Do you know what winter tires are? Do not worry that we tell you and tell you which are the best of this winter of 2020.
Many reports invite you to put winter tires on our car, but which one’s are the best? It can be difficult to know which tires will work best at freezing temperatures: European Union labels often stopped reading in a jungle of indecipherable jargon.
Official labels classify tires inefficiency, wet grip for braking and rolling noise, and classify each property with letters. For this, a range of parameters that include deceleration, traction, steering accuracy, and driving stability on several surfaces and under the same parallel conditions must take into account. Special attention should also be paid to comfort and resistance to aquaplaning (when the tire floats on standing water, losing grip).
Designing a winter tire that can excel in all disciplines is difficult. Tire manufacturers juggle the compound, the tread design, and the construction of the carcass to find the slippery sweet spot where rubber can pass through ice and slush, find grip in all conditions, whether slippery or dry and provide comfort, tranquility, and tranquility to drivers. Oh, and the tires should also last a long time and not disintegrate when the temperature rises. It is a difficult concert.
These are often conflicting objectives; If you improve the efficiency of a tire, for example, the grip in wet conditions decreases, and vice versa. If you reduce the depth of the profile for greater steering accuracy, the tire will float faster. If you design more slats, or grooves, in the profile to improve the grip in the snow, the dry grip worsens. In short: off-road tires are the exception.
The best 2020 winter tires: which ones should you buy?
Remember these conflicting goals. Car Magazine has carried out a series of tests to find out which are the best winter tires. The most winter tires are good at one thing, but struggle to overcome each of the individual tests.
The winner of the test this year is the Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Gen-1. It offers high safety reserves in snow and dry conditions and is particularly easy to grip on wet asphalt. Despite his solid overall performance, he failed to be the first in any discipline.
In heavy snow conditions, the Chinese-made Austone SP 901 seized the best. However, the amount of silica in the rubber compound (essential for good wet grip) is so low that the tire fails when the road is wet. The Michelin Alpin 5 has now been replaced by the 6, but even the outgoing tire does particularly well in humid conditions.
Similarly, the Vredestein Wintrac Pro (third place) is a rain professional, but also offers very high driving safety on dry roads, as is the Nokian WR A4 in sixth place and Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3 in fifth place.
Should I buy winter tires?
Snow tires are worth it, how much do they cost and how do they work? What are winter tires or cold weather tires? First of all: ‘winter tires’ or ‘snow tires,’ as we are used to calling them, is a misleading title. The cold weather tires also designed to work in lower temperatures, on wet and dry roads, as well as give better performance on snow and ice.
How do winter tires work? Winter or cold weather tires contain more natural rubber than normal tires and made of a softer compound. This result allows them to remain flexible as temperatures fall below 7 degrees Celsius in conditions where a normal tire hardens and is less tuned to asphalt. The result? Higher grip levels on the road, even when the asphalt did not cover in white.
However, it is not just about chemistry: look closely at a winter tire, and you will see that the tread is different from a more conventional tire. The contact patch of a winter tire is more resistant: it covered with thousands of ‘notches,’ small channels or grooves cut in the rubber that help heat them while moving water and mud at a faster rate. Winter tires can have up to 10 times more “cuts” than average tires.
In the snow, these small cracks work together with a larger tread. If you used a normal tire, your channels would quickly become clogged with compacted snow, which would result in unsafe driving. On the negative side, wobbly bearing blocks mean that cars with cold-weather tires respond less in milder conditions.
How much they cost? As expected, they are not cheap. If we put four winter wheels on a long-term Ford Fiesta ST, we would be spending something around the 500-euro mark, and doing the same for a Volkswagen Arteon would cost us around 700 euros.
Add the cost of another set of wheels to place when temperatures are higher, which most people do, and it becomes even more expensive. Even so, we cannot put a price on security and tranquility. And yes, you have to get four, not two winter tires; settling for just one pair for the drive wheels will do more harm than good, as this unbalances the entire vehicle.
Should I buy winter tires? In the snow, winter tires are an obvious choice. They make driving safer and safer, and significantly improve grip, but they are also a bet. Cars can become notoriously rebellious with winter tires, with vehicles closer to the end of things, such as a DB11 AMR, for example, turning the wheels in fourth place.
In snow and cold weather, a compound of seasonal rubber, a thicker thread, and the types work well but do not behave as they should if it is smooth and is above the optimum operating range. In colder countries, getting winter tires is an easy decision, but in our milder weather, we can’t even rely on a cold wave.
That said, if you can afford a set of winter tires, they will do much more to keep you safe than choosing a car with all-wheel drive. If you want more peace of mind, have a place to store an additional set of tires (some garages will do it for you), and you need to move this winter, decide on cold weather tires.