I drove a Jaguar today.
It was for work, but it seemed like play.
I drove not 1, not 2, not 3 – but 4 Jaguars as fast as could be.
I drove them wet, I drove them dry, with all the speed it felt like I would fly.
But I did not fly or skid or spin, perhaps it was the sipes with fins?
In fact it was the Motivo tires that keep me in control and gave all the water some place to go.
I drove those Jaguars, that is true, but in the end I did it all for you.
No, This Is Not The Start To A New Children’s Book
As much as I may like to be a children’s book author, the above illustrates why I should not give up my day job of reviewing products. No, the above is actually a true story about the Nitto Tire Ride and Drive event I attended last week in Arizona. During this event I got to drive four Jaguars, all with different tires, under different conditions. I drove full throttle on a wet course for 350 feet and then slammed on the brakes. I drove a figure eight course where I was encouraged to “go faster” by the daring professional driver sitting next to me and then once again slam on the brakes at the end. I got to feel the difference of the Nitto Motivo tire compared to the INVO, NT05 and the Continental tires that come stock on the Jaguar.
Why In The World Would Anyone Care About My Experiences Driving Jaguars?
I don’t think I am going out on a limb here when I say that most of our readers don’t drive Jaguars. Even if you do drive a Jaguar, you probably don’t floor it as fast as you can in the rain and then slam on the brakes on a regular basis. So, you may be wondering why you would possibly care about my experiences driving Jaguars with Nitto Motivo tires. Fair enough, let me explain…
As parents we care deeply about our kids. We buy the best car seats to keep our children safe. When we cross a street, we put ourselves in between our children and the turning traffic. We also remember the days before kids, when we had fun cars and liked to drive with purpose. While it is true that today we drive minivans and carpool the kids from sport to sport, that doesn’t mean we still don’t like to have a little fun while driving.
What is the thing that can provide parents with safety, performance and fun? Tires! I know, as boring as those black rubber things seem, they really can mean the difference between avoiding an accident and becoming a statistic. Tires can also save you money and put a little more fun in your daily drive. While most of us don’t drive Jaguars, the hands-on experience I received at the Nitto Drive and Ride event can help us parents become better informed when it comes to finding tires that are safe, efficient and dare I say it…fun to drive!
The Secret Life of Tires
Car enthusiast know everything about tires, but for the other 95% of us, tires are just those black rubber things that we curse when they go flat. At first glance, all tires look basically the same –
But once you take a closer look at tires, you realize they are not all the same –
Take a look at that beautiful tread on the above Motivo tire. The four circumferential grooves, which in combination with the open shoulder design and 3D multiwave sipes makes for rapid water evacuation. Of course, the unique asymmetric patten design will give you a quiet ride…until the kids start fighting. Don’t worry, you’ll get the kids home soon, after all the Motivo tires are rated to go W and Y speeds, but I wouldn’t do that in M+S conditions.
Hold The Phone, What In the World Are We Talking About???
What, you don’t speak tire? Yes, this is the problem with tire shopping and normal people – there is a whole language of tire terminology you need to understand before deciding on the right tires for your car and your driving situation. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be fluent in tire speak, but just a passing knowledge of the key terms will go a long way.
The Crash Course in Tire Speak
We learned a great amount at the Nitto Tire Ride and Drive event, but don’t worry, we are not going to try to share it all with you. Learn the basic tire points below and you will become a highly educated tire shopper.
Different Tires for Different Seasons and Different Drivers
As parents, we strive to be good in all phases of parenting, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses. The same holds true for tires…about the strengths and weaknesses, not about parenting, tires make terrible parents! A tire that performs beautifully on dry road will probably have some problems in the snow. Snow tires are great for getting up the mountains in the winter, but you would not want to drive cross country on them.
The closest you come to an all purpose tire is a high performance all season tire (like the Motivo, which we review here). When buying tires, you want to talk to your tire dealer about the weather you will be driving in and what factors are most important to you – stability, performance, handling in the rain, etc.
Sipes – Because Why Should Boat Shoes Have All The Fun
All those little slits or slots highlighted in the red box, rectange and circle are sipes. Sipes aid in increasing traction in snow, ice, mud, and wet road surfaces. Look on the bottom of a pair of boat shoes and you will see sipes. It was actually, John Sipe, who invented the sipes when he realized that cutting small slits in the bottom of his shoes gave him better traction in the rain.
As you can see in the Motivo tire pictures above, sipes come in different forms – fin shaped sipes, straight sipes, diagonal sipes, 3D multiwave sipes and on and on. At this point all you really need to know is that if you see more sipes on a tire, that tends to mean it will handle better in the snow and rain.
As a comparison, look at the Nitto NT05 Summer Tire –
As you can see, there is very little siping on this tire – so you would NOT want to use it an area that gets a lot of rain or snow. Starting to see how not all tires look the same? Let’s continue on…
Get Your Groove On
You want to drive on road, not a sheet of water. If there is water on the road, how does it get out from under your tires? Grooves baby! Here are what circumferential grooves look like –
As the 4 red arrows show, the Motivo tire has 4 grooves. Circumferential grooves improve water evacuation, which is the most important factor to hydroplaning resistance. With kids screaming, DVD players blasting and cheerios flying, the last thing you need is to be trying to control a car that is hydroplaning!
Asymmetric Patten Design, Because Not Everything In Life Needs to Be Balanced
If we take another look at the Motivo tire –
notice how the inside tread is a different pattern than the outside tread. This is called asymmetric pattern design and it is actually pretty cool. The outside of the tire has features like larger sized blocks for better handling and cornering. The Motivo also has what they call an “open shoulder” – this helps evacuate water. On the inside, you have smaller angled tread blocks, this provides better traction in wet condition.
At this point you don’t need to get too caught up in all the specifics about tire design, but it is helpful to know that some tires have an asymmetric design, where the inside and outside of the tire will have different features.
It May Look Like Rubber and Smell Like Rubber, But It Ain’t Just Rubber
Yes, tires do have a good amount of rubber in them, but there is much more to tires than just the rubber. The compound that tires are made of can effect how it performs in different weather conditions and how long it will last. Things like Silica, Carbon black and various polymers are all used to make tire compounds.
We don’t expect you to become experts in tire chemistry, but it is important to understand that different compounds are used to make tires and you should ask your tire dealer if the compounds in the tire you are looking at will perform well in your climate and driving environment.
Decoding the Tire Wall
If you look on your tire sidewall you will see bizarre markings like –
P205/55R16 89V M+S
What in the world is any of this supposed to mean? If you want to learn exactly how to read all the marking on your tire sidewall jump over to Discount Tire where they have an excellent tutorial on it all. If becoming fluent in tire speak is not your think, I may be able to save you some time.
For the most part, you don’t need to understand the tire marking. Much of the markings deal with tire size and weight capacity – all things that your dealer can figure out for you. Here are the couple of markings that might be of interest to you…
The maximum speed capacity of the tire is represented by the letter at the end. In the above example, the speed rating is “V” which is 149 MPH. “S’ is 112 MPH, “T” is 118 MPH and “H” is 130 MPH. Interestingly, more and more tires today come with even higher speed ratings. “W” is 168 MPH and “Y” is 186 MPH. If you do have a car that you drive 150 MPH, I have two pieces of advice – don’t buy tires with a lower than V speed rating and invest in a really good radar detector!
The other interesting tidbits from the tire sidewall – the “M+S” means mud and snow, so look for this if you drive a good deal in bad weather. You will also see something like “Temperature: A Traction: A” on the tire, this is a rating of the temperature and traction performance of the tire. A (or AA in the case of traction) is the best with C being the worst. If you are driving in winter conditions, you want a tire with a good traction rating.
Fine, But Does Any of This Really Matter?
I apologize, that was a lot of terminology and reading about sipes, grooves and tire compounds is boring. I know some will wonder if any of this really matters in terms of safety or performance. After all, is this all marketing hype when in reality, all tires really perform about the same?
I have to say, before attending the Ride and Drive I was in the “how much difference do tires really make” camp. Once I had a chance to try cornering and braking at high speeds, in both wet and dry conditions, with the Continental tires that come with the Jaguar and the Nitto tires, I firmly moved into the “holy crap, I need to get new tires for more car” camp.
It is not that the Continental tires are that bad, it is just that you feel so much more in control of the car when using the Nitto tires. I am sure under normal driving conditions you would not feel that much of a difference but if a deer jumped out in front of me on a rainy highway, I sure would rather have the control that the Nitto Motivo gave me.
Be An Educated Tire Shopper
Next week, we will do our full review of the Nitto Motivo tires (Update – the full Nitto Motivo Tire Review Is Here). We do hope after reading this article you will know the basics when it comes to tire shopping…
- Looking for a tire which will perform well in all seasons? Generally you want to see more sipes and grooves.
- Don’t get much rain and want top performance? You want bigger continuous tire blocks with less sipes and groves.
- Tire dealer trying to sell you “all season tires” with a Temperature and Traction rating of C and no “M+S” designation on the tire? Go running to another tire dealer!
- Like to drive your Minivan over 168 MPH? You need two things – W or Y rated tires and admittance into Racers Anonymous.
Of course a tire is only at its best if it is properly maintained, so please refer to our previous article on proper tire maintenance. Now if you will excuse me, I need to work on my next children’s book, “If You Give a Tire a Sipe”
Read Our Full Review of the Nitto Motivo UHP All Season Tire
Have a Question/Comment? Let Us Know!