Do All-Terrain Tires Slow You Down?

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All-terrain tires can have an impact on a vehicle’s performance, particularly when it comes to speed. Generally speaking, these tires are designed to provide better traction and handling in off-road environments, and this comes at a cost of limited highway grip. Though there are a lot of different all-terrain tires, and some of them are much more on-road oriented.

All-Terrain Tires Slow You Down

So do all-terrain tires actually slow you down, compared to on-road tires? Well, yes, because for one, these tires don’t get to have as much speed ratings, nor they have the directional grip, which promotes faster acceleration times. Moreover, with wider grooves in their tread pattern, higher speeds cause these tires to overheat pretty quickly, and this not only consumes more fuel, but also burns the tread faster.

Variables Slowing Down All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires are “slowed” down due to their aggressive pattern, heavier weight, and lower speed ratings. I’ve discussed these all one by one below.

Though first, make sure you check this out, if you haven’t yet:

Tread Pattern

With wider gaps between the tread blocks, all-terrain tires limit the contact of it’s rubber with the road.

In the middle these gaps don’t allow the tire to have ample directional grip, slowing down acceleration times.

And on shoulders the larger tread voids create an inconsistent meet-up with the road limiting down the maximum speeds a tire can turn/curve on.

Moreover, with large tread depth, and a flexible tread (which all-terrain tires generally have), the blocks get to flex more, contributing to loss of energy and traction further. (That’s why these tires don’t give out impressive gas millage either).


The heavier the weight, the longer it would take to accelerate. And in case of all-terrain tires, with larger tread voids, the lugs get to have more pressure on them, which again also increases the flexing of the blocks, wasting energy, that would have otherwise consumed in to acceleration.

Basically, all-terrain tires, have larger tread depth, so thicker lugs contribute to that. But their weight is mainly added by their thicker internal construction.

They usually come in thicker 2 (or sometimes even 3) ply polyester casings with 2 steel belts and 1 or 2 layers of nylon.

Speed Ratings

The speed rating is an indication of the maximum speed at which a tire can safely run. And so tires with a higher speed rating are designed to handle higher speeds and provide better handling and stability (at those speeds). You can read all about speed ratings in detail here.

All-terrain tires typically have lower speed ratings as these tires tend to over/under steer with their heavier weight, and larger tread depth. And their grooves don’t allow the tread to make enough rubber to road contact, resulting in loss of directional grip.

That’s why these tires on average get to have S (112 mph) or T (118 mph) speed ratings, whereas on-road tires provide you with “V” (149 mph) or “Z” (over 149 mph).

Though, the good news is that there are some really great on-road oriented all-terrain tires, providing speed ratings up to H.

Note: Speed rating is not a recommendation to drive at the maximum speed. It’s just the maximum speed the tire can handle under ideal conditions. It’s also important to note that driving at high speeds on all-terrain tires can cause overheating, which can lead to a failure. Just wanna put this out there.

Fastest All-Terrain Tires

Even though compared to say, summer tires, even the fastest all-terrain tires is going to lack a lot, it’s still pretty great overall, and by no means “slow”, any way.

Let me start off with best rated all-terrain tires when it comes to highway traction, in both wet and dry condition.

Continental TerrainContact A/T

This tire gives you the speed rating of up to V (though there’s only one size with it, 255/55/R19), and so it’s not going to be “slow” by any means.

The tire basically offers a very on-road oriented design having a great combination of rigidity and softness in it’s rubber composition, allowing it to have a great under and over steering balance.

That’s why out of all the other all-terrain tires, the TerrainContact A/T gives you with one of the shortest braking distances and handling times in both wet and dry roads.

Review this tire here:

Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S

The Cooper AT3 although comes in 3 variants, only the Discoverer 4S is the one you should look for, if you need a fast enough all-terrain tire.

This tire has sizes available in speed ratings up to H.

What makes this tire faster than others is it’s streamlined longitudinal ribs, which ensure directional acceleration, it’s packed up shoulder lugs, which allow you to turn at higher speeds without losing stability.

Yokohama Geolandar AT G015

Although I ranked this tire for ride comfort (in my list of top all-terrain tires), the tire is also fast enough to make this list here as well.

It comes with speed ratings up to H (though it also goes as low as R on some sizes).

But one thing to note: This tire is not as fast on dry roads, as it is on wet. That’s because it offers a great siping pattern to clear off water from the middle, and has a decent resistance to hydroplaning, so its capable of rolling on with higher float speeds.

To Sum Up

You can not get a lot of on-performance out of all-terrain tires, as they are not built for that. But still, there are some really unique all-terrain tires, that allow you to go on minor off-road terrains, whilst keeping on-road stability, grip and handling in check.

I’ve mentioned all these tires above. All of them have speed ratings up to H (most commonly), and on one A/T tire, you even get to find a size with V.

But still a majority of the tires are what you’d call slow, as their aggressive pattern with ton of biters, and wider grooves, don’t allow them to have good enough directional grip, and with it ample speed ratings.

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