The persistent summer weather will still not fool experienced motorists: the new winter season is just round the corner, and now is the time to check out your winter tires. It’s great if your winter tires look like they will last you at least one more season, but if the service life of your old set of tires has expired, and the tread pattern is now but a fleeting memory, then, before the first frosts come, it’s just the time to start checking out the new winter tire releases 2020/2021 in order to meet the wintertime fully prepared.
This review of new winter tires 2020/2021 covers passenger-car, SUV, and commercial tire models not only from the world’s leading tire makers, but also from less known manufacturers, which is meant to significantly expand your choices.
The list includes more than 30 new models; however, the main rule that one must follow when choosing new 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. In spite of the fact that winters are growing ever milder, nobody is guaranteed against sudden frosts or heavy snowfalls; hence, the first challenge is choosing between studded and friction tires of European and Nordic type. Let’s get started!
New European tire models 2020/2021
In the end of February 2020, Germany’s Continental AG introduced the successor of the WinterContact TS 860 premium model, whose outstanding performance allowed it to win numerous awards in comparative tire tests conducted by European industry publications.
The new Continental WinterContact TS 870 model, designed for midsize, compact, and midget cars, offers high levels of safety when driving on ice, snow, and wet pavement, as well as longer expected mileage and lower rolling resistance, which was achieved through optimizing the tread design and renewing the Cool Chili tread compound formula.
The company planned to launch the sales of the TS 870 model in the fall of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic thwarted these plans: the temporary closure of the company’s manufacturing facilities in Europe led to a decrease in production capacity, as a result of which it was decided to postpone the launch of the new winter model till 2021.
According to the Japanese tire maker Sumitomo, the Dunlop Winter Maxx 03 tire model, designed for passenger cars, city SUVs, and minivans, is characterized by the highest-ever ice traction in the history of this brand.
Its key difference from the previous-generation model Winter Maxx 02 (WM02) consists in using a new type of rubber that gives the tire surface an uneven structure that speeds up evacuation of water from the contact area while driving on slippery ice. Sumitomo emphasizes that due to this new feature the Dunlop WM03 lateral grip and braking performance were improved by 11% and 22% respectively.
Bridgestone Corporation opted out of presenting any new tire models of its main brand for the new winter season, but launched a new flagship tire model of its subsidiary brand Firestone. Designed for passenger cars and SUVs, the Firestone Winterhawk 4 tire model is characterized by optimum handling response in a wide range of weather conditions.
According to the manufacturer, the Firestone Winterhawk 4 snow traction was increased by 7% compared to the previous-generation model, while the wet stopping distance was cut by 4%.
Another new model of the winter season 2020/2021 is the studded winter tire Gislaved Nord*Frost Van 2.
This model was developed to ensure solid traction for minivans and light trucks in the harshest of Nordic winter conditions. Compared to the previous-generation model, it is also more resistant to tear and puncture.
Singapore’s Giti Tire presented to the European consumers its new sports winter tire GT Radial WinterPro 2 Sport, which came to replace the GT Radial Champiro WinterPro HP. The selection of the new tire model, designed by Giti Tire’s European Research and Development Centre in Hannover, Germany, includes 39 out of the 42 popular passenger-car and SUV tire sizes, and covers 70% of the target market.
Remarkable is the fact that the directional tread design of the new UHP model, inspired by an eastern sword with sharp edges for better grip on snow and wet pavement, was borrowed from the GT Radial WinterPro2 tire.
«A winter perfection in all conditions» — in this rather modest nutshell Korea’s Hankook positions its new premium-class tires Winter i*Cept evo3 W330 (passenger) and Winter i*Cept evo3 X W330A (SUV).
Thanks to the Aqua Pine rubber compound with the inclusion of high-purity coniferous resin, as well as the V-shaped tread pattern with transverse drainage grooves resembling gull wings, this tire ensures stable traction and short stopping distances on snow, as well as on dry and wet pavement. The new tire will gradually replace the previous-generation models Winter i*cept evo2 W320 and Winter i*cept evo2 W320A.
Hankook Winter i*cept evo3 W330A
- This tire replaced Hankook / Winter i*cept evo2 SUV W320A
- Available Sizes in Line: 28
- Year Released: 2020
- Regions for sale: Europe
Designed for cars with a high clearance, the Kenda Wintergen 2 SUV tire model helped the company to stop the gap in its European range: the mass production of the Kenda Wintergen 2 (KR501) passenger-car tire started still in 2016.
Kenda Wintergen 2 KR504 SUV
- This tire replaced ⛔ Kenda / Wintergen 2 KR51
- Available Sizes in Line: 17
- Year Released: 2020
- Regions for sale: Europe
Somehow quite imperceptibly, against the backdrop of a string of scandals that involved this Korean tire maker, the Kumho range got extended with a new passenger-car friction tire, which is called, depending on the source, either Kumho WinterCraft Wi51 or Kumho WinterCraft Ice Wi51. At the same time, as Kumho specified for Tiresvote.com, both spelling versions are correct.
Compared to the previous-generation model, Kumho Wi51 in size 205/55 R16 offers an 8% better handling response on ice, and a 12% better handling response on snow, which to a large extent is ensured by the special «lizard paw» micro-grooves on the tread blocks in the shoulder areas.
In the fall of 2020, the European market will be supplied with a new version of the Laufenn I Fit tire. The new Laufenn I Fit+ model inherited the tread design from its predecessor. What was changed, however, was the rubber compound. Hankook Tire, who owns the budget brand Laufenn, says that the new compound significantly improved the tire’s performance on wet pavement and melted snow.
The key competitive advantages of the Linglong Green-Max Winter Grip 2 passenger-car winter tire, according to the Chinese tire maker, are affordable price, and excellent ice braking performance. There is also an option of equipping the tread with steel «teeth», the number of retention holes in some of the sizes reaching 250!
It is noted that this tire model was included in the lineup of the tire test conducted by Test World, and, therefore, we have to wait just a little bit to learn, within a couple of months, whether this huge number of anti-skid studs really places the tire head and shoulders above its premium-class rivals.
We will remind you here that a little bit earlier Linglong presented the Green-Max Winter Grip Van 2 commercial tire model.
Michelin: two new models
The Michelin X–Ice Snow and Michelin X–Ice Snow SUV are, probably, the two most long-awaited models within the range of this French tire manufacturer not only for the season 2020/2021, but over a few recent years as well.
Michelin took its time about releasing the replacement for the Michelin X–Ice Xi3 passenger-car tire and the Michelin Latitude X–Ice Xi2 SUV tire, because both predecessor models still enjoyed a fair bit of popularity among the motorists, and still sold fairly well, says the technical expert of Tiresvote.com.
However, in the independent comparative tests to these models very long competitors did not leave chances to seem in swamp total it was rating; therefore the need for their replacement is clearly overripe. As for the Michelin X–Ice Xi3 reputation, it was already tainted by a scandal. Trying to catch up, Michelin heavily invested into marketing, inviting numerous auto journalists to the X–Ice Snow test drive.
The «sticky» tires X–Ice Snow SUV and X–Ice Snow SUV, featuring an optimized, yet still directional, tread pattern in combination with innovative technologies and upgraded tread compound, ensure better snow performance, and a short stopping distance on ice. Both tires also ensure stable performance throughout the entire tread life, which will allow the motorists to use them on average one season longer — the company says.
Michelin X-Ice Snow SUV
- Available Sizes in Line: 38
- Year Released: 2020
- Regions for sale: USA+, Canada, Japan
The products of the X–Ice Snow SUV winter line will be available from the fall of 2020 in 82 sizes with speed indexes T and H. Another 41 sizes will be released from the fall of 2021.
The tires produced by the Korean company Nexen have become widespread in European countries, and the manufacturer tries not to lose face by releasing his next brainchild. The new winter tire model Nexen WinGuard WinSpike 3, which, by the way, has been available retail since 2020, uses studs of special construction that makes it possible to increase the penetration depth of the hard-alloy tip into the ice by 140–150%.
In size 205/55 R16, the third-generation passenger-car tire WinGuard WinSpike is fitted with 190 studs. This, of course, is not a record breaker of the «stud race» between the tire makers that started last year, but almost «up to the level».
Another new Nordic studless tire model was presented by the Japanese Toyo. The new budget-friendly Nitto SN3 Winter model is designed to be fitted on passenger cars, as well as on pickup trucks, SUVs and CUVs. The directional tread pattern ensures better, compared to the Nitto Winter SN2 model, overall performance while driving on slush-ridden roads, and better handling response and riding comfort in any winter conditions.
As the developers explain, to some extent this is due to crushed walnut shells (Toyo’s «Microbyte» proprietary technology), and bamboo charcoal contained in the tread compound, which has an absorbing effect, clearly manifested on the ice-covered roads.
The «P» version of the Nokian WR Snowproof model (the main disappointment of the winter season 2019/2020) is, according to the manufacturer, a premium-class passenger car friction tire that offers a «masterful combination of high-performance handling and reliable winter grip». The Nokian WR Snowproof P tire, officially approved to be used in the wintertime (it has the Three Peak Mountain Snowflake sign) is also characterized by low rolling resistance that optimizes the vehicle’s fuel consumption.
As always, Nokian tires are promoted in Europe (where they do not enjoy too much popularity, to be honest) by Mika Häkkinen, the Finnish double F1 champion. Just as with the new Kumho model, the name Nokian WR Snowproof P is just as dual. As Nokian Tyres specified for tiresvote.com the tire name can be given either with the WR affix or without it.
Sailun: three new models 2020
In 2020, China’s Sailun presented three new tire models at once, designed for the northern winter 2020/2021. The passenger-car friction tires Sailun Ice Blazer Arctic and Sailun Ice Blazer Arctic Evo, whose developers clearly proceeded from the Sailun WinterPro SW61 and Sailun WinterPro SW82 models, are designed for the mass market and more powerful cars respectively.
The Sailun Ice Blazer Arctic SUV tire model differs from the Ice Blazer Arctic passenger-car tire not only with its reinforced inner construction, designed with regard to the specifics of using tires on vehicles with a high center of gravity, but also with a tread pattern that improves stability during lane changes and during cornering. This model inherited its tread design from Sailun WinterPro SW81.
The 2013 Toyo Observe S943 model from the European range of this Japanese brand will be finally replaced by the Toyo Observe S944.
The latest generation of the passenger-car «Alpine» tires is characterized by a high level of driving safety on snow and wet pavement due to the use of the patented Nano Balance technology.
For the motorists who live in regions with mild winters, as an alternative to expensive models, the Chinese tire maker offers the High-Performance tire model Triangle WinterX TW401, characterized by «best in its class» wet braking. For colder regions, the company developed the studded tire model named Triangle IcelynX TI501. Both models are passenger-car tires.
For a mild winter, the engineers of Continental AG, who owns the Uniroyal brand, developed two new tire models.
One of them, the Uniroyal Snow Max 3 commercial tire model, is already available, while the start of the sales of the Uniroyal WinterExpert passenger-car tire, which for the first time in the history of this brand utilizes the «Sharkskin» technology, has been rescheduled to 2021.
Vredestein, who renamed its winter line Snowtrac into Wintrac — this fact became known in 2018 when the Wintrac Pro tire model was released — launched another winter tire model called Vredestein Wintrac. The new model should have been presented at the Tire Cologne 2020, but, due to the fact that the show was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company had to organize an online launch of the new winter tire model 2020.
Wintrac tires are more suitable for the current European winters, which have been growing ever warmer in recent years. The Apollo-Vredestein engineers have improved the Wintrac wet performance, its snow traction remaining as high as that of the Wintrac Pro.
For commercial use, Apollo is offering the new tire model called Vredestein Comtrac 2 Winter+.
Compact and midsize passenger cars, as well as compact SUVs, can be fitted with the new friction tires Yokohama BluEarth*Winter V906.
Yokohama claims that the BluEarth*Winter V906, based on the Powerful Traction concept, improves on the performance of its predecessor, the BluEarth Winter V905 tire model, in two areas that the European drivers consider to be crucial for winter tires: snow and ice performance, and reliable wet traction, combined with high resistance to wear. The unique construction of the new tires includes a frost-resistant undertread layer that serves to reduce rolling resistance.
Outside of Europe
2020 has seen a lot of new winter tire models being released outside of Europe. For example, for the Canadian motorists Continental AG presented two new winter developments: the Continental WinterContact SI Plus friction tire designed for passenger cars, CUVs, and minivans, which utilizes Alignment Verification System that promotes constant verification of vehicle misalignment, as well as the Continental IceContact XTRM studded tire model, designed in collaboration of the Groupe Touchette engineers to be used in extreme winter conditions.
The Cooper Discoverer Snow Claw new tire model for pickup trucks and SUVs, designed to tackle harsh winter conditions, will become an excellent addition to the Discoverer line of this US tire maker, which already includes the Cooper Discoverer Evolution Winter and Cooper Discoverer True North models, introduced earlier.
The third quarter of 2020 saw the start of the US sales of the most efficient ever (well, not really «ever», just the most efficient within this Goodyear tire line) premium friction winter tire WinterCommand Ultra.
According to the manufacturer, the new tire model is characterized by excellent ice and snow grip, which is confirmed by the first place that it scored in the comparative tire test that also involved Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 and Michelin X–Ice Xi3 in size 215/60 R16. The new Goodyear model surpassed its seasoned competitors in terms of handling response and lateral stability on wet pavement, hydroplaning resistance, and ride comfort.
The Kumho Winter PorTran CW11 light-truck studdable winter tire, produced at the company’s manufacturing facility in China, so far is only available in Canada.
Unfortunately, the winter season 2020/2021 cannot boast an abundance of bright new tire products, and the list of models compared to last year has become one third smaller. Such brands as Goodyear, Westlake, Pirelli, Lassa, Maxxis, and many others, decided to take a timeout this year, not presenting any new models at all. In terms of comparative tire tests, all the attention of car owners, just like in 2019, will surely be focused on the struggle of studded or «spiked» winter models bristling like porcupines.