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Goodyear’s Best SUV/Truck Tires

Written by PFM Staff

Goodyear has a wide variety of “highway all-season” and “on-road/off-road all-terrain” tires for police SUVs and pickups. The best tire in each of these categories has been tested by, or is in use with, some major police departments. These two “best” tires are worth a closer look.

While a police package, special service package, heavy service package or fleet service package is available for SUVs and pickups from Ford, Chevy and Dodge, all these vehicles come with “general purpose” OE tires. A frequently raised question with fleet officials at all three automakers is, “What winter tire do you recommend?” None. No police vehicle manufacturer has an approved winter tire for any of its sedans, SUVs or pickups.

One of the best solutions for an upgraded, mission-specific tire, or a true four-season tire, is to look to major police departments in the snow belt to see what they have tested and what they are using. Another excellent solution is to check the customer surveys, based on millions of miles driven, posted on the Tire Rack Web site. Goodyear rates its own tires, i.e., how one of its tires compares to another of its tires, in five categories.

By a clear margin, the best two Goodyear aftermarket SUV/truck tires are the high-speed Fortera TripleTred, a highway all-season tire, and the more aggressive Wrangler SilentArmor, an on/off road all-terrain tire. Both of these tires have the Mountain Snowflake “Severe Snow Service” rating.

Heads up! Goodyear makes at least four versions of the Wrangler as an all-terrain tire and at least seven versions of the Wrangler as an all-season tire. Confusion abounds. Our test tire was the Wrangler SilentArmor. Again, Goodyear makes at least three different Fortera all-season tires, including the SilentArmor. Our test tire was the Fortera TripleTred.

We ran both the Fortera TripleTred and the Wrangler SilentArmor for an entire year on two separate 4x4 vehicles. This gave us a chance to evaluate both tires in rural police use, during the hot/dry season, the cool/wet seasons and the cold/snowy season.

Goodyear’s Internal Rating

Goodyear itself rates its SUV/truck tires in five different categories: dry traction, wet traction, snow traction, off-road traction and quiet ride. Of 19 different SUV/truck tires, the one officials internally rate the highest overall (among all their own tires) is the Wrangler SilentArmor.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being bad and 10 being good, Goodyear ranks the Wrangler SilentArmor 9 out of 10 for dry, wet and off-road traction; 10 out of 10 for snow traction; and 8 out of 10 for quiet ride. After a year with the tires, we agree with everything but the quiet ride rating, putting it closer to 6 out of 10, instead of 8 out of 10, based on other Goodyear SUV/truck tires we have driven in police work.

Among their own SUV/truck tires, officials rate the Fortera TripleTred second best overall. It ranks 10 out of 10 for dry, wet and snow traction; 5 out of 10 for off-road traction; and 8 out of 10 for quiet ride. (Off-road means wet, muddy, sandy conditions.) After a year with the tires, we agree with these ratings except for the snow traction, which is much closer to 8 out of 10, instead of 10 out of 10.

In addition to deep snow performance, the biggest difference between these two tires as it relates to police use is the speed rating. The more aggressive Wrangler SilentArmor is T-rated, for top speeds up to 118 mph. The less aggressive Fortera TripleTred is H-rated, for top speeds of up to 130 mph.

Fortera TripleTred

In early 2004, Goodyear introduced the TripleTred on its Assurance line of passenger car tires. In mid-2005, the company introduced TripleTred in its famous Fortera line of SUV and pickup truck tires. The Fortera TripleTred is one of the first highway all-season tires to earn the Mountain Snowflake symbol. Basically, this tire has the snow and wet performance of an on-road/off-road tire with the dry performance, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) and treadlife of an all-season tire.

Police vehicles have come from the factory with asymmetric or with directional tires for years now. Asymmetric means the tread design requires a specific sidewall be mounted to the outside. Directional means the tire must rotate in a specific direction. The Fortera TripleTred is clearly a V-pattern, directional tire.

Different rubber compounds across the tread face are also common in today’s tires. The ability to use different rubber compounds on different parts of the tire is one of the advantages of asymmetric tires. The Fortera TripleTred is not an asymmetric tire but takes the use of multiple rubber compounds to a whole new level.

The outside tread blocks, the “dry zone,” are made from a firmer compound for more responsive cornering and longer tread life. The middle tread, the “water zone,” uses silica-based rubber compounds for wet traction. The center rib, the “ice zone,” uses a rubber compound mixed with tiny volcanic sand particles and fiberglass fibers.

A V-pattern tire can move a lot of water out from under the tread footprint. Water sports are the biggest advantage of a directional tire. And the Fortera TripleTred has relatively closed tread blocks, which are required to achieve the 130 mph, H-speed rating. These closed tread blocks mean the dry traction will be good, the tire noise minimal and the ride (vibration, harshness) smooth.

TripleTred & Mountain Snowflake

It is significant that the directional Fortera TripleTred is indeed a genuine “snow” tire. It bears the “snowflake in mountain” embossment. The Mountain Snowflake symbol is the certification of a “severe snow service” rated tire.

The old Mud+Snow rating simply means the tire has a 25% more open tread than a “standard” tire. This M+S rating does not require any performance testing to get this rating. The M+S rating is almost meaningless. The Mountain Snowflake certification, however, means the tire has proven in tests to have at least 10% better traction in snow. The all-season M+S tires typically cannot pass this test. The Mountain Snowflake certification, the Severe Snow Service rating, actually means something.

The Fortera TripleTred with its pronounced V-pattern, directional tread design certainly looks like a high-speed tire. But the Fortera TripleTred just doesn’t “look” like a snow tire. Frankly, its deep snow capabilities were our number one concern. Trusting Goodyear tire technology and the tire’s Mountain Snowflake rating, we mounted them on the patrol unit anyhow. We ran the Fortera TripleTred for an entire, brutal Midwestern winter in an area famous for blowing and drifting snow.

Our first shift with the Fortera TripleTred was during a springtime thunderstorm. Wet traction and hydroplane resistance are clear strengths of the Fortera TripleTred. The wet traction was excellent and so was the resistance to hydroplaning. The Fortera TripleTred lives for water sports. We experienced this first hand. We found it to be just as good on slushy snow.

The Fortera TripleTred does just as well in dry traction, steering response and cornering stability. It has closely spaced tread blocks across the entire footprint, which produces a vibration and harshness free ride, and a very quiet ride (no tire whine).

The deep snow performance turned out much better than expected! It is good on light snow and wet packed snow, and is OK but not great on heavy snow. As it turns out, snow traction is as much dependent on the tiny slits in the tread blocks, called sipes, as it is on tread block design or spacing. And the Fortera TripleTred has zillions of sipes in the tread. The sipes open to grab and trap the snow, and snow has more traction against snow than rubber against snow. Who would have thought that?

The Fortera TripleTred, in spite of the center “ice” rib, is not great on hard packed snow and glare ice. That narrow “ice zone” rib may have microscopic particles of volcanic sand and fiberglass fibers, but it just doesn’t help.

One caveat with the Fortera TripleTred, which probably applies to all tires but definitely this one, is that you must rotate them more often than you think! In fact, rotate them at every oil change (every 5K to 6K miles). On the Fortera TripleTred, tire rotation front to back is important!

Another caveat: Be careful as you select from different sizes of Fortera TripleTred tires for your different SUVs and pickups. Of the two dozen sizes of this tire, most are just T-rated, which is good for speeds up to 118 mph. This is rarely a problem. Virtually all SUVs and pickups are speed-limited to under 105 mph. The only exception is the 2WD police package Tahoe, which runs up to 130 mph.

MSP Hot & Dry Testing

The OE tire size for the late-model 2WD police Tahoe is 265/60R17. No Fortera TripleTred tire is an exact size match. The Michigan State Police tested, and the New York State Police are using the 275/55R17, which is slightly larger.

The Michigan State Police mounted this H-rated Fortera TripleTred on one of its 2WD police Tahoes and tested it on its road course under hot (July) and dry conditions. Most snow belt police departments with SUVs and pickups run the “winter” tire all year long. The MSP pass-fail protocol involves about 60 miles of pursuit-style driving around the road course. By about 50 miles, the Fortera TripleTred had become worn in such a way that the testing was halted.

The test results, and the actual tires, were passed on to Goodyear engineers, who made some subtle upgrades to the tire for better durability under these extreme and unusual driving conditions. The first was in the “tire contour.” The TripleTred has three different tire compounds in the tread footprint and shoulder area. The change was to where these compounds begin and end, i.e., the amount of overlap between compounds.

The second change was to the sidewall positioning, i.e., where the sidewall components begin and end. According to Goodyear officials, these subtle upgrades in shoulder and tread compound overlap on the Fortera TripleTred were made only to the 17-inch, H-rated 275/55R17 size used on the 2WD police package Tahoe.

Wrangler SilentArmor

In the Goodyear self-assessment of 19 of its own SUV/truck tires, first overall in its rating system is the Wrangler SilentArmor. Close behind, second overall is the Fortera TripleTred. The Wrangler SilentArmor tire ranked 8 and above in the categories. The ratings for the other tires range from 9 to 10 in the different categories.

Unless your department has an emphasis on one particular area of tire performance, the Wrangler SilentArmor is considered Goodyear’s best overall SUV/truck tire. The Wrangler SilentArmor uses a Kevlar® belt on top of the two steel belts, thus the use of the name “Armor.”
In spite of large, well-spaced tread blocks, we found the Wrangler SilentArmor to have good high-speed stability and good high-speed responsiveness. At 90 mph on brand new tires, we could feel a bit of tread squirm during aggressive driving, but it was not bad and not a handling concern.

Our very first shift with the Wrangler SilentArmor was during a winter storm that dumped four inches of heavy, wet snow. This is the kind of snow where we got 15 low-speed slide-offs per hour for most of the shift. The kind of snow where heavy snow instantly becomes heavy wet slush.

The Wrangler SilentArmor performed perfectly. The heavy snow was simply not a problem. Later in the season, we also found the deep snow drifts just were not an issue. If we had ground clearance, and a few times when we didn’t, we got through the drifts. Some were up to the bumper and more than a mile in length.

The Wrangler SilentArmor doesn’t do anything better than the way it handles deep snow. The dry traction, wet traction and light snow performance was excellent. Off-road mud and gravel traction was excellent. Traction on ice was OK and traction on hard packed snow was OK.

The tires we replaced on the Explorer with the Wrangler SilentArmor were the Goodyear Wrangler RT/S. In comparison to this OE class, highway all-season tire, the Wrangler SilentArmor makes a lot of tire noise at highway speeds. The whine from the large tread blocks was much louder than any lightbar noise. Frankly, the loud, low frequency hum at highway speeds was distracting enough to make us question the need for this degree of aggressive tread. At lower speeds and on gravel roads, the tire noise is not an issue.
 
New York State Police Experience

While some concern exists with the 118 mph top speed limitation, the New York State Police is running the 16-inch Wrangler SilentArmor on its older 2005 and 2006 Tahoes. According to NYSP fleet officials, “It does work well year-round,” and is much better than the OE General AmeriTrac in the snow. On its 2007 and newer Tahoes, the NYSP is running the H-rated Fortera TripleTred.

The NYSP comments on the OE tire for the older 2WD police package Tahoe, the General AmeriTrac, are mirrored by consumer survey results coordinated by Tire Rack, the nation’s largest Internet tire supplier.

The General AmeriTrac was ranked 58 out of 62 highway all-season tires. In comparison, the Goodyear Fortera TripleTred came in first overall on that survey at the time of the review. The Goodyear Wrangler SilentArmor ranked third out of 20 on-road / off-road all-terrain tires. Recent tests by Police Fleet Manager of five all-season tires for police package sedans confirmed the overall validity of the Tire Rack customer surveys.

The Wrangler SilentArmor and the Fortera TripleTred are the two best SUV/truck tires Goodyear makes. They are probably the best aftermarket choices for the police SUV and pickup for all demanding patrol jurisdictions.

Go for the Wrangler SilentArmor in jurisdictions with frequent heavy snow or frequent off-road use. Our jurisdiction has both, and the Wrangler SilentArmor worked well. Goodyear also offers a heavy-duty Wrangler SilentArmor “PRO-Grade” for the 3/4-ton and 1-ton pickups. If heavy snow or off-road use does not describe your jurisdiction, go for the Fortera TripleTred.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2009

Rating : 9.7


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