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- Excellent dry grip for an all-terrain tire
- Very good wet traction for the price
- Communicative steering with a good on-center feel
- Solid traction and handling on packed snow
- Good performance on dirt and gravel
- Outstanding treadwear warranty for the money
- Budget-friendly price
- Suffers on challenging terrains, like mud and rocks
- Average traction on unpacked snow (when off-roading)
- Its rivals are smoother and quieter down the road
Sumitomo isn’t a tire brand that you often hear about in enthusiast circles, and it certainly doesn’t have the cachet of its bigger Japanese brother, Bridgestone. However, its parent company, Sumitomo Group, is one of the oldest in Japan and is famous for its engineering prowess and innovation. The company also has the Falken and Dunlop brands under its belly, so it’s legit.
This brings me to the Sumitomo Encounter AT, a recently-launched all-terrain tire that promises premium performance at a lower price than its competitors. It is not a cheap tire – some no-name Chinese models are much cheaper. However, you’ll still be paying 10-15% less compared to its premium rivals, which might bring you $100+ savings, depending on the size.
But just like with every other budget-oriented product, the question remains – is it any good? Generally, I don’t recommend cheap tires, but the Encounter AT isn’t like that. It’s a well-designed mild all-terrain model with a unique tread pattern and advanced tread compound. So, how does that translate into the real world? Let’s have a closer look at the Sumitomo Encounter AT in my in-depth review!
What are the features of the Sumitomo Encounter AT?
Sumitomo utilized a rugged all-terrain compound for the Encounter AT, along with a non-directional 5-rib tread design with independent blocks to provide higher off-road traction and solid on-road grip.
The Japanese tiremaker didn’t do anything new when designing its latest all-terrain tire. Most of its competitors have a strengthened rubber compound to better deal with abrasive surfaces like dirt, gravel, and rocks.
However, it’s good to know that Sumitomo didn’t copy the tread pattern from other models – the optimized tread pattern is unique to the Encounter AT. Sure, the design isn’t groundbreaking, but it doesn’t have to be at this price point.
For instance, the Encounter AT has the usual deep circumferential grooves to help with hydroplaning resistance and wet traction, along with a 5-rib tread design that provides stability and protects against irregular wear.
Inside every block, Sumitomo incorporated sipes to create more biting edges for higher traction on snow. As a result, the tire has a 3PMSF (Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake) symbol, meaning it provides higher longitudinal snow traction (acceleration and braking) than regular M+S tires. Moreover, the tread has been designed to minimize noise and provide a smoother ride.
Inside, the Encounter AT features a jointless nylon cap ply to level the load distribution and wide and stiff steel belts to stabilize the tread and provide a better steering response. Furthermore, the high-tension casing ply provides a balance between comfort and stability, while the hard bead apex reinforces the whole tire to make it suitable for heavy-duty tasks like towing and hauling.
What are the Sumitomo Encounter AT’s maintenance indicators?
The Sumitomo Encounter AT uses the widely adopted wear bars inside the tire grooves. These indicators are very rudimentary and can only show you when the tread depth reaches the legal minimum, which for all-season tires is 2/32-inch (1.6).
However, in my opinion, that’s not satisfactory on an all-terrain tire, and for two reasons. The main one is off-road performance – 2/32 inches is not enough to give you reliable traction on slippery terrain, i.e., you’ll need to replace the tires sooner if you often drive on the trail.
The second issue is that the minimum legal tread depth for driving in the winter (in most places globally) is 5/32 inches (4 mm). With the Encounter AT, you won’t know when the tread reaches that depth.
In all fairness to Sumitomo, most competitors utilize the same tread wear indicators. Still, it’s 2023, and I think tiremakers should start incorporating user-friendly features in their products. For now, you’ll have to use a cheap tread depth gauge, which can give you an accurate reading of the depth of every groove in your tire.
What is the Sumitomo Encounter AT warranty?
The Sumitomo Encounter AT comes with a 60,000-mile treadwear warranty on all sizes, including the heavy-duty LT-metric models. This is one of the longest warranties you’ll get in an all-terrain tire, and all the more impressive considering the price. Owners are also satisfied with the treadlife, with most reporting regular wear through the first few years of use.
How does the Sumitomo Encounter AT behave on dry roads?
The Encounter AT is a solid performer on dry tarmac, with a good steering feel, surefooted handling, and solid grip, even when loaded.
This surprised me, as cheaper all-terrain tires usually sacrifice on-road performance to give you the best possible off-road traction. Not the Encounter AT, though. Sumitomo’s all-terrain tire isn’t the best in its category, but it’s damn good for the price.
For instance, although not very responsive, the tire provides good steering feedback, making it easy to drive on twisty roads. Meanwhile, the excellent on-center feel and straight-line tracking mean that driving on the highway isn’t tiring for the driver, even on longer journeys.
There is also ample traction on offer – the Encounter AT has some of the shortest braking distances in the category and doesn’t have any issue with slippage during hard acceleration. The lateral grip is also very good for the category and more than you could ask for at this price point.
And even if you put heavy cargo in the bed of your truck or tow a large trailer, the Sumitomo Encounter AT has you covered. The sidewalls seem sturdy enough and capable of carrying much weight, and the highway stability barely suffers. Of course, all “driving with a trailer attached” rules still apply, so drive more slowly and carefully.
How is the Sumitomo Encounter AT on wet and slippery roads?
Wet traction is one of Sumitomo Encounter AT’s stronger suits, as it provides ample traction for an all-terrain tire and is generally easy to drive in the rain.
It was another surprise for me, as I didn’t expect a budget tire to perform as well as some premium alternatives and even beat some of them. Cheaper tires usually perform poorly in rainy conditions, but the Encounter AT punches above its weight here again.
I rarely struggled for traction in the rain with this tire. It accelerates strongly and provides some of the shortest braking distances in the category while providing ample lateral grip. Moreover, driving fast on wet tarmac is very safe thanks to its balanced handling and predictable behavior at the limit.
Hydroplaning also shouldn’t concern you, thanks to the large void area and deep grooves. This tire can easily cut through puddles of water and keep you planted and safe.
With that being said, how is the Sumitomo Encounter AT on snowy roads?
The Encounter AT is a very solid performer on light snow, though it won’t replace a winter tire in more severe wintry conditions. Some of its all-terrain rivals are also better, but not by much, and they are usually more expensive.
Like every other all-season tire, you’ll need to evaluate whether the snow traction it offers is enough for you. Not all of us encounter severe winter weather, and modern all-season tires, like the 3PMSF-branded Encounter AT, are perfect for those people.
In particular, you’ll have no issue driving on light snow, as the Encounter AT will accelerate, brake, and steer very well. Sure, you’ll need to drive more slowly than you would with a set of winter tires on your truck, but it’s the same with most other all-terrain tires.
However, those that encounter harsh road conditions during the winter, like deep snow, ice, and snow storms, should avoid the Sumitomo Encounter AT. Although it comes with the 3PMSF emblem, this tire simply doesn’t have enough traction to keep you safe.
It’s the same with unpacked snow, the type you encounter while off-roading, though to a lesser extent. Namely, the Encounter AT can dig through snow, but not as successfully as some of its more aggressive rivals, such as the Falken Wildpeak A/T3W.
Is the Sumitomo Encounter AT suitable for off-road driving?
As far as off-roading goes, the Sumitomo Encounter AT will be a huge step up if you come from highway all-season tires. However, if you are more serious about visiting faraway places, there are better all-terrain options, including some similarly-priced models.
Still, if your off-road sessions only include dirt and gravel, you’ll be delighted with the performance. There is ample traction on offer, and the casing seems sturdy enough. I also didn’t experience chipping on the tread, though the stone rejection could be better. Namely, if the trails are littered with smaller stones, you might need to clean the tread afterward.
However, the Encounter AT isn’t at its best on more challenging trails. While you’ll get some traction in shallower mud, deep mud is a no-go for this tire. Moreover, you’ll find it hard to overcome larger rocks, even after you deflate the tires. And while you shouldn’t have issues driving on dry turf, your truck/SUV will struggle for traction on wet grass.
Truthfully, these issues aren’t limited to the Encounter AT – any other “mild” all-terrain tire will struggle on challenging terrains. For instance, heavy hitters like the Continental TerrainContact A/T and Michelin LTX A/T2 are also average for off-roading and provide outstanding on-road traction. In that sense, it isn’t surprising that the Encounter AT struggles in mud and over large rocks.
Is the Sumitomo Encounter AT a run-flat tire?
No, the Encounter AT is not a run-flat tire, and Sumitomo doesn’t sell run-flat tires in North America. However, no other tiremaker produces an all-terrain run-flat tire, so this isn’t a disadvantage for the Encounter AT.
How are the Sumitomo Encounter AT’s road noise and comfort performance?
The Sumitomo Encounter AT isn’t the smoothest nor the quietest all-terrain tire, but it isn’t uncomfortable or noisy either.
Namely, there is a constant high-pitched noise, which, although not very loud, easily permeates the cabin, especially at higher speeds. As for the ride, it isn’t very harsh, but there is secondary movement after the Encounter AT hits a larger bump, which sends reverberations in the cabin.
Nonetheless, considering the category, I think most people will be happy with how the Encounter AT fares in the comfort department. Sure, you’ll have a better time with models like the Continental TerrainContact A/T and General Grabber APT, but overall, Sumitomo’s all-terrain tire is good enough for most people.
Should I buy the Sumitomo Encounter AT
If you want a tire that will give you reliable on-road grip and solid dirt/gravel traction, you should put the Sumitomo Encounter AT on your shortlist. It’s a reasonably priced product that punches above its weight in many categories, making it an easy recommendation for budget-minded buyers.
However, you will get better performance if you opt for some of its premium rivals. For instance, Continental’s outstanding TerrainContact A/T performs better on the street and is more comfortable, while the Falken WildPeak A/T3W will give you much better traction in mud and over large rocks.
Overall, though, the Encounter AT is a solid tire for the money, especially since it’s a durable and quality-made product.
What sizes does the Sumitomo Encounter AT come in?
The Sumitomo Encounter AT comes in 46 dimensions ranging from 15-inch to 20-inch wheel diameter, including P-metric, LT-metric, and flotation sizes.