This year, the experts of the German magazine Auto Bild Allrad performed a comparative tire test that involved models of various price brackets in today’s popular size of 225/55R17 101V, one that fits most small to compact CUVs.
The victory in the snow test, which was carried out in the north of Japan, as well as on wet and dry pavement, was disputed by:
- Goodyear UltraGrip Performance+;
- Bridgestone Blizzak LM005;
- Michelin Alpin 6;
- Vredestein Wintrac Pro;
- Dunlop Winter Sport 5;
- Toyo Observe S944;
- Uniroyal MS plus 77;
- Maxxis Premitra Snow WP6;
- Syron Everest 1 Plus;
- Duraturn Mozzo Winter.
The test car was a versatile and dynamic crossover BMW X1. The tires’ performance was rated on a scale from 6 (poor) to 1 (very good). And, as always, the Auto Bild Allrad experts took along a set of summer tires — just to demonstrate how powerless they are on snow and ice and to remind us about the importance of the seasonal tire swap.
There is a popular saying that goes «buy nice or buy twice», but it is hardly applicable to purchasing new tires. Because, even despite the deep disappointment of the owner after their car has run the first 100 kilometers, cheap tires usually stay with the car for the next few years! Whoever in their right mind will be getting rid of brand-new tires in order to have them replaced with another set, even if of a better quality, only way more expensive? It is unlikely that anyone will do this. And this is yet another reason why it is so important to be in the loop on the results of comparative tire tests, from which, specifically, you may find out that you may save up about 385 Euro by buying a set of the less-popular Duraturn tires instead of the expensive Michelins. Still, though, in the long run you will find out that using these cheap tires is probably not a good idea.
Why? Simply because the enticingly cheap Duraturn, although quite convincing on snow, when braking from 100 km/h on wet pavement has a stopping distance of seemingly endless 58.5 meters! The cheap tire delivers so little traction on wet pavement that even the ABS of the BMW X1 was barely capable of ensuring the basic safety. Compared to the best tire in this discipline, the Bridgestone model, the stopping distance provided by the Duraturn is 15.1 meters longer, i.e. it constitutes three lengths of a car. For the sake of vividness, let’s consider the following example: suppose you must stop before a traffic jam that has suddenly popped up ahead. On cheap tires, you will most probably smash into the rear of the car ahead, even if braking from 50 km/h. The consequences are quite predictable: irritation, loss of time and money — and this is the best-case scenario. Nothing of the above would have happened on good expensive tires because they would have stopped you in time.
So the obvious advice would be to at once invest in good tires. Specifically, Goodyear, Bridgestone, Michelin, and Vredestein, which became the best in the Auto Bild Allrad test 2020. A set of friction tires will cost you from 500 Euro (Vredestein) to 615 Euro (Michelin) but it is all worth it. And not because of winter performance alone — because the cheap Duraturn and Syron are also quite convincing on snow! Global warming has already brought us winters full of rain, melted snow, and, as a consequence, wet pavement. And the world’s leading tire manufacturers invest a lot of effort into developing the rubber compound that would combine good grip on snow with just as good traction on wet pavement.
However, young tire makers from the Far East are also learning to work in new ways, which is clearly seen at the example of the Maxxis brand from the Taiwanese tire giant Cheng Shin. 385 Euro for a set of winter tires is not a lot more expensive than you would pay for some «no-name» set, but this Taiwanese tire model was so much superior to its Far-East brothers that its performance was ultimately enough for the overall «satisfactory» ranking. Of course, to be rated as «good», the Maxxis had to deliver an even better braking performance, but buying it you are sure getting your money’s worth.
Of course, it’s still miles away from the world’s top tire brands. This year, the Auto Bild Allrad experts were most of all convinced by the Goodyear model. This tire is not only great on snow, but it also demonstrates excellent steering response and braking capabilities on wet and dry pavement, providing handling performance, which is, according to subjective estimates, close to that of summer tires. Thus, one feature that good winter tires have in common is the fact that if the road is not covered with snow, you will notice little to no difference from summer tires in terms of the handling feel.
Traction. Virtually all the tires, including the cheap ones, provide great acceleration on snow. Only the Maxxis model was a bit slow, but it still was able to score «2 with a minus». You can live with that if your car is four-wheel drive.
Braking. Even during the braking on hard-packed snow the differences in the tires’ performance were surprisingly small. Even the Michelin and Maxxis, two tires with the longest stopping distance, earned a positive score of 2. What scares us here is just the summer tire, which demonstrated a stopping distance more than twice as long as that of the Maxxis, which came last.
Handling. There was no passing the test track on summer tires — the car immediately went into a skid and crashed into the snow safety walls on the sides. The first place was disputed here by the expensive Dunlop and the budget Duraturn tires, yet even the Maxxis, which was a lot slower to respond to the turns of the steering wheel, was able to score a decent «two with a minus».
Slalom. A real surprise: a super-cheap «discount» Duraturn tire provides better traction while cornering on snow, showing to the reputed branded tires who is the boss. However, even the Maxxis tire with its «2-" score was not so bad on the slalom track, while on the summer tires you could only drive in the first gear.
Hydroplaning: straight and lateral. For a few decades now, Uniroyal has been considered the «rain» tire brand, and at least in the hydroplaning tests, the MS plus 77 model performed up to its reputation. At the same time, however, the Maxxis tire, sold at a much more reasonable price, performs on wet pavement even better. Hardly anything positive can be said here about the budget Duraturn model. For the summer tire, the situation was somewhat improved by its harder tread compound.
Circular track and handling. Even at low temperatures, modern summer tires have an edge over winter ones on wet pavement. Not a single winter tire can provide handling response as precise as the summer ones, but on the circular track the Michelin tire was spotted demonstrating lateral grip even stronger than that of the summer tires.
Braking. This test proves: when the snow is gone, and it comes to braking, summer tires are still the best. The differences between the winter tires are also obvious: «one» for the Bridgestone model, «three» for the Syron, and «five» for the Duraturn, which just wasn’t up to the level during the wet test. A braking distance of 58.5 meters from 100 km/h is just no good!
Handling. It’s just amazing how fuzzy the handling response of such a reliable car as BMW X1 becomes when driving on tires like Syron or Duraturn. Of course, summer tires are unrivaled here. However, the winter Bridgestone model also impressed the testers with its crisp steering response, and delivered true driving pleasure while cornering.
Noise. «Winter tires are noisy, summer tires are quiet» — at least, this has been a popular opinion for quite some time. Today, however, it’s exactly the other way around, which has been again proved by the recent tests. There is one exception, though: the Michelin tires.
Braking. Of course, this is a summer-specific discipline, and the winter tires cannot be up to the level of the summer ones, their results coming pretty close to each other: from «two» for Verdestein to «three plus» for Dunlop.
Rolling resistance. The low price of the Syron tires will not actually help you to save up because you will have to pay a lot more for the gasoline due to the tires’ increased rolling resistance. Out of the winter tires, only the Uniroyal model was able to get a score of «2+" but it still falls short of the summer tires.
The test yet again confirmed the old truth: cheap tires from no-name brands most often are not even worth what little money they cost. At least, if you care about your safety. One of the main issues for winter tires is wet braking, where the «no-names», as a rule, fail, while the expensive brands generally demonstrate adequate performance.