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Best New Tires For 2012

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One thing I know we will be seeing more of in 2012 is the rapidly accelerating technological breakthroughs that tire companies have been applying to their products. Manufacturers across the industry have embraced changes from alternative construction materials to nanotechnology. Here are 5 of the best new high-tech tires I'm looking forward to in 2012.

Nokian WR D3

The long-awaited upgrade to the wildly successful WR G2, Nokian's newest all-weather tire features a gaggle of technological improvements including:

  • An improved silica-canola oil compound that gives even lower rolling resistance than previous compounds.
  • “Slush Blower” staggered siping patterns at the front edge of tread blocks made to evacuate slush even more quickly.
  • “Cool Touch” sipes which do not break the edge of the tread block, maintaining rigid tread blocks and cutting down on heat buildup from friction.
  • A nanotech compound between the cap plies and the tread area which improves flex, grip and overall contact patch.

The WR D3's have won winter tire tests by European auto magazines “Auto Bild” and “Sport Auto” among many others, with Sport Auto noting, (in German of course) “Objectively in winter conditions [the] Nokian WR D3 is at the peak. Against the excellent grip performance of the Finn others struggle in vain.”

According to Nokian's Facebook page, the WR D3 will be available in several sizes for the US market in the fall.

Michelin X-Ice Xi3

Michelin emerged last year as an actual contender to Nokian's snow tire dominance with their X-Ice Xi2 snow tires, coming very close to the superlative snow and ice performance of the Hakkapeliitta R while keeping some uniquely Michelin characteristics like performance and sheer fun-to-drive responsiveness. Now comes the next round of what has really been an enormously enjoyable multi-year heavyweight bout.

Nokian has a tendency to include upgrades to their tires within the product line rather than putting out new lines every year, so their flagship snow tire remains the Hakkapeliitta R but with incremental improvements that are new for this year. Michelin has gone the other way with their new X-Ice Xi3 tires. Details are few and far between regarding the new tires, but one may expect extraordinary grip, great performance and improvements to rolling resistance. I'll know more in a couple of weeks when I travel to Montreal to go play in the snow.

BF Goodrich g-Force Sport Comp2

The original g-Force Sport tires have had a long and storied run. The Ultra High Performance tires have been a well-regarded choice for racers and performance enthusiasts for their stickiness, sidewall response and long wear, in fact the only major complaints I've ever really heard is the charge that they are noisy in the latter part of their wear cycle. Now, BF Goodrich will be releasing their new g-Force Sport Comp 2's later in the year.

As with most pre-release tires, details are being kept very secret. BF Goodrich only notes that the new tires will allow drivers to “accelerate faster, brake shorter and corner harder.” As with Michelin's new snow tires, I'll be finding out more when I get the chance to drive on them late this month.

Nokian Rotiiva AT

Nokian's new Rotiiva AT is a summer on-road/off-road tire for SUV's. It features an aggressive tread with center rib stabilizers and 3D self-locking siping patterns that keep the tread blocks from moving too much, enhancing stability and smoothness on the road while not compromising off-road grip. Rotiivas also feature polished grooves which improve water and slush performance as well as a brand-new technology called “stone ejectors”, a pattern of raised blocks inside the large grooves of the tire which prevent stones from becoming stuck in the grooves and damaging the tread, a process known as “stone drilling” which can substantially decrease the life of the tire.

Yokohama BluEarth-1

UPDATE: Yokohama's long-awaited orange oil-based tire for the US market will actually be called the AVID Ascend, and will be launched at an event in March. I'll be there for the launch, and later I'll be touring the Virginia factory where the tires are made!

Yokohama will be bringing their long-awaited BluEarth-1 tire to America this year. As part of Yokohama's commitment to environmental responsibility in all aspects of their corporate behavior, the BluEarth-1 tire combines renewable ingredients, nanotech construction elements and fuel-saving low rolling resistance to create one of the most environmentally-friendly tires ever built.

Most strikingly, the BluEarth-1 is made partially with orange oil instead of the usual petroleum-based oil. This means that a substantial percentage of the oil used to manufacture the tires is a renewable resource. Yokohama also maintains that the orange oil compound plus nanotech manufacturing processes provide better grip with very low rolling resistance. Yokohama expects to bring multiple sizes to the US this spring, and I am definitely looking forward to driving them!

Here's hoping your 2012 is happy, healthy, rolls smoothly and grips well!

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