AKRON—Consumer Reports magazine rated the Michelin Arctic Alpin tops among eight winter passenger tires and called the BFGoodrich Radial Long Trail T/A the best all-season tire for sport utility vehicles. The magazine, in its November 1999 issue, said it tested all-season rather than true winter tires for SUVs because the four-wheel-drive capability of such vehicles generally makes the more aggressive winter designs unnecessary.
Testers compared the performance of eight winter tires on a 1999 Ford Contour SE, rating the Michelin Arctic Alpin "best in all-around performance" under various winter and summer driving conditions.
The Arctic Alpin provided better traction on ice and snow plus a softer ride than its competitors, the publication said.
Goodyear's recently introduced Ultra Grip Ice placed a "close second" to Michelin's Arctic Alpin in the winter tire category. But CR said tests showed the Ultra Grip Ice "isn't as versatile" as the Arctic Alpin and that it demonstrated "sluggish, unresponsive emergency handling."
Meanwhile, the third-placed Bridgestone Blizzak, the fourth-placed Pirelli Winter Ice Asimmetrico and fifth-placed Firestone Winterfire all were described by the magazine as "very good choices."
The Firestone Winterfire also was the only winter tire among those tested that is designed to facilitate installation of metal tire studs.
In related testing, technicians also measured the effectiveness of metal studs in braking on asphalt, concrete and ice surfaces.
When equipped with studded tires and its ABS engaged, the test car was brought to a halt in 20-percent shorter distance than without studs. With the ABS disengaged and equipped with studded tires, the same car stopped almost 40-percent shorter than without studs.
Other winter tires tested included the Dunlop Graspic HS-1, Yokohama Guardex 600 and Cooper Weather-Master XGR.
In CR's all-season SUV tire tests, the No. 1-ranked BFGoodrich Radial Long Trail T/A demonstrated "outstanding braking performance across the board," the publication said.
Yokohama's Geolandar H/T placed second in the all-season category, followed by the Michelin LTX M/S, Dunlop Radial Rover A/T, Cooper Discoverer Radial STE and Goodyear Wrangler RF-A in that order.
The publication called Yokohama's Geolandar H/T a "three-season tire with outstanding wet and dry braking performance.|.|.excellent where winters are mild, but not a good bet for snow or ice."
Michelin's LTX M/S was described as a "very good all-season tire, but expensive" at an average retail price of $105.
Dunlop's Radial Rover A/T, considered an all-season tire by the manufacturer despite its all-terrain designation, was described by the publication as "very good overall.|.|.especially competent on wet and dry pavement, but unimpressive in snow."
The Cooper Discoverer Radial STE, which soon will be replaced by the Discoverer H/T, provided the "best snow traction" in the test group. However, the publication said the tire "falls down on wet pavement and handles sloppily."
Goodyear's Wrangler RF-A, meanwhile, was described as "good, but unexceptional" and "noisier than most on smooth pavement."
Also, the front- and rear-wheel versions of the Wrangler RF-A have differing tread designs—and the manufacturer doesn't recommend rotating them, the publication said.