Ask a Mechanic.... Volvo Owner Seeks Comfort
Dear Ask a Mechanic,
With summer around the corner, I have to buy four summer tires, but there are so many to choose from! Can you recommend for a 2012 Volvo S60 T5 (215 50 R17) (a tire) that is comfortable, quiet and handles moderately well. I’m 65 and not looking so much for performance as comfort.
Thank you – Swede Ride
You didn’t mention whether or not your Volvo is equipped with run-flat tires, as they were an option on that model. We’ll assume that either they’re not, or that you are willing to trade that security for ride comfort and reduced cost.
A bit of internet sleuthing suggests to me that if your T5 originally came with 215/50R17 tires, they’d have been 95V-rated and “XL” (extra load).
The “V” signifies a tire designed for sustained speeds of up to 240 km/h. This has two primary implications: maximum safe operating speed, and general performance characteristics. The latter is best explained in that a tire designed to safely operate at 240 km/h will have a stiffer construction and higher traction limits than one with a lower rating, like the more common “S” (180 km/h).
The load index of 95 rates each tire’s capacity at 691 kg (1521 lbs); non-XL ratings as low as 90 (600 kg/1323 lbs) exist in this size, too.
Tire experts (and automakers) strongly advise that you take into consideration the factory specifications of the original tires when determining suitable replacements, using them as your minimum guideline – e.g. exceeding the original speed rating in a replacement set would be fine, while going to a lower one would not.
In my opinion, there’s some flexibility to be had on speed ratings (it’s common practice for winter tires to be lower rated), but not on the load capacity. Using a tire with a lower load rating potentially risks overloading the tires if, for instance, you were taking 5 people and their luggage to the airport. Overloaded tires can fail catastrophically.
In your case, I’d use a minimum speed rating of “H” (210 km/h – nearly double Ontario’s maximum) as tires in that category are still considered “high performance” and should retain characteristics appropriate to the vehicle.
Several premium-brand tires come to mind initially – all V rated. Michelin’s Primacy A/S Tour unfortunately isn’t available in your load range, but their all-weather CrossClimate 2 is. Bridgestone’s Turanza QuietTrack reviews well and checks the comfort/quiet boxes specifically.
I’m not a Goodyear fan, but I can’t ignore the 9.2/10 rating on Tire Rack earned by their Assurance ComfortDrive.
General’s affordable Altimax RT43 is a regular top 5 Consumer Reports choice; we’ve sold several sets at my shop and received positive feedback. Expect only average ride quality, though.
Tires are one of those products where you tend to get what you pay for, so I’d recommend against shopping solely on price. Good luck!
Ask a Mechanic is written by Brian Early, a Red Seal-certified automotive technician. You can send your questions to email@example.com. These answers are for informational purposes only. Please consult a certified mechanic before having any work done to your vehicle.