine how each tire's performance might change after its tread becomes worn down, testers reduced the original depth by half on samples of every model and then repeated their braking and cornering tests.
The best performers in the group-the Goodyear Aquatred and Bridgestone Turanza-braked shortest under both wet and dry conditions, according to Consumer Reports. The group's best tires stopped 12 feet shorter than the worst at 40 mph and 13 feet shorter with the antilock brakes engaged.
With the ABS turned off, the shaved General Hydro 2000 and the BFGoodrich Advantage stopped in the shortest distance.
On dry pavement, all the half-worn tires braked and cornered better than when new. And on wet pavement with the car's antilock brakes engaged, all 10 shaved tires likewise stopped in from two to eight feet less distance than when new.
These findings could prove significant in view of competitors' assertions that the Aquatred, in particular, loses much of its wet traction superiority when worn.
One such competitor, Michelin North America, challenged the validity of Consumers Reports' findings-contending the publication had chosen the wrong Michelin tire, the XH4, for comparison with the Aquatred in its tests.
``Consumer Reports should have tested the Michelin MX4, a premium all-season tire that emphasizes wet traction,'' according to a Michelin statement.
If the publication had chosen tires of like purpose and specification-or included wear testing in its comparisons-``we believe their results would have been quite different,'' Michelin said.