Who is Cy

Hi, I'm Cy Chowattukunnel (in old country language, my last name means he who knows all about tires). I'm entering my 10th year at the Tire Rack.  So far it's been a great ride. I've enjoyed working with drivers across the country and around the world.

All-Season Tires for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG

Friday, March 7, 2014 by Cy Chowattukunnel

With sophisticated all-wheel drive, traction control and weighing 5,622 pounds, you'd expect the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG to dominate in the snow. Surprisingly, this isn't the case because there are no all-season or winter tire choices made in the vehicle's 275/50R20 Original Equipment size. 

Do you own one of these amazing SUVs, but a few inches of snow have you sliding? It's time to get creative with your next tire purchase. 285/50R20 is about 1/2" wider, 3/10" larger in overall diameter, and meets the G63's Load Carrying capacity requirements and fits on the Original Equipment AMG rims. Going with the 285/50R20 size provides you with many dedicated winter / snow and all-season tire options. Snowbelt drivers who want their G63 to excel in the snow should install a set of snow tires.

Even those who reside in a warmer climate, such as Atlanta, should consider all-season tires for their Mercedes-Benz. For a great combination of wet grip, decent light snow traction and good overall handling, the Continental CrossContact LX20 with EcoPlus Technology is hard to beat. Another great option to consider is the Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza Plus.

Crossover/SUV Touring All-Season Continental CrossContact LX20 $168*
Continental CrossContact LX20
with EcoPlus Technology
Crossover/SUV Touring All-Season Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza Plus $233*
Bridgestone Dueler H/L
Alenza Plus


For more assistance in finding a good set of tires for your vehicle, read "Selecting the Right Tires."

Good Tires From Kumho, Hankook, Sumitomo and General

Thursday, February 20, 2014 by Cy Chowattukunnel

In the tire game, Kumho, Hankook, Sumitomo and General may not be common household names to some, but our testing and customer feedback proves they make some great tires. How do they do this? Specialization. 

The vehicle market is so diverse, making it a huge challenge for a single tire manufacturer to engineer the right tire for every car, SUV, crossover and light truck. It's not easy to fine-tune tires appropriate for the Ford F-150, FIAT 500 and the vast spectrum of vehicles in between. The end result is specific tires dominating in specialized areas.

Are you searching for great steering response, good wet grip and value in a sporty size? If so, the Kumho Ecsta 4X needs to be on your list. Do you put heavy emphasis on treadwear and light snow traction? Take a look at the Hankook Optimo H727. When looking for a 315/35R17 tire for the back axle of your muscle car, it's hard to beat the Sumitomo HTR Z's combination of value and performance. Finally, if you're looking for a tire at a reasonable price, with good wet grip and a cool tread design, check out the General G-MAX AS-03.

Ultra High Performance All-Season Kumho Ecsta 4X
Kumho Ecsta 4X
Standard Touring All-Season Hankook Optimo H727
Hankook Optimo H727
Ultra High Performance Summer Sumitomo HTRZ
Sumitomo HTR Z
Ultra High Performance All-Season General G-Max AS-03
General G-MAX AS-03


To learn more about what tire is a good match for your vehicle, read "Selecting the Right Tires."

Big Improvements in Snow Traction for Your 2014 Porsche Cayenne GTS

Thursday, February 6, 2014 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Our test BMWs are fun, but I have really enjoyed our Porsche Cayennes. For a large SUV, the Cayenne can really move. It's a Porsche, so the power is to be expected, but the cornering stability at this size and with this weight is a pleasant surprise.

If you've recently picked up a 2014 Porsche Cayenne GTS (Turbo S model is pictured), I'm sure you've also been impressed. Once winter arrived, you quickly discovered that the Original Equipment 295/35R21 Max Performance Summer tires lack even minimum cold weather competence. Don't be too hard on them, their specialty is great dry and wet grip. That's why you need to find the right winter tire for your new Porsche.

Winter / Snow Tire Category

Since tire engineers balance snow grip with dry road handling, it's helpful to ask yourself the following questions as you make your choice:

  1. How severe do winters in your area tend to be?
  2. How often will you drive on icy and hard-packed snow roads?
  3. How spirited of a driver are you?

Performance Winter / Snow Wheel & Tire Package

Many spirited drivers in the light blue region of our snowfall map rarely see ice-covered roads for a long period of time, so they are best served by options in the Performance Winter / Snow category. The ideal Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package for a spirited driver would be the 275/45R20 Pirelli Scorpion Ice & Snow on the 20x10 5-130 45ET silver painted Andros Spec P.

275/45-20 Pirelli Scorpion Ice and Snow N0 $317**
275/45R20 Pirelli Scorpion
Ice & Snow
20x10 5-130 45ET Silver Andros Spec P $229**
20x10 5-130 45ET Silver Painted
Andros Spec P


With the 275/45R20 being about one inch narrower than your O.E. 295/35R21, it's skinny enough to handle a deep snow blizzard, yet wide enough for your Cayenne GTS to remain fun on good weather days.

Studless Ice & Snow Tire & Package

Moderate drivers in the dark blue region of the map who frequently experiences icy roads should search for a tire from the Studless Ice & Snow category. The optimal package for this driver is the 255/55R18 Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2 on 18x8 5-130 50ET silver painted Sport Edition TX8 wheels.

255/55-18 Michelin Latitude X-ICE Xi2 $160**
255/55R18 Michelin Latitude
X-Ice Xi2
18x8 5-130 50ET Silver Sport Edition TX8 $155**
18x8 5-130 50ET Silver Painted
Sport Edition TX8


255/55R18 is approximately 1.5" narrower than your O.E. 295/35R21 and provides more emphasis on deeper snow traction. Among the 255/55R18 Studless Ice & Snow options, the Latitude X-Ice Xi2 does the best job at balancing ice and packed snow grip with dry road handling.

Create your ideal Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package today!

Wheel Options for Your New White Vehicle

Friday, January 31, 2014 by Cy Chowattukunnel

When it comes to choosing a new vehicle, I prefer one with a darker color, such as BRG or Galaxy Blue Silica. However, white is a great color as well, and many drivers chose this color for their new vehicle in 2013.

If you're happy with your new vehicle's white color, but not thrilled with how the Original Equipment wheels blend with it, choosing a new wheel finish can really improve the look of your car. Are you struggling with what option to choose? No worries! Our website allows you to shop by vehicle and view all wheels that are a fit for your new vehicle. Once you enter your vehicle's year, make and model, our Upgrade Garage will isolate compatible wheels. And to help make your purchase easier, you can view how the wheel will look on your vehicle!

What happens when you put a machined finished wheel on a vehicle with white body paint? When you're about 30 yards away from the vehicle, the machined surfaces will almost color match with the white body.

As you can see in the photo above, the result is a distinctive, contemporary, yet refined look. Style, of course, is ultimately a matter of individual taste. As long your new wheels make you happy, you've made the right choice.

Don't Let a Little Snow Stop Your Ford Fiesta ST

Friday, January 24, 2014 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Did you visit your Ford dealer to test drive a Focus ST but end up with a 2014 Fiesta ST instead? You can't go wrong either way, however it's hard not to be swayed by the Fiesta ST's amazing power-to-weight ratio. 197 horsepower moving a mere 2,720 pounds gives you go-kart handling with plenty of power.

This is all fun until winter, as the vehicle's low curb weight and 205/40R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE050A Max Performance Summer tires make winter driving almost impossible.


Winter / Snow Tire Size:

There will be some variance in sizes depending on where you live, but most Fiesta ST drivers are best served by running 185/60R15 in the winter. This size gives you a footprint that's about 1" narrower, while maintaining the same overall tire diameter. Narrower tires will cut through moderate and deeper snow while providing good grip in packed snow and on ice.

Wheel Choice:

Ford does an amazing job channeling all that power without losing the battle to excessive torque steer (the tendency of a vehicle to veer straight ahead under hard acceleration). Ideally, you'll want to stay close to your 17x7" Original Equipment wheel's 47.5 mm offset. In theory, a significantly lower offset wheel will add torque steer. 

Tire & Wheel Package

Using the above information, if I had a Fiesta ST, I'd order a set of 185/60R15 Michelin X-Ice Xi3 tires on 15x6" 47mm offset steel wheels.

185/60-15 Studless Ice and Snow Michelin X-ICE Xi3 $103*
185/60R15 Michelin X-Ice Xi3
15x6 47ET Steel Wheel $50*
15x6" Steel Wheel


View all winter options available for your Ford Fiesta ST and create a Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package today!

Surviving Winter 2014: Snow Driving Tips from Tire Rack

Friday, January 17, 2014 by Cy Chowattukunnel

When your driveway is covered with a foot of snow and it's -15 degrees below 0, it's definitely winter. Making this winter even more daunting is the persistently icy roads. Road salt won't melt anything at temperatures this cold. However, with the right driving technique and proper tires, driving in these conditions doesn't have to be so difficult.

What are the correct techniques for safe winter driving? We recently collaborated with Fox 28 South Bend to review some basic winter driving rules.

In this super quick and condensed lesson, our resident tire guru, John Rastetter, explains the keys to smooth winter driving:

  1. Maintain the proper speed for road conditions
  2. Allow enough braking distance
  3. Steer in the direction you want to go

As John points out, traction control helps dramatically. I suspect if John had more time in the interview, he would have talked about correcting a skid on a vehicle without traction control. If the rear end of your vehicle starts fishtailing to the left as you're making a right turn, quickly turn your wheel to the left to stop the skid. Once the vehicle stops skidding, straighten out the wheel to complete your turn. This is easier said than done as we saw in the video.

Of course, having the right tires means you're less likely to be skidding in the first place. Make sure you have optimal dedicated winter / snow tires or all-season tires with above-average snow proficiency for their category. As John points out, checking the tread depth and air pressure of your tires is very important, too.

While -15ºF isn't easy to deal with, driving in tough winter conditions doesn't have to be so hard when you have winter tires!

Stop Slipping in the Snow! The Optimal Snow Tire Solution for the 2014 Audi SQ5

Friday, January 3, 2014 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Did you get a 2014 Audi SQ5 to fill your need for compact crossover speed? With 354 hp and 346 ft-lbs of torque channeled through Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive, you've got the power to haul.

All good fun until the weatherman calls for some snow. Now, you find your SQ5 slipping and sliding instead of stopping on a dime. You have stressfully discovered that your Original Equipment 255/40R21 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GTs (most common O.E. tire) are lacking snow grip. No worries, with just a few clicks on our website, your SQ5 will be good to go in the snow.

Winter / Snow Tire Size

Your Original Equipment Dunlops are not going to perform in snow because their summer compound turns brittle at cold temperatures coupled with a tread size consisting of large tread blocks without biting edges and sipes. A few of you may need to tweak your snow tire widths, but most snowbelt drivers are best served by staying with 255 width tires. The SQ5's 4550 lb. curb weight limits the utility of going skinnier, especially given the spirited nature of many SQ5 drivers.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

As you enter your SQ5 make and model information in our website's Upgrade Garage, we'll ask whether or not you have rubber or metal valve stems. Please go out to your SQ5 and tug at your valve stems. If they move they're rubber, if they don't, they're metal. If they're rubber, your SQ5 uses the ABS-based Indirect TPMS, if they're metal, you'll need Direct TPMS sensors available at $81 per corner. Neither system requires dealer initialization.

Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package

255/50-19 Michelin Latitude X-ICE Xi2 $265*
255/50R19 Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2
Bright Silver Sport Edition WX5 $159
Bright Silver Sport Edition WX5


I like the Studless Ice & Snow Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2's balance of ice and packed snow grip combined with decent dry road handling. The Sport Edition WX5 provides good value along with being a great match to the SQ5's overall styling.

Now you've got the power and control to make your SQ5 handle anything winter may bring.

Are You a Spirited Driver? Know Before Deciding on Which Winter Tire to Purchase.

Friday, December 13, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

As you make your winter / snow tire choice based on performance categories, reviews and input from our sales specialists, it's also helpful to do some self-scouting on how you drive.

For example, if you tell our Tire Decision Guide that you're shopping for tires, it'll ask you some of the following questions:

  1. Will this vehicle be driving in the snow?
  2. Do you want the best snow and ice traction?
  3. Are you willing to trade some snow and ice traction for enhanced handling on wet and dry roads?

By answering these questions, we'll narrow down your choices and lead you to the tires that are right for you. Once you answer the questions, you can compare results, view lists sorted by performance category and see our top recommendations.

What do we mean by enhanced handling? Handling includes dry lateral (cornering) grip, dry longitudinal (braking and acceleration) grip, wet lateral grip, wet longitudinal grip, steering response and cornering stability. The level of proficiency you need in these areas ultimately depends on how spirited of a driver you are.

If you're a spirited driver and live in an area where roads are plowed frequently, you may want to consider a winter tire from the Performance Winter / Snow category. Tires in this performance category were originally developed for winter driving on European highways where high-speed driving on clear roads must be combined with traction on snow-covered roads. These tires are available on many of the low sidewall profile, large wheel diameter sizes used on sporty coupes and luxury sedans, as well as several crossover and sport utility vehicles.

Do you reside in an area that receives a large amount of snow and ice? Are you not a very spirited driver? Then options in the Studless Ice & Snow performance category are probably best for you. These tires meet the challenges of winter driving conditions by delivering studded-like snow and ice traction without employing noisy, road-damaging studs. Tires from this category feature pliable tread compounds molded into purposeful tread designs that trade some handling in dry and wet conditions to deliver excellent snow and ice traction.

You shouldn't always drive spiritedly, but when you do, drive on the right tires.

Is Narrower Always Better When it Comes to Winter / Snow Tires?

Friday, November 8, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Recently, I received a call from a longtime Tire Rack customer who was looking for a new set of winter / snow tires for his hybrid SUV. He was surprised to see our Preferred Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package didn't feature a narrower tire size. Many drivers benefit from a narrow tires ability to cut through deeper snow, but every driver needs to weigh both the advantages and disadvantages of a narrower size. Below you will find what you need to consider when you assess whether or not to go narrow.

Across the snowbelt, there's a wide variance in the intensity and frequency of deep snow blizzards. If you're not residing in the darkest blue areas in the map above, you have to weigh how much grip you’ll lose with a narrower tire on dry roads. All snow tires, especially those in the Studless Ice & Snow category, will sacrifice dry grip and the narrower footprint will exacerbate this loss.

The weight of your car also will play a role in your selection. Does it have all-wheel drive to power through snow? Narrower snow tires are particularly helpful on lightweight cars like the MINI Cooper because you end up with more weight per square inch of contact patch; and more weight equals more grip. Your narrower snow tires will let you cut through deep snow. With a heavier car like the Toyota FJ Cruiser, you can run a moderate size and still be fine. 

For additional help in choosing the right winter tire, read "Size Selection of Winter / Snow Tires."

Changed My Mind and Went With the Enkei Performance Series Falcon

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

When it came time to purchase wheels for my new vehicle, I thought I had my mind made up. After my research, I was ready to buy the 17x8" 45 ET gunmetal with machined lip Enkei Tuning Series Tenjin. It met all my requirements as far as function, style and finish. However, deep down, I knew my gut was telling me to go with a brighter finish and look for something different. While the Enkei Tenjin is a great wheel, I knew that it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. As we all know, wheels are about personal preference!

After I changed my mind, I went ahead and purchased the hyper silver with machined lip 17x7" 45 ET Enkei Performance Series Falcon (the Falcon is also available in 16", 18" and 20" rim diameters). I think they're a perfect complement to my vehicle and I like how the sharp edges of the wheel flows with the Civic Si's angular lines.

One change I did make was switching the center cap to one from Honda. It's not a perfect fit but my original Honda center cap can be squeezed in. In the near future, I will mill down the perimeter of the Honda caps for a better fit.

When the time comes for you to make your next wheel purchase, take a look at the wide range of styles from around the world we offer.

Replacement Tires for Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Friday, October 25, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Earlier this year, I went to my niece's high school graduation. Unfortunately, after I left to come back home, my brother experienced a tire issue. On Sunday afternoon, he found himself dealing with the problems you can see in the photos below:

Mouseover Text Here
Tire Puncture
Land Rover Ranger Sport Tire Woes Inner Tire Wear
Inner Tire Wear
Land Rover Ranger Sport Tire Woes Inner Tire Wear Top View
Inner Tire Wear


My sister-in-law's 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Sport already has 25,000 miles on it. And since there was a small diameter wound in the center of the tread, this puncture could be repaired if it didn't have abnormal wear. As you can see, there's excessive wear on the inner shoulder exposing the belt edge strip and sidewall plies. The inner wear could be a pattern with the vehicle's chassis or the alignment is off and running too much negative camber. My brother or sister-in-law should have their dealer check the alignment. If they get the vehicle aligned, the paper will clearly point out what alignment specification was corrected.

I told him that the punctured tire needed to be replaced because of the risk of tread separation at the excessive wear point. It was also advised that he have the other tires checked. He checked and found the same excessive wear on the inside of the other tires. The tires may not have even been rotated and should have been rotated every 5,000 miles.

Of course he emailed me asking what tires he should use to replace his current set. I provided him with the following two options:

  1. Purchase four 275/40ZR20 Michelin Latitude Tour HP tires at $356* each plus shipping. He could rotate the symmetrical non-directional Latitude Tour HPs every 5,000 miles in the X-Pattern. Treadwear will vary with driving style, road conditions and other factors, however my sister-in-law should be able to get more lift from the Latitude Tour HP's all-season compound.
  2. The second option suggested was a set of Yokohama Parada Spec-X tires for $192* plus shipping. It combines impressive looks and confident handling with year-round traction in a wide range of weather conditions, including light snow.  

Shop by vehicle to view all the recommendations for your application.

*Prices subject to change

235/40R19 XL Studless Ice & Snow Dunlop Graspic DS-3 for Your Audi

Thursday, October 24, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Are you a snowbelt driver with a new Audi Quattro A5, S5 or RS5 with Original Equipment 255/35R19 XL (Extra Load) summer tires? This winter will you encounter your fair share of packed snow and ice on your daily commute? Your best solution is a set of dedicated Studless Ice & Snow tires. Compared to Performance Winter / Snow tires, you'll give up some dry road handling to achieve outstanding grip in the worst winter conditions.

Your Original Equipment 255/35R19 tires have a 26" overall diameter. In a perfect tire world we'd want winter / snow tires with a comparable diameter. This winter season, take a look at Dunlop's 235/40R19 Graspic DS-3 (26.3"). This size will fit on your O.E. Audi 19x8.5" wheels or you can build a Winter Wheel & Tire Package to get the exact look you want.

Many of you may wonder what the "XL" on your tires stand for. Extra Load (XL) means a tire has reinforced construction allowing it to carry more weight than a Standard Load tire of the same size. For instance, the 235/40R19 XL Dunlop Graspic DS-3 and 235/40R19 Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 N-Spec, both have the same air volume, however Dunlop's XL construction allows it to carry a max load of 1,565 lbs. per tire compared to Michelin's max load of 1,389 lbs.

Many Audi's are equipped with XL tires as Original Equipment, so it's critical that your winter / snow tires meet or surpass factory load carrying requirements.

Which Winter Performance Category Is Right for You?

Thursday, October 10, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Are you in the blue? Then it's time to find the winter / snow tire that works best for your vehicle. In order to purchase the correct snow tire, you should decide which performance category works best for your driving style and the winter weather you experience. There are three winter performance categories: Studless Ice & Snow, Studdable Winter / Snow and Performance Winter / Snow.

Studless Ice & Snow

Tires from this category give you optimum ice and packed snow grip, but are less responsive on dry roads. The tires trade a little handling for excellent ice and snow traction. On dry roads, your vehicle will not respond as crisply or quickly to steering inputs. Studless Ice & Snow tires are available in higher profile sizes and include the following:

If you go with a Studless Ice & Snow tire, you should consider going with a narrower tire as it cuts through deeper snow better. This is especially true for a lighter car like the MINI Cooper.

Studdable Winter / Snow

Studdable Winter / Snow tires can be run studded or unstudded. When studded, they'll give good ice and packed snow grip, but will be less responsive on dry roads. When unstudded, they'll perform well in moderate and deep snow. It's important to note that the use of studded tires may be prohibited or restricted in your area, be sure to check with local authorities to confirm legality. If you're looking for the traditional security of winter tire studs for enhanced traction on ice, consider the following Studdable Winter / Snow options:

The AltiMAX Arctic is slightly better on ice and packed snow and quieter than the the Winterforce. Winterforce tires will provide more effectiveness in deeper snow.

Performance Winter / Snow

These tires will exhibit the above dry road deficiencies to a much lesser degree. If your vehicle came with summer performance tires, the Performance Winter / Snow tires will be more comparable in steering response, acceleration, grip, braking and cornering grip. They will give up some ice and packed snow grip. Tires in this category will wear slightly better compared to Studless Ice & Snow tires, especially during the early and late winter days when temperatures are a little warmer. All winter / snow tires will have more tread noise and this will vary from tire to tire. Performance Winter / Snow tires do tend to be quieter than the other performance categories.

Available in lower profile sizes, the following Performance Winter / Snow tires are great options:

Is a Studless Ice & Snow, Studdable Winter / Snow or a Performance Winter / Snow tire right for your vehicle? It depends on your car, where you live, how you drive on dry roads and how you want to balance the above compromises. For example, my brother lives in Marion, Indiana, which is about an hour northeast of Indianapolis. He got the Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 Studless Ice & Snow tire in 235/40R18 on Sport Edition A7 wheels for his 2008 BMW M3. He chose this tire because central Indiana is more apt to get ice storms and there's the potential for heavier snow that wouldn't be quickly cleared from the country roads between his offices. He's willing to drive slower on dry roads.

Compare my brother's driving situation with another driver from Louisville with the same car but a heavier foot, he would be better served with the Performance Winter / Snow Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D tires in 235/40R18 front and 255/40R18 rear. Louisville's milder weather allows him to emphasize dry road performance, but still have emergency snow capability.

Let it snow.

 

Michelin Pilot Super Sport vs Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2

Friday, October 4, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

In between owning my BRZ and Civic Si, I thought about purchasing a Volkswagen MK6 Golf 2.5. Yes, the MK7 is right around the corner, but newer isn't always better. Naturally I started to wonder what 225/45R17 Max Performance Summer tires would be a good choice for my hypothetical MK6?

The Michelin Pilot Super Sport would still be my first choice for its crisp, immediate and linear response. I'd also look at the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 as a great value option, as it's currently on special.

225/45-17 Goodyear Eagle F2 Asymmetric 2 $100*
225/45R17 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2
$100*
225/45-17 Michelin Pilot Super Sport $158*
225/45R17 Michelin Pilot Super Sport
$158*


Both tires tested well with the Michelin coming in first overall. The Goodyear option had impressive traction and was especially strong in the wet. If you drive your vehicle to its full potential, then the Michelin Pilot Super Sport is the tire for you. If you take it a little easier but want a great tire, you can't beat the value of the Goodyear option. Many MK6 2.5 drivers will be happy with this tire for its combination of value and steering response.

Shop by vehicle to view all options available for your Volkswagen MK6.

*Prices subject to change

Michelin Takes the Pilot Sport A/S Plus and Makes it Better With the Pilot Sport A/S 3

Thursday, September 26, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Have you been tempted by great test results and feedback of the Michelin Pilot Super Sport, but need light snow traction, longer treadwear and more emphasis on lower tread noise? Sounds like you're looking for the Ultra High Performance All-Season version of the Pilot Super Sport -- the new Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3.

Michelin's internal testing shows marked improvement in dry and wet grip compared to its predecessor, the Pilot Sport A/S Plus. We've just completed our comprehensive comparison testing of the tire and the consensus is the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 beat its three main rivals, the Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position, Continental ExtremeContact DWS and Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetrical All-Season. For a complete recap of our test, read "Testing the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 - Can It Set a New Performance Benchmark for All-Season Tires?"

What about the tire's snow traction? Michelin engineers have added biting edges in the grooves to improve snow grip and used their Helio compound to keep the compound more malleable at cold temperatures. For most drivers, especially those with milder winters, the new Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 is the optimal Ultra High Performance All-Season choice.

Michelin has gone from a directional (V-shaped) tread pattern in the Pilot Sport A/S Plus to a non-directional asymmetrical (bigger outside shoulder) tread design with the Pilot Sport A/S 3. Their engineers use a varying number of longitudinal grooves to create a tread design that will resist hydroplaning and allow for cross-rotation, leading to more even wear. 205 or narrower tires have four ribs (rows of tread blocks), 205-255 width tires have five ribs and 295-265 width tires have six ribs. In the photo below, you can see some examples of the tread design differences. Pictured from left to right are 195/55R16, 235/45R17 and 275/35R20.

What are the Best Tire Brands?

Thursday, September 19, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

With millions of vehicles sold in the United States last year ranging from FIAT 500s to Ford F-150s, drivers have a myriad of choices. Shouldn't they also be able to have their tires their way, too? In a perfect tire world, every tire manufacturer would engineer the optimal tire for every car and driver. However, the market is very large and competitive, and instead of a few brands dominating all segments, there are all-stars that excel in their niches.

Even though Michelin was the first tire company to commercialize the radial tire back in 1948, all major tire manufacturers have the same core technology, such as radial ply construction, steel belts, etc. They often use the same or similar materials with some noteworthy exceptions, for example polyamide. As you research tires, judge a tire by how well it's been engineered for your specific needs.

Taking a look at the hypothetical case of Maria from Burnsville, Minnesota, she drives 16,000 miles per year in her 2009 Honda Civic EX Sedan which came with the 205/55R16 Original Equipment size. Her daily commute consists of two miles of suburban roads before hopping on the interstate for 25 miles of highway driving to reach work. She normally drives about five miles above the posted speed limit and has never received a speeding ticket.

What does Maria need in her tires?

  1. Snow grip - It's Minnesota! Running dedicate winter / snow tires during the winter is the best choice for her during the colder months.
  2. Wet grip - Spring showers will cause her to need adequate wet grip to brake, corner and accelerate properly in the rain.
  3. Treadwear - Since Maria drives quite a bit, she's needs a tire that combines good treadwear and has enough grip to stop quickly.
  4. Low tread noise and a good ride -  She's in her car over one hour each day, she needs a tire with low tread noise and the ability to ride well over bumps. Tire noise is heavily dependent on vehicle design and ride compliance will inherently be challenged in short wheelbase cars.
  5. Relative efficiency - One reason she got the Civic was because of its fuel efficiency. It would be helpful to have a tire that's engineered for efficiency even though tire choice is only a partial factor of fuel economy with speed, air pressure and other things coming into play.  

What tire is best for Maria? Based on our summer and winter testing, I would recommend the Bridgestone Ecopia EP422. To find the tire that's best for you car, shop by vehicle.

Great Grip at Great Pricing - Closeout Pricing on Hankook Ventus R-S3

Friday, August 9, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Although Extreme Performance Summer tires have stepped up their game, the old stalwarts of the category still provide great dry grip for your fun car. Like all Extreme Performance Summer tires, the Hankook R-S3 emphasizes dry grip and steering response at the expense of wear, ride compliance and tread noise. It's a great tire for spirited drivers. The R-S3 has always provided a great mix of dry performance and value. Now, closeout pricing in select sizes has made a great deal even better.

Do you have a PCA lapping day coming up for your 911? 285/35ZR18 tires have been marked down to $159*, 235/35ZR19s to $182 and 305/30ZR19s to $229*. Did you just pick up a Nissan 370Z? The 225/40ZR19 is currently available for $149* and the 245/40ZR19 for $159*.

You may also notice that some R-S3 tire specs show a 140 UTQG Treadwear rating, where others are now 200 rated. When the Ventus R-S3 was introduced in the spring of 2009, Hankook assigned the 140 rating to match the UTQG Treadwear rating required by existing competition rules. However, subsequent Hankook wear data revealed the tire line provided equivalent wear to its predecessor (Ventus R-S2) and earned the same 200 Treadwear rating. This has also been supported by Tire Rack survey results and customer feedback that indicate Ventus R-S3 tires provide equivalent wear to other tires already featuring similar UTQG Treadwear ratings. Where there was no change in compound or internal construction, some of the 140 rated tires are now discounted a little to help clear them out.

*Prices subject to change

Great Extreme Performance Summer Tires

Thursday, August 1, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Ranking the top three quarterback in the NFL is tough. Is Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady the best? Answers may vary across the country, but even neutral observers will be hard pressed to say who's the best.

That's how I felt after finishing our widely anticipated Extreme Performance Summer test. They're all great across the board and it's pretty hard to declare a clear number one.

BF Goodrich g-Force Rival
BFGoodrich g-Force
Rival
Dunlop Direzza Z2
Dunlop Direzza
ZII
Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 R
Yokohama ADVAN Neova
AD08 R


The BFGoodrich g-Force Rival, Dunlop Direzza ZII and Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08 R were the top three tires and all provided crisp, immediate and linear steering response that really performed well through the five-cone slalom section of our test. Compared to these three, the Bridgestone Potenza RE-11A's steering response wasn't quite as crisp. Our opinions varied, however I like the predictability of both the BFGoodrich g-Force Rival and Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08 R.

Our test writer had the difficult task of sorting through subjective assessments and data to anoint a winner. Our official results show the g-Force Rival taking first, the Dunlop Direzza ZII in second and Yokohama's AD08 R finishing third. Amongst those three, it's a photo finish when it comes to overall dry lap times as .22 seconds separated them.

If the BFGoodrich g-Force Rival isn't made in your vehicle's size, the Dunlop Direzza ZII and Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08 R are both more than capable. The RE-11A is a worthy competitor that could use a little more dry traction, but overall it's a great Extreme Performance Sumer tire.

For complete test results, read "Testing Extreme Performance Summer Tires: The Boys of Summer Are Here."

What Are the Best Wheels for a 2013 Polished Metal Metallic Honda Civic Si Sedan?

Thursday, July 18, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Great handling, fast enough to get to work on time, a dipstick, sunroof and the ability to run 225/45R17 tires as a natural size, that's what I wanted in my next car that was replacing my BRZ.

I just got back from Cocoa, Florida in my new 2013 polished metal metallic Honda Civic Si Sedan, so everything is good to go with my new Honda, right? Not quite, as I'm not a huge fan of the 17x7 45mm offset Original Equipment wheels. I also have a set of 225/45ZR17 Michelin Pilot Super Sports in my basement, which leaves me halfway to the set-up I desire. How do I know when I've found the right wheel? It's the option that provides a combination of function, style and finish. 

Function:

In a perfect world, I'd want the same offset as the Original Equipment, because in theory, a lower offset wheel will add torque steer to a front-wheel drive Civic Si. I prefer a 45mm offset wheel, however it'll knock me out of the stock autocross class (those heading to Nationals in Lincoln are no doubt relieved). A wider wheel will enhance steering response. Lighter wheels will effect braking and acceleration. With respect to function, I want a lightweight, 45mm offset wheel.

Style:

Wheel preference is ultimately in the eye of the beholder, therefore I need to pick a style I like. If I had to pick a few words to describe the overall styling theme of the 2013 Honda Civic Si, they'd be: angular, edgy and sharp. Wheels with rounded, organic styling that might look great on an Audi TT won't work on my Civic Si.

Finish:

The polished metal metallic Civic is essentially a medium shade of metallic grey. My vehicle's color will play a major factor in the wheel I ultimately end up choosing.

Potential Choice:

As of right now, I'm leaning towards the 17x8 45ET Enkei Tuning Series Tenjin with a gunmetal with machined lip finish. It's wider, has the same offset as the Original Equipment and doesn't weigh more than the wheel currently on the vehicle. The spoke's edges are squared, not rounded. Its gunmetal finished center almost matches the color of my Honda. Also, the wheel gives me the function, style and finish I'm looking for!

Wheel Options for Your 2013 Ford Focus ST

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 by Cy Chowattukunnel

We know the Focus ST has enough power to be fast, but can it use a style infusion?

My colleague Joe recently picked up a tangerine scream Ford Focus ST. It's a great color for the car, but Joe wasn't equally thrilled with the Original Equipment wheels from day one. After scanning his options in our Upgrade Garage, he narrowed down is choices to the following 18x8 5-108 45ET options:

They're all good options, however Joe decided on the Sparco Assetto Gara with a matte graphite silver finish. The wheel provides the perfect contrast to the car's bright tangerine scream finish while matching up with the vehicle's black trim. Joe now has the combination of speed and style he was truly looking for.

2013 Ford Focus ST FAQ:

1. What's the width and offset of my Original Equipment Focus ST wheels? The wheels are 18x8 with a 55mm offset (ET).

2. How do I add a new set of tires to my wheel purchase? Create a Tire & Wheel Package. First, pick the wheels you would like for your Focus ST. Next, you will be given tires that are a match for your vehicle. It's that simple! Also, mounting, balancing and any required hardware are included at no additional cost. 

3. Will my Focus ST automatically recognize my new TPMS sensors? We offer O.E. TPMS sensors, however you'll need to initialize them since each sensor has a unique serial number. You can either have your dealer do this (labor charges may apply), or use the FORDTRIGGER tool.