Time is implacably bringing us closer to the moment when we are faced with the necessity of installing winter tires on our cars. This issue is particularly relevant for the northern countries and latitudes where roads are plowed less than regularly.
Somebody will pull out the old rubber that was carefully stowed away since last winter, and somebody will have to choose new tires for their vehicle. It is the latter category of motorists that we hope will find interesting our review of new winter tire models 2019/2020.
It covers more than 40 tire models referring to different price brackets and designed to be installed on different types and classes of vehicles. The selection is rather large; however, the main rule that one must follow when choosing winter tires remains the same: they must meet, as much as possible, the weather conditions of the area where you are most likely to live and drive.
What to expect in the season 2019/2020
The upcoming winter season is promising to be an exciting one in terms of independent (and not so independent) tire tests.
The season 2019/2020 is going to see two more brands joining the struggle for increasing the quantity and the quality of spikes that started last winter — Kumho and Pirelli. Along with the updates of their winter lines that most tire makers are sure to be preparing, we are in for hot tensions and changes in the lineups of tournament brackets caused by the struggle for the drivers’ minds and wallets.
Remarkable is the fact that this year several brands at once have launched new winter tire models designed to be installed on commercial vehicles, which is quite a rare occasion by the standards of this conservative segment.
The presentation of winter studless tires Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 designed to be fitted on passenger cars and minivans took place in the North America in the spring of this year. The role of the main rival for this model is commonly ascribed to Michelin X–Ice Xi3.
However, the motorists outside of Canada and the USA cannot yet count on laying their hands on this model because the manufacturer has not yet decided about launching it to other markets. Painful as it might be for a lot of local motorists, the world’s biggest tire maker is currently focused on the North American market.
The other new Bridgestone tire 2019 was designed for SUVs. Bridgestone Blizzak LM005 refers already to the European type, which, nonetheless, does not stop the manufacturer from promising that it «ensures exceptional safety and control in the harshest of conditions». This promise is substantiated by the directional tread pattern and unique rubber compound created with the use of Nano Pro-Tech technology.
This new model of the winter season 2019/2020 is coming to replace not only Blizzak LM001 Evo, whose days are just about over, but who nevertheless deserves credit for bringing Bridgestone decent places in many tournament brackets, but also three other models: LM001, LM80 and LM80 Evo.
The studless development meant to be fitted on CUVs and SUVs was named Blizzak DM-V3, and is coming to replace in the popular winter line the Blizzak DM-V2 model, manufactured since 2014 but rarely spotted anywhere. 37 sizes of this model will be available in Japan since September 2019.
The eternal «second prize» of every independent test you can think of, the spiked model Continental IceContact 2 will finally pass the baton to its successor IceContact 3. Strange though it might seem, in terms of snow performance, the third-generation tire behaves exactly the same as its predecessor. Its grip on ice, however, is 10% stronger, its handling response on dry pavement is 9% better, and its hydroplaning resistance is 7% higher.
Such an upgrade can definitely be linked to the manufacturer’s hopes to stop being the eternal «second prize» in the tests of spiked tires. And losing with unfailing regularity to Number 20 in the ranking of tire makers is double painful.
The IceContact 3 tires are designed to be fitted on passenger cars and SUVs. In the large-diameter sizes, they will come equipped with ContiFlex rubber studs, and in all the other sizes — with standard aluminum spikes.
For light trucks, the Continental range 2019/2020 is going to be augmented by two winter models at once: the spiked Continental VanContact Ice and the studless Continental VanContact Viking. The former is coming to replace Continental Vanco Ice Contact. Its point of pride is the antiskid studs that were specially developed for the German tire maker by the Finnish company Tikka. Ironic.
The latter, which is coming to replace Continental VancoViking Contact 2 in the company’s model range, is made from Nordic Matrix rubber compound that utilizes rapeseed oil, which increases the tire’s grip on snow and wet pavement.
The studded tires Dunlop SP Winter Ice 03 were engineered in the Sumitomo Rubber Industries R&D center in Japan. They are coming to replace the Dunlop SP Winter Ice 02 model, compared to which they got a number of improvements. Particularly prominent are the differences in braking performance on ice and handling response on snow. In addition, the tread pattern was optimized to cut down the noise emission.
For the upcoming winter season, Sumitomo also prepared the SUV tire model Dunlop Grandtrek Ice 03. In spite of its reinforced carcass, on the outside it looks like the passenger car tire SP Winter Ice 03. The tire with a «3» in its name got spikes of an Anti-Tilt design, which, thanks to two sharp tongs and a chamfered core, penetrate the ice more effectively.
The studless model Dunlop SP Winter Sport 500 with a directional tread pattern appeared in the Turkish SRI range this winter. It is meant to be operated in soft winter conditions, in which, thanks to the efficient water drainage, this tire ensured a shorter braking distance and precise handling response on wet and snowy roads.
Goodyear has upgraded its line-up of UltraGrip winter tires. What’s interesting is the fact that out of the three tires that were presented this year, there is essentially only one model that is fundamentally new — the light-truck Goodyear UltraGrip Cargo. This model, just like all commercial vehicle tires, is meant to ensure stability and low cost of load transportation, and therefore, is characterized by dependable grip and efficient braking performance on winter roads, with a long running life coming as a welcome bonus.
The two tires with a «Plus» added at the end of their names — the passenger-car tires UltraGrip Performance+ and UltraGrip 9+ — appeared in the brand’s selection thanks to the formula that is loved so much by the tire manufacturers: the time-tested tread pattern, borrowed in this specific case from UltraGrip Performance Gen-01 and UltraGrip 9, plus the «improved and upgraded» rubber compound.
So, don’t be surprised if, looking at the new passenger car tire models 2019/2020 from Goodyear, you will get a feeling that you are looking at something painfully familiar.
But then again, this should come as no surprise at all after the last year’s incident when Goo dyear literally «raised from the dead» the Goodyear UltraGrip Ice+ model, which was taken out of production still back in 2014, and called it a new development.
Such «resurrection» stunts and cosmetic «novelties» in Goodyear’s flagship summer and winter line-ups (Eagle F1 Asymmetric 5 that appeared proudly sporting the exact same tread pattern as Asymmetric 3 immediately comes to mind) clearly indicate that the manufacturer is passing through a stagnation phase.
The list of important new models manufactured for the lucrative North American market also includes Kelly Winter Access, a subsidiary brand of Goodyear. Thanks to the directional tread pattern, these tires are meant to improve the steering response not only on snow but on ice as well.
The size range of the new tires Goodyear WinterCommand, also presented in the USA, covers not only passenger cars and SUVs but also light trucks. In order to make sure that these tires match perfectly all the types of vehicles, the designers endowed them with three versions of tread pattern.
The struggle for increasing the number of antiskid studs, which started last winter season, has been joined by Kumho. Now the company manufactures the WinterCraft ice Wi31 tire coming in two sizes with two hundred studs instead of 150, which entitled it to bear a new proud name of Kumho WinterCraft ice Wi31+.
With the pattern code WH21, Nexen is launching the European-type tire Nexen Winguard Snow’G 3.
The tread pattern of this new tire model 2019/2020, which is coming to replace Winguard Snow’G WH2, can hardly be considered to be unique: it is virtually an identical copy of a number of models by other tire makers: Continental WinterContact TS 850, Pirelli Cinturato Winter, Continental WinterContact TS 860, Bridgestone Blizzak LM005
Finland’s Nokian has launched yet another development from its relatively new «proof»-family. The Nokian WR Snowproof was engineered for winter weather conditions of the Central Europe, and is optimized to tackle wet pavement and slushy roads. Thanks to its «snow claws» it will not fail you on snow either. And this model can show quite interesting results in the tire tests of the upcoming season.
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 tires were engineered especially for vehicles that are design to take extra loads on their axles and wheels. Their key features are high resistance to puncture, and «arctic» spikes from corrosion resistant stainless steel.
Pirelli Ice Zero 2 is the Italian (well, now in the Chinese hands) brand’s, bid for victory over the Finnish in the spiked tire tests, which are part of the unfolding race for achieving the maximum number of spikes. The basic feature of this tire is a trivial increase in the number of spikes, which nonetheless is a sure way to improve the handling response on icy roads and hard-packed snow.
In addition, the manufacturer mentions a 20% improvement in the acoustic comfort. However, after the disclosure of Ice Zero FR tires being replaced in one of the 2018 tests, this is a weak argument against the background of the lost brand confidence, which Pirelli had been building up bit by bit by releasing branded calendars, trainers, and suitcases.
The other new development of this brand — Pirelli Scorpion Ice Zero 2 — is a «blood relative» of the passenger car tire model Ice Zero 2. In spite of the fully identical outward appearance, the inner structure of this model was engineered to tackle heavier loads, typical for SUVs. What is remarkable is the fact that this new winter tire model 2019/2020 became the first spiked tire that is used as original equipment for the premium-class SUVs Lamborghini Urus.
The company’s flagship line — PZero — was also augmented. The new studless tires Pirelli P Zero Winter are meant to smoothen out the seasonal transition for the sports cars drivers, that is, they must, giving the same driving pleasure, which is provided by the summer PZero tires, ensure the same level of safety and control in the conditions of the European winter. Let’s believe that.
Singapore’s Omni United has presented a new European-type tire Radar Dimax Alpine, suitable for passenger cars, CUVs and SUVs. It is designed for soft weather conditions, and one shouldn’t hold their breath for any spectacular performance on ice from this tire.
For the harshest winter weather conditions, Omni United will be manufacturing the Radar Dimax Ice and Radar Dimax Ice Lock tire models. They will have the same tread pattern. The main difference is the presence of spikes.
Within the framework of Autopromotec 2019, the company presented the winter studless tire Rotalla Setula W Race S130. The developers of the Chinese Enjoy Tyre gave it a directional tread pattern with a multitude of zigzagged lamellas that are mean to speed up the drainage of the contact patch and increase the tire’s grip on snow and wet pavement.
The commercial studless tire Rotalla Setula W Race VS450 also refers to the European type. Its tread pattern with wide ribs and deep circumferential grooves is meant to improve the tire’s handling performance on wet pavement.
The Scandinavian-type studless tire Toyo Observe GSi-6, presented in 2019, is coming to replace two models at once — Observe Garit KX and Observe Garit GSi-5 (depending on the market). The new winter tire got an optimized tread pattern and an upgraded rubber compound, which strengthened its grip on ice, snow and wet pavement in the cold weather.
Toyo Observe GSi-6 is the basic version of the brand’s new studless model that has two other modifications: Toyo Observe GSi-6 HP designed for more powerful passenger cars, and Toyo Observe GSi-6 LS designed to be used by SUV drivers.
The Toyo Observe S943 model 2013 from the brand’s European range will be at long last replaced by Toyo Observe S944. According to the manufacturer, it will provide a higher degree of safety on wet pavement, which is ensured by the patented platform technology Nano Balance. Regretfully, this new development will not be available by the beginning of the season; the dealers will only get it in the beginning of 2020.
Without a moment’s hesitation, this Chinese manufacturer referred the Triangle SnowLink PL02 tire to the UHP class. And, in order to improve its performance on winter roads in any winter conditions (and, for the record, we are only talking about countries with soft climate here), endowed it with an asymmetric tread pattern that ensures an outstanding grip on wet pavement and on snowy roads.
The updated offering from China’s ZC Rubber for the European market includes two new models coming under the brand of Westlake for passenger cars — the studded IceMaster Spike Z-506 and the studless ZuperSnow Z-507. The former will have a better grip on ice thanks to its «teeth», while the latter is meant to tackle first of all wet pavement and packed snow, ensuring at the same time a smooth ride and fuel efficiency.
On the Canadian market, the list of new tire models 2019/2020 is complemented by the studless «Scandinavian» Yokohama iceGUARD iG53. Its size range covers a whole number of popular cars, such as BMW X1, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Corolla, Kia Rio, Kia Soul, Hyundai Accent, and Hyundai Elantra.
The Japanese tire maker is focusing on the North American market, and whether or not this model will be available on other continents, is yet unknown.
Giti Tire has launched GT Radial Maxmiler Ice — its first spiked winter tire model for light trucks, designed to tackle extreme weather conditions. It is only available in four sizes but this is quite enough for covering most of the pre-popular commercial vehicles, such as Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter.
Poland’s Handlopex, which is the European distributor of the Paxaro tires, manufactured at Continental production facilities, made announcements about the launch of Europe-type tires Paxaro Inverno. These are meant to be fitted on passenger cars and SUVs.
The new winter tires 2019 Evergreen IceTour i5 from China’s Sailun are subject to being studded. It is obviously coming to replace IceTour i3, in the company’s model range, but what makes this tire different is not yet disclosed by the manufacturer.
Brands Taking a Break
Some of the manufacturers took a break for the season 2019/2020, not presenting any noticeable new models. At the same time, while some of these tire makers take satisfaction in reaping the fruits of their efforts in the test results, the others, being unable to come up with any decent new models, are only recharging their batteries and try to make up for the absence of new product by launching various marketing spins, sometimes not just questionable but downright fraudulent.
This «take-a-break» category seems to include Michelin, which kept sprouting dozens of clones of the same budget-friendly tire models throughout the whole year of 2018, as well as presented two of its flagship models — Michelin Alpin 6 and X–Ice North 4, coming with a record-breaking number of spikes.
Similarly, the Korean Hankook continues basking in the rays of its triumphant «dark horse» — the spiked model Hankook Winter i*Pike RS2 W429. Even here, however, it was not without scandals.
Besides a multitude of half-forgotten and dust-covered subsidiary brands, this season’s bench is also warmed by Lassa, Cooper, Apollo, and Maxxis.
What’s in the Cards
The spectacular new winter tire models involved in the tire tests 2019/2020 will allow us to watch the mounting rivalry of the tire manufacturers against the background of crisis of the genre in the area of tread pattern design. This year, the professional community’s whole attention will be focused on spikes.
The cutthroat competition for the first place on ice will involve the spiked Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9, Michelin X–Ice North 4, and this year’s fresh models: Continental IceContact 3 and Pirelli Ice Zero 2.
In the harsh conditions of Scandinavian winter, last year’s new model VikingContact 7 will struggle to prove its champion’s title. In this situation, «the next best thing», the Goodyear UltraGrip Ice 2 model, will do everything not to lose its ground. And as for Pirelli IceZero FR, it is very likely to take a slump in the sales.
In the realm of European tires, the unquestionable leadership for the second year running is won by Continental WinterContact TS 860. The list of its rivals includes a few models, the most successful of them being Goodyear UltraGrip 9.
Until the string of publications with the results of the new season’s winter tire tests comes around, the results of all the tire tests, both European and Scandinavian, as well as the studded tires 2018, which we gathered in one place, will remain relevant.