When tire makers want to present the characteristics of their product, they do so by placing icons and codes on the labels. However, the experts of the German publication Auto Zeitung are not used to relying on such information, conducting independent tests of the tires that they buy anonymously in retail stores.
Such tests are conducted in full accordance with the rigorous standards of industrial tests that stretch far beyond the performance data stated on the Euro label: independently of the manufacturers, and with the use of the most advanced measuring technologies and testing tracks that were engineered specifically for tire tests.
While the labels only provide information on fuel efficiency, wet traction, and rolling noise (indicated in barely comprehensible German acronyms), the German experts thoroughly study the tires’ behavior on different surfaces and in the same conditions. They also test them for acoustic comfort and hydroplaning resistance.
In 2019, their test of European tires was conducted in size 225/55 R17, which fits Audi A4, A6, BMW 5, or Opel Insignia. It involved 13 models of priced from 210 to 600 Euro per set.
List of models tested:
- Vredestein Wintrac Pro
- Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3
- Nokian WR A4
- Nexen Winguard Sport 2
- Michelin Alpin 5
- Maxxis Arctictrekker WP05
- Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Gen-1
- Goodride SW608
- Fortuna Winter UHP
- Falken Eurowinter HS01
- Dunlop Winter Sport 5
- Continental WinterContact TS 850 P
- Austone SP 901
Results of the winter tire test
1 place: Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Gen-1
Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Gen-1 scored an excellent first place thanks to its safety performance in the winter weather conditions. Thoroughly recommended.
2 place: Michelin Alpin 5
The outstanding grip on wet pavement, absence of any problems in the dry, and the highest snow traction on test scored Michelin Alpin 5 the second line in the final standings. Thoroughly recommended.
3 place: Vredestein Wintrac Pro
The bronze medal of this winter tire test went to Vredestein Wintrac Pro, which, thanks to its well-balanced performance, the experts are thoroughly recommending to motorists with different driving experience.
4 place: Dunlop Winter Sport 5
The fourth line in the final standings was occupied by Dunlop Winter Sport 5. These tires were praised for great performance on all types of surfaces and high level of safety even in the most unfavorable conditions. Thoroughly recommended.
5 place: Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3
The fifth place was scored by Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3, which the test experts pronounced to be excellent both in the wet and in the dry. At the same time, its behavior on snow was described as «slightly disconcerting». Nonetheless — thoroughly recommended.
6 place: Nokian WR A4
The sixth line of the ranking was occupied by Nokian WR A4 that came out the winner in the dry disciplines. Its «bite» on snow also turned out to be quite dependable, but the braking performance on wet pavement became a big disappointment for the test experts.
7 place: Continental WinterContact TS 850 P
The seventh place was all that Continental WinterContact TS 850 P could score in this test. It demonstrated unsteady behavior on wet pavement but became the best in terms of rolling resistance. The grip on snow is also up to the notch.
8 place: Nexen Winguard Sport 2
Nexen Winguard Sport 2 occupied the eighth line. The test experts liked its price/quality ratio, all the more so because the tire showed a well-balanced performance in all kinds of conditions.
9 place: Falken Eurowinter HS01
The ninth place got scored by Falken Eurowinter HS01. While only average in terms of wet braking, it showed the highest hydroplaning resistance. What spoiled the overall impression, however, was the highest rolling resistance on test.
10 place: Maxxis Arctictrekker WP05
Maxxis Arctictrekker WP05 was the tenth to cross the finish line. Its poor performance on wet pavement did cost it a lot of points. Hopefully, the successor model (WP06) will address this issue, say the German test experts.
11 place: Fortuna Winter UHP
The eleventh place got scored by Fortuna Winter UHP. It demonstrated quite a decent performance on snow, yet its weak sides showed through in the wet and dry braking tests.
12 place: Austone SP 901
Austone SP 901 scored not only the twelfth place but also the verdict «Not recommended». In spite of its great grip on snow, its wet performance was a true fiasco.
The main outsider of the Auto Zeitung winter tire test 2019 is the model Goodride SW608. This tire has issues on snowy roads, and because of that the test experts ask the drivers to refrain from using this Chinese tire brand altogether.
The main conclusion that the expert team of Auto Zeitung is as follows: you rarely come across a truly «all-purpose» winter tire; more often its characteristics are biased towards winter or summer. Creating a winter tire that would work equally well on all types of surfaces is quite a tall order. The designers have to experiment with lots of compound options, subtleties of the mixing process, tread pattern and carcass construction in order to create a winter tire that is equally great on snow, wet and dry pavement, had little rolling resistance, ensured efficient braking performance, and, preferably, had high resistance to wear.
Their path is beset on all sides with conflicting goals. For example, if you want to improve your tire’s fuel efficiency, you obviously have to sacrifice the wet traction, and vice versa. Decreasing the tread depth for better steering response will lead to increased wear. If you add more lamellas to the tread pattern for better snow traction, it will damage the tire’s performance on dry pavement. In other words, true all-purpose tires are few and far between. Choose your tires based on the weather conditions, in which you are most likely to drive.
Oh, and by the way
To redeem the Continental product in the eyes of the readers, the Auto Zeitung stressed that they were somehow able to «fish out» some rare model that is not really familiar to the consumers, is meant for OE package, and was predominantly about fuel efficiency, demonstrating the lowest rolling resistance on test.
The most «gluttonous» tire on test was Falken Eurowinter HS01. According to the manufacturer’s statement, it belongs to E class; however, the Austone SP 901 model is also referred to this class, even though this model’s rolling resistance is markedly higher. There is an obvious mismatch between the real data and class signs on the labels.
Similar mismatches were also found in the case of Continental WinterContact TS 850 P and Fortuna Winter UHP, which, although referred to Class C for their wet traction, have a considerable gap between their braking distances.
In addition, the experts were unable to detect the «low noise emission» claimed by the manufacturer in the case of Dunlop Winter Sport 5. This winter tire proved to be the noisiest one on test.
All of the above testifies but to one thing: the class data on the labels only give approximate information about the tires. Better make your choice based on the results of independent tests.