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Firestone's Best SUV/Truck Tires

Written by PFM Staff

All of the police package, special service package and fleet service or “work” package SUVs and pickups come with “general purpose” or “highway” OE tires. Frequently asked questions with fleet officials at Chevy, Dodge and Ford are, “What all-terrain tire do you recommend?” and “What winter tire do you recommend?” The answer is None. And None.

No police vehicle manufacturer makes a recommendation for a winter tire or an all-terrain tire for any of its SUVs or pickups. Yet, many police service SUVs and pickups get replacement tires that are one step more aggressive than the highway all-season (OE) tire.

The best way to find the right mission-specific, or a true four-season tire, is to check the customer surveys posted on the Tire Rack website. These surveys are filled out by all customers, not just police departments. The surveys are based to total miles reported from 50,000 miles to 85,000,000 miles.

Tire Rack customers are obviously serious about tire and tire performance—that is the very customer base at Tire Rack. Their customers are demanding and know the difference between fair, good and excellent performance in every aspect of tire performance. As a cross-reference verification of the Tire Rack survey results, the relative rankings of the all-season police sedan tire tests performed by Police Fleet Manager exactly matched the customer rankings at Tire Rack for those same Firestone, Continental, Goodyear, Pirelli and General police tires.

All-Terrain Tires

A wide variety of SUV / Truck tires are available in several categories: 1) highway all-season; 2) on-road / off-road all-terrain; 3) winter; and 4) off-road maximum traction. The first step up in aggressiveness from the general-purpose, OE highway tires is called “on-road / off-road all-terrain” tires. So, what are the rankings with replacement tires for the Tahoe-Explorer-Durango SUVs and the Silverado-F150-Ram pickups in this highly competitive category?

Of the two dozen different makes and models of tires from all of the world’s tire makers, including Goodyear, Michelin and BFGoodrich, based on the Tire Rack user survey, the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 2 and the Firestone Destination A/T ranked first and second.

Dueler and Destination Tire Lines

Heads up! Almost 20 different tires are available in the Bridgestone Dueler line, and four different tires are in the Firestone Destination line. These range from mild to wild, so be careful to specify exactly which tire in the line you want. In fact, five different Dueler A/T tires exist! Be specific in what you ask for. In these cases, it is the Dueler A/T Revo 2 and Destination A/T.

Both the Dueler A/T Revo 2 and the Destination A/T are available in P-metric (passenger) and in LT (light truck) sizes / load ranges. All of the police-oriented SUVs and half-ton pickups come from the factory with P-metric tires. With both these tires, the speed rating varies slightly by size with the variations falling between speed ratings of R (106 mph) and T (118 mph).

Most of the Firestone Destination A/T tires are S-rated (112 mph) while most of the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 2 tires are T-rated (118 mph). None of these models of tire are rated for speeds over 118 mph. With the single exception of the police package, 2WD Tahoe PPV, this is not a problem. All the 4x4 SUVs and all pickups are limited to speeds below 118 mph. The Destination A/T tires were mounted on a Ford Explorer 4x4, while the Dueler A/T Revo 2 went on a Dodge Ram 1500 4x4. Both vehicles served in the rural Midwest. We ran the tires on all combinations of paved and gravel roads in ambient conditions from hot / humid to cool / wet to cold / snow-ice. These tires were specifically evaluated as four-season tires—and that means a focus on light and deep snow performance.

Mud & Snow Rated

Neither of these all-terrain tires have the Mountain Snowflake icon on the sidewall, yet clearly these aggressive on-road / off-road tires are snow-busters. With the aggressive saw-tooth, Z-pattern in the tread, the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Rev 2 is obviously a severe snow service tire—no doubt about it. The Firestone Destination A/T with its more open tread pattern was nearly as good as the Dueler in light and deep snow. So what gives?

Let’s start with the other traction indicator—the M+S embossment. The Mud+Snow rating simply means the tire has a 25 percent more open tread than a “standard” tire. This M+S rating does not require any performance testing to get this rating. It is determined only by the footprint of the tread. Without a performance test to verify its capabilities, the M+S rating is almost meaningless.

Mountain Snowflake?

The Mountain Snowflake certification, however, means the tire has proven in tests to have at least 10 percent better traction in snow. Many of the all-season M+S tires cannot pass this test. The Mountain Snowflake symbol is the certification of a “severe snow service” rated tire, a genuine “snow” tire. As such, The Mountain Snowflake icon actually means something. And in a year or so, it is going to mean even more.

The standards for the “severe snow service” rating are in the process of becoming even tougher. The tests will require more than a 10 percent improvement over a reference tire—as much as a 20 percent improvement. And the Mountain Snowflake certification will include some form of testing on ice, not just snow.

As a rule, newly designed tires, those in development after the announcement that new tests are being planned but before the test protocol has been finalized, are being produced without the Mountain Snowflake icon. Both the new Dueler A/T Revo 2 and Destination A/T wall fall into that timeframe limbo. Neither one wears the icon.

However, a bigger reason for no Mountain Snowflake icon is a Bridgestone-Firestone corporate decision on winter tires. For their part, only the tires engineered specifically for both snow and ice will have the embossment. Expect to see the new Mountain Snowflake icon on the Bridgestone Blizzak line and Firestone Winterforce lines of winter tires, but not on the all-terrain or even maximum-traction lines. Performance on ice will be a major deciding factor in the future.
The tires in this test were specifically selected because they were four-season, one-tire-does-all, police tires—and not just limited-use, one-season, winter-specific tires. That said, both sets of tires were mounted just in time for a harsh, Midwest winter with lots of blowing and drifting snow. Both these all-terrain tires handled the snow well enough to top the Tire Rack list of all-terrain tires in the categories of light snow, deep snow and ice traction.

Firestone Destination A/T

The Destination A/T is a popular and widely available all-terrain tire. Every tire is a compromise, giving up one aspect of performance to gain another. While considerably more aggressive than any of the Original Equipment tires, the Destination A/T is designed for a bit better handling and braking under wet conditions than the OE tires. Wet, of course, means both rain and melted snow. During our long-term test, the tire worked fine under a variety of patrol conditions: wet, dry, snow. Some aftermarket tires make traction improvements over OE tires but have the penalty of a low frequency, but loud drone—road noise. Some are loud enough at highway speeds that the police radio needs to be turned up a few notches. Not so with the Destination A/T. It was literally as quiet as the OE tire, while providing better traction.

After four weather seasons, and about 10,000 miles, we completely agree with the Tire Rack assessment. The Destination A/T gets top marks (superior) for wet traction and hydroplane resistance; for dry traction and steering response; for ride comfort and road noise; and for tread wear. Significantly, the Destination A/T also gets top marks for both light and deep snow. In only one area is this tire anything less than superior—ice traction—and nothing short of a dedicated, one-season winter tire really does well on ice. The consensus of the off-roaders and four-wheelers is the traditional-appearing Destination A/T performs like an all-terrain tire with a more aggressive-appearing tread pattern.

Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo

The Dueler A/T Revo is one of the most popular of all the all-terrain SUV and truck tires. In fact, based on the nearly two dozen all-terrain tires in the Tire Rack survey, the Dueler A/T Revo is second to only the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A in reported miles. (This BFG tire came in only middle of the pack in the overall results). Come replacement time, most police fleet managers stick to the brands of tires that come from the factory on the police vehicles—Goodyear, of course, and now Firestone and perhaps Pirelli, Continental and General. Bridgestone is just not on our radar.

That means we probably don’t know how respected, trusted, even revered the Dueler A/T Revo is among true all-terrain enthusiasts. That group of off-road and 4x4 enthusiasts thinks the Dueler A/T Revo sets the standard for toughness, durability and quiet comfort, let alone the tire’s well-regarded reputation for off-road traction—their number one concern.

In off-road, 4x4 and truck-Jeep circles, the Dueler A/T Revo is an absolute legend. It is virtually a case of “This tire is perfect—don’t change it.” Actually, the NextGen Dueler A/T Revo 2 is an improvement on perfection. Dueler A/T Revo 2 Compared to the legendary Dueler A/T Revo, the Revo 2 has a new sidewall design and a new tread pattern. It is the most aggressive tire in the Bridgestone SUV / truck lineup. It was specifically developed for the highway driver who may want to explore rougher terrain. The tread compound on the NextGen tires is more resistant to chipping and tearing under severe off-road conditions.

Compared to the original A/T Revo, the A/T Revo 2 has better wet traction and better rolling resistance—even though those two goals seem to be at odds with one another. That is what you get with the newest tire designs from anyone—more win-win in areas that used to be an either-or compromise. The A/T Revo 2 is quieter than the original A/T Revo but the snow and off-road mud performance is the same.

Frankly, we decided to test both the Firestone Destination A/T and the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 2 because we were concerned the Dueler tread would be too aggressive. That is, it would cause too much road noise—that low frequency drone that increases to a near roar as the vehicle reaches highway increases. In fact, the Dueler A/T Revo 2 actually turned out to be as quiet as the all-season OE tire.

With the emphasis on snow performance, and an obvious ability to handle water, our choice of these two tires is the Dueler A/T Revo 2. Yes, that means we are merely joining tens of thousands of off-road, 4x4 and truck enthusiasts who already knew the Dueler A/T Revo was a legend. Yes, we in law enforcement may be a bit reluctant to look beyond the small number of OE brands of tire come replacement time.
Warranty and Wear

The P-metric sizes of both tires carry a 50,000-mile warranty. Of course, severe service, like police use, is excluded from all tire warranties. However, a 50K-mile warranty for retail use is encouraging. In the Tire Rack survey, the Dueler A/T Revo 2 rated about the middle of the pack with an Excellent tread wear rating, while the Destination A/T was near the top of the tread wear results with a Superior rating.

As visually different as the Dueler A/T Revo 2 is from the Destination A/T, and as highly rated as they both are, each has their own area of excellence. The Firestone tire, somewhat surprisingly, has slightly better light snow, deep snow and ice performance. It also has slightly better noise comfort and tread wear.

The Bridgestone tire has slightly better hydroplane resistance, wet traction, cornering stability and dry traction. The two different tires have identical ride comfort (harshness and vibration) and steering responsiveness.

Tire technology is a game where almost without exception the newest tire, the youngest tire design, is the best. With the newest tire technology, each area of compromise is slightly less of a compromise than the previous tire or the competitor’s current tire.

The Destination A/T was released in late-2008 and the Dueler A/T Revo 2 was introduced in mid-2009. So, could these two tires be the best overall choices for the special service SUV and pickup? The survey says, Yep.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2011

Rating : Not Yet Rated


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