Sport Auto 2019: Winter Tire Test

If you want to drive your car in the wintertime, you need safe tires. Especially if you are a speed fan.

It was this category of drivers that was on the minds of the experts of Germany’s Sport Auto magazine, who decided to perform a test of winter tires 235/40 R18 and define which models have the least dynamic limitations in any weather conditions of the wintertime.
Totally, the test involved eight modern tire sets with a speed limit of 240–270 km/h, only six of them being winter ones. The lineup also included all-season tires meant to help the experts find out whether these can really become a valid alternative for driving on winter roads, and a set of out-of-competition summer UHP-tires, driving on which in low temperatures is definitely a bad idea.

List of models tested:

The experts’ feedback and more

Continental ContiWinterContact TS 850 P, which did not give the test experts a single chance to find any issues with it, for the sole exception of poor lateral hydroplaning resistance, became the winner of the Sport Auto winter tire test 2019. This was also ensured by the well-balanced and stable performance of ContiWinterContact TS 850 P on snow, its great handling response on wet pavement, as well as efficient braking and crisp steering response in the dry.

Continental WinterContact TS 850P
Continental WinterContact TS 850P

Vredestein Wintrac Pro scored the excellent second place, once again standing up to the reputable name of Apollo Tires, which in 2019 literally took the tire industry by storm, getting all sorts of accolades. The silver medal was awarded to Wintrac Pro thanks to its great traction and precise handling response on wet and dry pavement alike. It was also great on snow, falling only a little short of the leader’s performance. However, one obvious downside of this tire is its high rolling resistance.

Vredestein Wintrac Pro
Vredestein Wintrac Pro

The third line of the tournament bracket was scored by Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Plus, which only recently debuted in the winter season 2019/2020. The experts slightly criticized its relatively long braking distance in the wet and its slightly increased rolling resistance, which, nonetheless, could not cross out the broad range of the «useful skills» demonstrated by this model, such as high durability, great handling response on snow and wet pavement, and good resistance to straight and lateral hydroplaning.

Goodyear UltraGrip Performance+
Goodyear UltraGrip Performance+

The top three models, priced about 190 Euros per tire, are obviously far from inexpensive but it is clear that safety comes at a price. The more affordable options are to be found on lower lines in the final standings.

The fourth place was landed by Hankook Winter i*Cept evo2 W320. Its performance on snow was virtually as good as that of the leaders’ but on asphalt it fell definitely short. This tire lost a lot of points because of the longest braking distance on test in the dry, as well as weak hydroplaning resistance. Nevertheless, the sum total of its points entitled the Hankook product to getting a «good» verdict from the Sport Auto experts.

The fifth result was demonstrated by Toyo Snowprox S954 which was obviously engineered for dry pavement alone. And, although the test group described its performance on wet pavement and snow as «acceptable», one look at the scores brings up a lot of doubts — this tire is definitely the worst one on test, and even falls short of the standard expected performance of an all-season tire.

In spite of its great braking performance and safe handling on snow, Falken Eurowinter HS01 was placed by the test experts at the last (sixth) place of the tournament bracket. There were lots of reasons for that: poor lateral stability and understeer on wet pavement, which led to the devaluation of its overall score, as well as increased rolling resistance and road noise. Ultimately, only a «satisfactory» result.

Are all-season tires really a valid alternative?

Theoretically, the relatively new all-season model 2018 Bridgestone Weather Control A005 was to deliver acceptable performance on snow, combined with all the power that it was to demonstrate in the wet and in the dry. But then again, considering the recommendation of using all-season tires rarely — and on the family’s second car!

The test experts had no questions to the efficiency of the braking performance of this all-season Bridgestone model, all the more so because on snow its result was about a meter longer than that of the best tire’s, and on dry and wet pavement the braking distance was 5–8 meters shorter, which explains the impressive 11 and 12 points scored by this model against the maximum of 10 points for the winter rubber.

However, when it comes to handling dynamics, Weather Control A005 is much less responsive on all kinds of surfaces in comparison to the high-end winter tires. The testers even stated that the all-season Bridgestone model was too much «longitudinally oriented», even though it did provide good handling feedback and was generally safe. However, for driving in the regions where the roads are mostly covered in snow in the wintertime, it is still better to opt for the dedicated winter tires.

Summer tires in winter: definitely not recommended

Even the great summer UHP tires, such as Continental SportContact 6 cannot be used in the cold seasons. It can only ensure adequate performance on dry pavement, but once the temperature drops below the freezing point, the driving hazards are growing exponentially.