TEST: Best winter tires for the upper middle class (245/45 R19)

Premium Winter is fast approaching and the eternal question reappears: Which tires should I choose? We test eight winter tires that are best suited for large family cars and SUVs.

• Bridgestone Blizzak LM 005
• Continental Wintercontact TS 870 P
• Cooper Discoverer Winter
• Falcons Eurowinter HS 01
• Firestone Winterhawk 4
• Michelin Pilot Alpin 5
• Uniroyal Winterexpert
• Vredestein Wintrac Pro

Even if you settle for it with all-season tires (which surely have some advantages apart from the financial ones) on their everyday car, there is really no way around real winter tires, especially for those who put safety first and do not take winter road conditions too lightly.

Of course, the winters are getting milder, and the risk of snow-covered roads is noticeably reduced, at least in the southern parts of the country, and this places new demands on the tires. The manufacturers’ product strategists and developers are naturally aware of this and therefore offer modern winter tires where comfort and dynamism are increasingly in focus.

Unlike the older, narrow tires which mainly concentrated on optimal grip on snow with a super-soft rubber compound and very coarse pattern (resulting in very diffuse driving characteristics on dry roads), the current generation of tires is adapted to today’s reality.

This means secure grip on cold and wet surfaces, large safety reserves when hydroplaning, in cornering maneuvers and on slush, as well as stable driving characteristics at higher speeds.

Properties such as grip on snow and ice, on the other hand, are on the decline, at least among our tested tires. If you live in snowy regions, you should look at Nordic winter tires that are adapted for driving on snow and ice.

The changes to the winter road conditions and the tire development that follows in its footsteps naturally also affect our rating criteria: until now, the snow properties accounted for a third of the rating, but in this year’s test we reduce the importance of the properties to twenty percent.

At the same time, we raise the tire properties on wet surfaces by five percentage points and the environmental properties of the tires, where above all the fuel-saving rolling resistance and noise level are in focus, also account for another five percentage points of the overall rating.

Enough with the preliminaries, it’s time for the test. Today’s participants are Bridgestone Blizzak LM 005, Continental WinterContact TS 870 P, Discoverer Winter from the British tire manufacturer Cooper, Falken Eurowinter HS 01, Firestone Winterhawk 4, Michelin Pilot Alpin 5, Winter Expert from Uniroyal and last but not least Vredestein Wintrac Pro.

High stability and neutral driving characteristics increase safety and at the same time provide fast lap times and points. A lively rear axle contributes to increased driving pleasure.

We have tested with two Audi A6/A7 quattro, i.e. cars whose powertrain guarantees excellent driving characteristics on winter road conditions from the outset, but also places high demands on the tires with a power output of up to 340 hp. Our demands? Excellent track stability, high safety in curves, short braking distances and the best possible grip on all surfaces combined with high comfort. In addition to this, the tires must be as quiet as possible.

We had expected that not all tires in the test achieved top marks, but even the best tires could not convince completely. In fact, not a single tire managed to achieve the highest rating, but some are very close.

The closest and thus best in the test thanks to its fine snow properties is the Michelin Pilot Alpin 5. However, the tire could not fully convince with its level of grip on wet surfaces, which put sticks in the wheels for a top rating. Compared to the test’s best tire in terms of wet braking, the test winner had over two meters longer braking distance and that costs important points.

We measure the tire’s cornering properties on snow on a slalom course.

The same applies to Continental which excels with excellent driving characteristics on dry asphalt. The TS 870 P model has now come of age and has been regularly updated, but still fails to fully convince in the braking test on wet surfaces. Continental, on the other hand, is extremely easy to drive on snow and strong on dry, cold surfaces, which proves that the old man is not out of the game, but deserves the silver medal.

The test’s absolute best tire on wet winter roads, the Vredestein Wintrac Pro, takes third place on the podium. Here, first of all, the slightly longer braking distances on dry surfaces and the stability in fast corners need improvement, but you can live with that without any problems thanks to a competitive price.

Bridgestone’s Blizzak LM 005 also gets a high rating. The tire has good properties on snow and on wet asphalt, but here it is the slightly longer braking distances on dry surfaces that stand in the way of a better rating.

The brake and grip tests are always carried out with anti-spin activated.

A little further down the rating scale, in fifth place, the Winterhawk 4 from Bridgestone’s budget brand Firestone. On snow, the tire delivers excellent cornering properties, fantastic grip and high tolerance to wheelspin. In short, the tire runs like a scalded rat! However, it cannot defend that advantage on dry or wet roads.

What does it look like for winter tires from Cooper, Uniroyal and Falken? The first two have clear shortcomings in their braking ability on wet asphalt and in the case of the Falken, it is precisely the braking distances on snow that are far too long. In the end, it is only enough for barely passing grades.

On cars that do not place the same high demands on the tires, these certainly work well, but for an A6 (or similar) you should definitely choose one of the highest placed tires. Namely, in many cases they are not very much more expensive than the worse ones.

THAT’S HOW WE TESTED

To be able to ensure highest possible precision and thus reliable results, we have carried out all sub-steps repeatedly where possible. We use a progressive rating system that not only relies on measurement results but also on the subjective judgment of our test drivers.

On the different surfaces (snow, wet, dry) only an even and safe behavior leads to high marks. The aquaplaning sub-moment is divided into longitudinal and transverse directions and assesses the reaction of the different tires, for example how they behave when driving over water-filled ruts on the motorway. How quickly the car can get over these before aquaplaning occurs is a test of the tires’ safety reserves.

Due to the fact that rolling resistance affects consumption, this is preferably measured on a rolling country road by two independent test labs. The result is included in the overall assessment with an average value. To be as impartial as possible, we usually compare our test tires with randomly purchased tires from the free trade. Here we focus on atypically successful test results or unusual wear.

This year we found abnormalities in the test results for Vredestein’s Wintrack Pro. The tires were produced in January 2022 and tested during February/March. On the other hand, the spot test was carried out with tires that had been produced in July 2022. The shore value (ie the hardness of the rubber compound) and the remaining physical properties were at the same level as the previously tested tires, but on the other hand, we were able to determine significant differences during the driving tests and then above all for the properties of the tire on wet asphalt.

To validate results, we bought another set of tires that had been produced in June 2022. The result? These tires also confirmed the good results of the test. Another random test is under preparation and then with even newer tires.


Choose with the skull

In the winter, only the stud bites, it’s then old.

But in the past there were no anti-lock brakes and no anti-spin systems. If all cars had anti-skid systems, about half of all single and collision accidents on slippery roads could be avoided.

So if you drive a car from the past and live a bit north where there are often icy roads, it may be wise to choose tires with studs.

But then you need to start thinking and not just go by old habit or gut feeling.

According to a survey from 2021 carried out by the Swedish Transport Administration, around 55 percent of Swedes drive with studded tires and that percentage is falling steadily. Ten years ago, 68 percent drove with studded tires.

35 percent have chosen Nordic friction tires and about ten percent roll on so-called Central European tires.

Of all winter accidents reported to the police, only about 15 percent occur on surfaces where studded tires are preferred, i.e. on icy roads.

Friction tires without studs generally provide lower energy consumption, the noise level is lower and they tear up fewer particles from the asphalt. Studded tire bans are introduced in several cities – please check what applies where you live and drive.

If you drive mostly on wet asphalt, the Central European tires are preferred, because they provide better road characteristics and stability than the Nordic friction tires. A big advantage of the studless tires is of course that they can be used for a longer part of the season.


Source: Senaste nytt från auto motor & sport by www.mestmotor.se.

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