Vehicle: 2004 Chevrolet Malibu LS
Driving style: Average
Mileage breakdown: 60 percent city and 40 percent highway. 20,000 miles on tires.

Two years ago, I had just finished my third year of college. And my first set of tires. Fifty thousand miles is not an extraordinary life span for a set of rubber, but they were not extraordinary tires. And, as we know, the car was not extraordinary either, so they did the job well enough.

Still, Malibu needed a new set. I was picky.  I wanted something that would provide much more grip than the set that was wearing out, but I refused to spend $150 per tire. I settled on a set of General Altimax HPs in 205/65/15, the OEM tire size, and purchased from the shop down the road from my home. I paid $105 per tire, mounted and balanced -- that’s a great price, but keep in mind that I paid cash.

Last week I passed the 20,000 mile marker. The Altimax HP is a “grand touring all-season” tire rated at a treadwear of 440 -- not low enough to discourage casual drivers, but not high enough to last 70,000 miles.

Tire choice is very subjective; I would never pick a tire expected to last 60,000 to 70,000 miles, because it would means the tires would have little grip. But hey, I like to take corners faster than 10 mph. Normal braking is improved as well, although I get the feeling the car’s poor alternative braking system limits the tires’ potential.

The HPs are showing less wear than I expected -- I’d wager that I could get another 30,000 miles out of them with my current driving pattern. If I drove leisurely, I’d expect to see another 35,000 at least. The tires are quiet on the road despite their high traction rating, although they are louder than my first set of tires. I don’t find the noise to be an issue, even with the radio off at 75 mph through Pennsylvania mountains. Still, they’re responsive when I need them to be, and the turn-in flex is easily predictable.

That predictability is the definitive characteristic of this tire -- push hard and the car understeers, let off and the rear rotates. Even if you’re being stupid or not paying attention, there’s ample time to correct your mistake in the corner. Wet traction is quite good, considering the size and price of the tire, though the braking is iffy. To be fair though, the car’s ABS system is more intrusive than a 1960s chaperone at a high school dance.

Snow traction isn’t bad either, provided you aren’t driving in a blizzard. The car slides easily and predictably and allows you to catch traction again quickly. Again, braking suffers in snow, but it’s unfair to expect an all-season tire to perform as well as a dedicated snow tire in the white stuff.

The General Altimax HP is still in production and easily obtained in most tire sizes -- unless you drive a Lamborghini or a golf cart, you’ll be able to get set. I’d recommend them for anyone who wants a seriously balanced tire but doesn’t want to drop $600 to $800.

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