Vi Bilägare: Winter Studded Tires Test in Size 205/55 R17 (2019)

October 7, 2019
Vi Bilägare: Winter Studded Tires Test in Size 205/55 R17 (2019)

The Swedish experts conducted comparative tests of seven spiked tires.

List of models tested:

Over the recent 50 years, the car makers from all over the world have been flocking to the remote town of Arvisaur, Sweden, in the winter for cold-weather testing. This year, they were joined by the experts of Vi Bilägare magazine, who decide this time to conduct their tire tests not in Finland, but in their homeland.

For the test, the experts selected seven spiked tires from Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Hankook, Michelin, Nokian, and Sailun; in addition the test involved one studless tire model. Regretfully, the list of the tested tires did not include Pirelli, whose Pirelli Ice Zero 2 tires were not available in the required size.

The main novelty of the test was Continental IceContact 3 with its rubber-coated studs, which, as the tire maker claims, reduce the pavement wear by 20%, at the same time strengthening the tire’s grip on ice. The tires with new-type studs are offered in sizes with fitting diameters from 17 and higher, while the smaller sizes are equipped with standard metallic spikes. For this reason, a decision was made to test the tires in size 225/50 R17, which fit many cars, such as Audi A4, Toyota Avensis, etc.

Earlier, VB used to test tires on frozen lakes; this time around the tests were conducted at specially prepared testing facilities on the ground. Thanks to this, the testers were able to take measurements on an uneven ice surface, meaning, the conditions were closer to real life. At the same time, the tire’s acceleration and braking performances were tested on very smooth and very slippery ice, meant to imitate the kind of ice strips that you usually see at the crossroads.

 tire replacement

Vi Bilägare: Winter Studded Tires Test in Size 205/55 R17 (2019)

On black ice, spiked tires work best. At the same time, on uneven surface, studless winter tires proved to be more effective and showed the best lap time. This has to do with the fact that tires of this type have a softer rubber compound and a large number of lamellas, which allows them to better respond to the unevenness of the road surface. At the same time, there are also other things to consider, such as the fact that when studless tires lose grip, it takes them quite a while to regain it — because of the absence of studs. This weakness can manifest itself, for example, during high-speed cornering, which can lead to skidding. Therefore, in real life, spiked tires will ensure better maneuverability.

The tests on pavement were conducted in Smaland (Sweden), and, counterintuitive as it might seem, the spiked tires still performed better than the studless ones. Spiked tires quickly bring the car to a full stop on wet pavement, and, what’s more, they effectively drain water and slush. At the same time, there are considerable differences between these tires too.

In the overall standings, the victory was disputed by the new Continentals and last year’s Michelins. Ultimately, the victory was won by the tires of the German brand that were obviously engineered to ensure maximum grip on ice and snow, even if at the expense of sacrificing some riding comfort on dry pavement. As for the Michelin tires, they also delivered a very good performance on snow and ice, yet at the same time they have a great steering response on dry pavement.

Test Results

Acceleration on ice

The test car was picking up speed the fastest on Continental and Nokian tires, followed by Michelin with a small gap. The studless tires are not as effective, yet they were saved from dropping to the last place thanks to the Sailun tires that performed as if they had no spikes at all.

Acceleration on ice

Continental
4,14
Nokian
4,27
Michelin
4,51
Bridgestone
4,88
Hankook
4,94
Goodyear
5,03
Friction
5,16
Sailun
6,58

Info! Acceleration 5-25 km/h, sec.

Braking on ice

The Continental tires with their innovative studs confidently occupy the first line of the tournament bracket; the studless friction tires also showed quite decent performance, while Sailun turned out to be simply hopeless — their braking distance was a car length longer that of the leader’s, and this during the braking from 25 km/h.

Braking on ice

Continental
8,67
Michelin
9,42
Nokian
9,68
Friction
10,64
Goodyear
10,87
Bridgestone
10,88
Hankook
10,97
Sailun
13,97

Info! Braking 25-5 km/h, m.


Handling on ice

The studless tires surprised with their excellent lateral stability on uneven ice, the second prize in this discipline going to Continental. The Michelin and Nokian tires also scored high points; Goodyear is lagging behind because of prominent understeer, and Sailun falls down straight to the last line of the last line of the tournament bracket because it can lose grip like a snap.

Handling on ice

Friction
51,35
Continental
52,64
Michelin
52,89
Nokian
53,92
Hankook
55,52
Bridgestone
55,94
Goodyear
56,63
Sailun
60,11

Info! Time lap, sec.


Hydroplaning resistance

Most of the tires could not score high points, Hankook being the best as compared to the others.

Hydroplaning resistance

Hankook
62,2
Goodyear
60,9
Continental
60,3
Sailun
58,6
Bridgestone
58,2
Michelin
58,1
Nokian
57,5
Friction
57,0

Info! Rate of grip loss, km/h.


Wet Braking

The Continentals brought the car to a standstill a whole meter earlier than their closest pursuers — Goodyear and Nokian. The worst tires to handle this task were Sailun and Hankook.

Wet Braking

Continental
28,8
Goodyear
29,8
Nokian
29,9
Bridgestone
30,8
Michelin
31,0
Friction
31,0
Sailun
31,3
Hankook
31,4

Info! Braking 80-0 km/h, m.


Dry Braking

The best braking performance on dry asphalt was delivered by studless tires, followed by the spiked Continentals. The longest braking distance was delivered by Bridgestone and Sailun.

Dry Braking

Continental
43,0
Nokian
44,9
Michelin
46,2
Bridgestone
46,7
Hankook
47,1
Goodyear
47,8
Friction
48,0
Sailun
48,2

Info! Braking 80 km/h, m.


Acceleration on snow

While driving on snow, the key factor is the tread pattern, and that’s why the studless tires had a certain advantage. One should hardly mention the fact that almost all of the tires showed similar results with only Sailun lagging behind.

Acceleration on snow

Friction
4,05
Continental
4,06
Michelin
4,17
Goodyear
4,20
Nokian
4,23
Hankook
4,27
Bridgestone
4,40
Sailun
4,57

Info! Acceleration 5-40 km/h, sec.

Braking on snow

The best results were shown by Continentals and the studless tires that turned out to be much more effective than their rivals. The last place was traditionally occupied by Sailun.

Braking on snow

Continental
16,7
Friction
16,9
Michelin
17,9
Goodyear
18,0
Nokian
18,0
Hankook
18,1
Bridgestone
18,4
Sailun
19,2

Info! Braking 40-5 km/h, m.


Handling on snow

The Continentals and the studless tires ensured the best maneuverability on test; Michelin also demonstrated a high level of safety, while Nokian showed a crisp steering response but were prone to lose their trajectory while cornering. The Goodyear tires were prominently prone to understeer, and they have a hard time regaining grip after they lose it.

Handling on snow

Continental
83,75
Friction
85,59
Michelin
86,49
Nokian
87,54
Hankook
87,93
Bridgestone
88,07
Goodyear
89,15
Sailun
93,63

Info! Time lap, sec.


Other Test Results

Test Results

1st place Continental IceContact 3

Continental IceContact 3
Continental IceContact 3
  • Great grip on ice and snow
  • Low noise emission
  • There are questions to the behavior on dry pavement

The new continentals indeed turned out to be a model that was engineered with a maximum grip on ice and snow in mind. These tires are made from a very soft rubber compound, and in reality they are even softer than the studless Nokian tires. Thanks to this, it was possible to increase the tires’ winter traction, while the new rubber-coated studs contributed, among other things, to decreasing the noise level. The continentals were also the quickest to bring the car to a full stop on wet pavement, but it must be mentioned that their softness did them a bad turn when it came to dry pavement tests. In addition, the experts noted that, for all intents and purposes, these tires will be wearing down quickly.

2nd place Michelin X–Ice North 4

Michelin X–Ice North 4
Michelin X–Ice North 4
  • Great grip on ice and snow
  • Good stability on asphalt
  • Low noise emission
  • Poor hydroplaning resistance

With its 257 spikes, the Michelin tire stands out in its segment, and, although this time it was only able to come second, in actuality this tire ensures a very high level of safety on ice and snow. Besides, the Michelin designers were also able to combine improved riding properties in winter conditions with good handling response on dry pavement. Plus, Michelin turned out to be the quietest tire on test: after the test, it showed the least signs of wear out of all. Generally, it can be said that this time around Michelin showed the best-balanced performance.

3rd place Continental VikingContact 7

Continental VikingContact 7
Continental VikingContact 7
  • Great grip snow
  • Great handling response on uneven ice
  • Low noise emission
  • Relatively weak results on wet and dry pavement
  • Poor hydroplaning resistance

Although many drivers tend to think otherwise, studless tires fall short of spiked ones when driving on asphalt, and this gap was particularly noticeable during the handling tests conducted on wet pavement. The reason is that their tread patterns with their numerous thin lamellas cannot tackle the task of draining the water, at the same time being very efficient on iced and snowy surfaces. In the ice tests, the Continentals vividly demonstrated just how effective the modern studless tires are.

4th place Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9

Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9
Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9
  • Good handling response and high safety level on ice and snow
  • Poor hydroplaning resistance
  • High noise emission

The Nokian tires scored a large number of points because they demonstrated a stable behavior and great handling properties almost on all types of road surface. They were always among the leaders in the ice and snow tests, and, in addition, they showed the best lap time on wet pavement. The Nokian tires showed their limitations on dry pavement where they demonstrated less-than-perfect performance and average handling response. Besides, the Nokian tires had poor hydroplaning resistance and a high noise level.
According to the experts, generally speaking, Nokian are great tires created with a stress on ice and snow grip, but the rivals from Continental and Michelin managed to launch newer models that were able to surpass the Finnish model, which was presented back in 2017.

5th place Hankook Winter i*Pike RS2 W429

Hankook Winter i*Pike RS2 W429
Hankook Winter i*Pike RS2 W429
  • Excellent hydroplaning resistance
  • High noise emission
  • Long braking distance on wet pavement

The second-generation Hankook i*pike tire was presented in 2018, and, since the time the VB test was conducted, that manufacturer has had the time to upgrade it. As experts note, one can hope that Hankook has increased the braking effectiveness on wet and dry pavements, which was definitely an issue with this tire. At the same time, Hankook demonstrated excellent hydroplaning resistance, and by this parameter they were able to surpass all of the rivals.
Yet another peculiarity of Hankook is the biggest projection of the spikes among all the tested tires, and this affected the results that turned out to be worse than expected.

6th place Goodyear UltraGrip Ice Arctic

Goodyear UltraGrip Ice Arctic
Goodyear UltraGrip Ice Arctic
  • Great ride on all kinds of pavement
  • Effective acceleration and braking on snow
  • Weak lateral stability on ice and snow
  • High rolling resistance

The test involved Goodyear tires that were manufactured with the use of SoundComfort technology that decreases the noise level. According to the VB experts, Goodyear tires generally have a reputation for being on the noisy side, and the extra noise suppressing level came in very handy; in this test the tires scored higher points for acoustic comfort than they did in the previous years.
The Goodyear tires also had the smallest number of spikes among all the tested tires — 130 — so they did not show the best results on ice. These tires do quite an adequate job of tackling acceleration and braking, but in the handling test they were prominently prone to understeer, which kept them from showing the best lap time. At the same time, Goodyear demonstrated a good handling response and a short braking distance both on wet and dry pavements, as well as a high hydroplaning resistance.

7th place Bridgestone Noranza 001

Bridgestone Noranza 001
Bridgestone Noranza 001
  • Low rolling resistance
  • Good handling response on asphalt
  • Long braking distance on dry pavement
  • Poor hydroplaning resistance

The Bridgestone Noranza 001 tires were first presented in 2016, and now they cannot really hold their own against more recent models from other manufacturers. These tires demonstrated acceptable grip on ice, but on snow they were among the worst.
On asphalt, these tires behave rather predictably but one must consider the fact that they had one of the longest dry braking distances on test. Generally speaking, Bridgestone delivered an average performance, occupying the seventh line of the tournament bracket.

8th place Sailun Ice Blazer WST3

Sailun Ice Blazer WST3
Sailun Ice Blazer WST3
  • No strong sides found
  • Very weak grip on ice and snow
  • Poor handling response on asphalt

Not recommended

China’s Sailun tires managed to disappoint the VB experts even before the start of the tests. All the tires needed to be driven in with a regular ride, and the Sailun tires started losing their spikes within the first 80 kilometers. And that was only the start of it. The Sailun tires were almost as soft as summer ones, and on ice and snow they delivered such a poor performance that they could not compete with all-season tires, let alone dedicated winter ones. The soft rubber compound was expected to at least create an advantage on asphalt, but on asphalt the Sailun tires also behaved in an unstable way, teetering on the edge of losing grip. The result is disappointing — the last place and the «Not recommended» verdict.

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