Top Tires: Road Tested

We test tires to get that big-truck feel on our light test truck.

Choosing the right tires for a tow vehicle makes a huge difference in how it handles a load. Tires have a maximum weight rating written on the sidewalls that dictates how much weight they can bear. Most light trucks, SUVs and vans are factory-equipped with P-rated tires. P means “passenger,” and they’re weighted to give the optimum middle ground between load-bearing stability, capacity and a comfortable ride. “Light truck” tires (LT) have a higher load capacity than do P tires. We wanted to see how our test vehicle would behave with three different tire matrices using our test truck, a Nissan Titan Crew Cab LE. Here are the results.

Toyo Open Country A/T
Category: Light truck, all terrain

Size: LT275/70R18

Warranty: LT matrix tires don't bare tread warranties.

They Say
It's a mud- and snow-rated all terrain tire with a wide tread for a custom look, and it's ideal for towing. An open shoulder, that area on the edges of the tire, better evacuates water for improved traction.

We Say
Looks: The high-profile tire and unique futuristic tread gave a big-truck look to the vehicle.

Stability: Noticeably more stable than original tires, smoother in turns, less tendency for sway, less bounce crossing railroad tracks.

Ride: We expected this heavier-duty, larger tire to stiffen the ride, and it did, but only slightly.

Launching and Loading: We pulled the boat out, up and over the ramp crown without slipping.

Stopping: In traffic, this tire was comparable to original-equipment P tires.

Cab Interior Noise: Tested at 71 to 73 db.

Perceived Noise: Quiet as P-rated tires with no hum.

Best For: Handling beefy tow loads with a comfortable suburban ride without sacrificing much from the suburban passenger ride.

Goodyear Wrangler Silent Armor Pro Grade
Category: Light truck, all terrain

Size: LT275/70R18

Warranty: LT matrix tires don't bare tread warranties.

They Say
Two steel belts plus Kevlar provide a smooth, quiet ride meeting European standards for highway noise. Goodyear claims rubber tread is chunk- and chipresistant thanks to Durawall rubber compound borrowed from off-road tires.

We Say
Looks: Kudos as the coolest macho tires, drawing many curbside comments.

Stability: The knobby tread was surprisingly stable, but there was a little tread "squishing" in places.

Ride: Smooth as the competing Toyo in spite of the more aggressive tread.

Launching and Loading: No squishing here. The aggressive tread came right up the steep, wet ramp with grip and no slip.

Stopping: Good controlled stopping with noticeable tread squish in aggressive stops.

Cab Interior Noise: Measured at 71 to 73 db.

Perceived Noise: We did notice an audible though not bothersome hum.

Best For: Boaters who frequently use their tow vehicle in snow, off-road farm or hunting applications.

Michelin LTX M/S2
Category: SUV, light truck, crossover highway passenger use

Size: P265/ 70R18

Warranty: 70,000-mile tread wear or mileage

They Say
Michelin's silica tread compounds aid water evacuation and traction, stopping seven feet shorter than competitors' tires do on wet pavement. Three-steel-belt construction increases durability and bumps load capacity to 13,500 pounds.

We Say
Looks: Suburban look for comfortable driving.

Stability: We expected the lighter tire to give a looser tow ride. Not so. But when accelerating on a heavily siped concrete access ramp, the grooves tended to "steer" the tires. We noted a shade more bounce crossing railroad tracks.

Ride: Firm, but not as "hard" as the Toyo. At Nissan's lower inflation spec, the ride was suburban smooth.

Launching and Loading: The truck and load crested the crown of the ramp with only a brief squeal of tires and no loss of momentum.

Stopping: Braking traction is firm and authoritative.

Cab Interior Noise: 71 to 73 db.

Perceived Noise: No hum at all.

Best For: Boaters who tow midcapacity and prefer a suburban smooth ride to maximum load capacity.

Nissan Titan LE
Two-wheel drive, four-door

Tire Specs: P265/70R18 or LT275/70R18
Actual Inflation: 90 percent of tire manufacturer maximum
Alignment: Set to specs between each tire change
Test Duration: Average, 2,000 miles per set
Trailer Payload: 7,500 pounds