My 2012 Maxima came with some real p.o.s. Goodyear Eagle RS-A's. Even when they were brand new, they provided this curious blend of oversteer and understeer under hard driving that just felt dangerous. Tires are literally where the rubber meets the road, and I could never understand why they'd put such bad tires on a $40,000 "four-door sports car" (ha!).

Also, after just 10,000 miles, all four tires were balding badly. It wasn't from burn outs or anything, the traction control never came off, and the wear was pretty even on all four tires, despite a lack of a limited slip differential. By the end, they were getting really scary in the rain, if not kind of fun generally because of the immense amount of throttle-off oversteer they created. I may have kept them if I could have given them more than 30-40% throttle before the traction control had to kick in.

I can't complain too much about the Maxima's traction control. It more resembles permanent launch control than traditional traction control, but squeaking your tires constantly is just embarrassing.

I finally broke down and picked up some Hankook Ventus S1 Noble2's. They weren't top of the line or anything, they seemed about mid-range in price, and they aren't even summer tires. I knew they'd improve things, but I had no idea just how much. The ride is smoother and quieter, even my wife noticed.

The handling improvements, though, are startling. Braking and steering are much more responsive, and in straight line acceleration, you have to power brake for wheels to even slip. I took the Maxima out to some back roads that I'm very familiar with, and may be it's because I'm gun shy from the old tires, but I couldn't even start to slide in the corners. I did the drive on my old tires just a few weeks ago, and the ESC was working overtime, jerking me back into shape every time I slipped a little. It's crazy how much more fluidly the car operates when the nanny isn't stepping in constantly.

Advertisement

If you are thinking about upgrading your car's rubber, do it before upgrading anything else on your car. Even if it's not performance you're after, the safety and comfort considerations are undeniable.