Popular Science - - GOODS -

WHETHER YOU’RE CRAWL­ING over rocks, run­nin’ hot laps, or just try­ing to keep your car from slid­ing around like a fig­ure skater in the win­ter, you need the right tire. All of them use vari­a­tions of the same tech­nolo­gies: spe­cial­ized rub­ber com­pounds, unique tread de­signs, and spe­cific struc­tures and shapes. These four tires are each pur­pose-built—be­cause if you wouldn’t wear a hik­ing boot to run the 40-yard dash, why should your car?

2/ Win­ter Stud

Those tiny cuts across your tires’ treads are sipes, and they’re he­roes of win­ter trac­tion. The Nokian Hakkapeli­itta 9 has a ton of them, plus deep voids near the shoul­der to in­crease grip. Your tire’s com­pound is an­other key ally in the fight against fish­tails: The Hakkapeli­itta’s se­cret blend stays pli­able be­low 40 de­grees. The studs are also new, with dif­fer­ent shapes at the cen­ter and edge that boost bite dur­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion and cor­ner­ing. From $200

1/ Rub­ber to Burn

The asym­met­ri­cal tread dis­places just enough wa­ter to make the Pirelli P-Zero Tro­feo R road-le­gal, but it re­ally be­longs on a race­track. The square shoul­der shape and lack of deep voids puts more rub­ber in con­tact with the pave­ment to push the car around. Don’t ex­pect the soft, per­for­mance­ori­ented ma­te­rial to last very long in any sit­u­a­tion. It might grip like the dick­ens, but you leave a lot of this very por­ous rub­ber on the as­phalt. From $193

3/ All-Sea­son All-Star

The tire chefs at Hankook added a healthy dash of sil­ica (ba­si­cally grit) to the Ven­tus S1 Noble2’s rub­bery brew, serv­ing up a firm tire. Why? Be­cause not only does this car-shoe roll eas­ily, us­ing less gas, but it’s quiet too. Wouldn’t want to dis­turb the pas­sen­gers of the lux­ury sedans this tire was born to serve. Sipes across the asym­met­ric treads in­crease trac­tion and fun­nel wa­ter out of the cen­ter grooves, while a solid rub­ber rib along the edge of the tread aids cor­ner­ing. From $90

4/ Grate­ful Tread

Treads don’t work very well when packed with dirt, grass, and the oc­ca­sional lawn or­na­ment, so the Goodyear Wran­gler MTR Kevlar’s 18/32-inch-deep voids’ ta­pered walls help mud flow out. The 35 per­cent Kevlar side­walls re­sist punc­tures, which is handy, be­cause they some­times have to work just as hard as the tire’s bot­tom. Ex­tra tread there grips ter­rain when you crank the pres­sure down into the sin­gle dig­its—a com­mon prac­tice dur­ing rock crawl­ing. From $229

By Stan Ho­raczek / pho­to­graph by Sam Ka­plan

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