Traction heroes: 4 tires for better grip in any season

Pick the right rubber to keep your ride glued to the road.

Wheter 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?

Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R
Rubber to Burn Pirelli

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, performance-oriented 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.

Nokian Hakkapelitta 9
Winter Stud Nokian Tires

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.

Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2
All-Season All-Star Amazon

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 $100.

Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure With Kevlar
Grateful Tread Goodyear

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.

This article originally appeared in the Extreme Weather issue of Popular Science.

Stan Horaczek
Stan Horaczek

is the senior gear editor at Popular Science and Popular Photography. His past bylines include Rolling Stone, Engadget, Men's Journal, GQ, and just about any other publication that has ever written about gadgets. For a short time, he even wrote the gadget page for Every Day With Rachel Ray magazine. He collects vintage cameras, eats pizza, and hopes you won't go looking at his Tweets even though the link is down there.