Replace "Z"-rated tires with "T" rated: yes or no?

I have a 2006 Hyundai Sonata, sports package 6cyl, with dangerously worn tires. I’ve spent ages looking for the ConsumerReports Buying Guide 2011 top rated (for all weather conditions) Continental ProContact ECOPLUS+. No one has them and I’ve heard the company is seriously lax in meeting demand. This tire is speed-rated “T”. The original tires are rated “V” (149mph). I live in NYC, and with all the texting/talking drivers, I’m lucky to be able to get 30mph. Even the rare short trips don’t get above 90mph. The salesperson said that the rating had to do with handling, and that I’d lose handling if I bought a tire rated for lower speeds, even if I could never drive the car at higher speeds the “V” tire is rated for.

Is this true? If so, is it a noticeable difference? If it isn’t true, is there a reason for me not to buy the “T” or any tires rated for lower speed than the “V”? The Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 doesn’t get high reviews for noise, wearability or ride, but they are the tires that came with the car. I bought the car about 3000 miles ago, so can’t really be the judge of this.

Why not get the second-from-the-top-rated V tires?

There have been a couple discussions on her about speed ratings, and I’ll try to sum it up for you:

Do whatever you want. There will be very little - if any - noticeable difference between the various speed ratings with regard to handling, stopping, etc.

The only caveat I have (and it’s not seconded by many), is the check with your insurance co, and see what they say about using a lower speed rating. I’ve heard (from friends I trust), that insurance has been dropped because speed ratings weren’t up to the manufacturer’s spec’s. It really doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense - where the heck in this country can I use a 150+ MPH tire? But it’s something to consider.

For everything else (noise, durability, handling, etc), you’re on your own, there. I can only talk about a couple that I own, but sites like have reviews of all kinds of tires, under a lot of different conditions. I also believe the speed ratings may be based on a worldwide rating, which includes places like Germany, which have the Autobahn, which has no speed limit in certain areas.

Good luck,

Consumer Reports confined its tire review to “S” & “T” speed-rated tires. They don’t say why. So basically, before this point was raised, I’ve been looking for the Continental & discovering that they don’t make their 2nd best rated all weather tire (Hankook Optimo H727) in my tire size. NYC is big on ice & very wet roads with bad drainage. This magazine is impartial, so I hoped to get good information, but it is terrible that they restrict their reviews to such a narrow spectrum. It’s like starting out all over again, but if there isn’t really much difference between the “T” and the “V” when the car never gets the opportunity to go at “V” speeds, it opens up the buying to a greater range of tires. Some might even be less than $200/tire, and still be good quality.

Thank you Chase, I’ll doublecheck on the insurance. The Tire Rack guy who answered the phone was the one who brought up the speed rating & handling. Funny you should mention the autobahn, driving on it is on my future list! : D

While you’ll be safe with T rated tires, I’d get H rated, which often have the same tread design and basic handling characteristics as the corresponding V rated tires. Go to and see what they have - they appear to recommend both H and V rated tires. Don’t worry about getting Contis, there are many other great tires.

Been there, done that. I will say that the majority of accidents on the Autobahn, in areas where US personnel live, commute and work, are mostly US citizens, trying to drive fast, and not having the training for it.

The world is a completely different place at 120MPH and up. If you make it there, be very, very careful…or take a taxi and ask him. He’ll have the skills to show you some speed relatively safely. :slight_smile:

That’s pretty much the fastest I’ve ever driven - 120mph on route 17, middle of the night, following a truck for a couple hours in my 1964 Chrysler Imperial. It could have gone faster, but the truck had the radar. You are right, it is a different world. It requires all of your attention, and then some. Thanks!

I’m going to disagree a bit.

GENERALLY, the higher the speed rating, the crisper the handling.- but there are plenty of exceptions out there. The guy at Tire Rack was right to point this out. Also, GENERALLY, higher speed rated tires have more grip, and worse wear and fuel economy - but, again, their are plenty of exceptions out there.

Safety? The more capable a thing is, the safer it is - and that applies to tires. There is a quantum leap in capablility going from T rated to H rated - and that makes an H rated tire, in my opinion, the minimum standard.

If crisper handling (note: that is different than grip!) is what you want, then you should probably stay with the higher rating. If steering crispness is NOT one of your wants and soft ride is, you can still find H and higher rated tires that do that. A little bit of research can go a long way!

You may notice a difference in handling. But it probably won’t be an issue if you drive at reasonable speeds. Eventually you’ll get use to the difference in handling and it won’t be an issue.

I agree with the others. As long as your insurance company is ok with it (do not ask your agent, ask a claims adjustor. Agents often don’t really know what will and will not fly when it comes time to actually claim something) a lower speed rating would be fine. We’re talking about a Sonata here, not a Corvette. :wink:

I’ve never heard of the insurance problem before, but I think the tire guy you spoke with was giving you good advice. Follow his advice and switch to T rated tires. In your driving environment you’ll never notice the difference.

Do they make “T” rated tires in the exact size you need? I’d look and Kumho’s H rated tires if you’re wanting to save $$

The engineers decided on Z rated tires for a reason. If they thought that cheaper, tires with less grip would’ve been okay, you can bet the bean counters would’ve made it happen.

It’s all about shelf space and shelf life…Forget consumer reports, that’s a joke…Put a decent set of H-rated tires on your car and drive on…A 2006 Hyundai Sonata, handling? are you serious?

Apparently paying a higher price is the key to being special. Personally, I prefer to keep the difference in the price of the “more than adequate” and “special.” Sometimes it comes in handy. If I ever find myself travelling faster than 75 mph the tires won’t be on the ground beyond the end of the runway.

What SIZE tires are on you car ?

When I check for Sonata GLS I see p225/50-R17 tires listed.
In that size there are no T or H rated in my list here at the Ford dealer, all 75 tires on the list are V, W, Y, or Z rated …
any and all of which are just fine for your needs. does list some S (2), T (10), and H (15) rated tires in that size. Like I said before, I’d be fine with H rated tire. Lower rated tires (S or T) will have poorer (but still safe) handling, but it’s not worth it to me to save a few bucks to give up the better handling.

Ken makes a very important point…These are classified as “Performance Tires”, part of the “Performance Package” that came on this model…You are locked into buying expensive tires…These are the little details consumers often overlook when buying cars…Unless driving on a skid pad and lane-change cone course, you will never notice the difference in speed ratings…Some drivers insist on “V” rated tires to fulfill their “Car & Driver” fantasies…

There are some really nice inexpensive performance (h-rated or z-rated) tires that will likely fit the vehicle.

Some good quality examples include Kumho and Yokohama.

We replaced the OEM set on my sisters Accord with a tire called Kumho Ecsta 4x(v-rated) that were 50% price of Michelins and not much difference in performance.