In this tire test we take nine of the best performance winter tires in the popular 225/40 R18 size and test them in the dry, wet and of course snow to see what the best winter tire is for the 2021/22 autumn and winter.
|Dry Braking||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5: 37.95 M||▼Imperial Snowdragon UHP: 41.3 M|
|Dry Handling||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5: 44.8 s||▼Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Plus: 46.01 s|
|Wet Braking||▲Bridgestone Blizzak LM005: 27.92 M||▼Imperial Snowdragon UHP: 38.03 M|
|Wet Handling||▲Bridgestone Blizzak LM005: 49.09 s||▼Imperial Snowdragon UHP: 54.6 s|
|Straight Aqua||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5: 83.1 Km/H||▼Nokian Snowproof P: 75.4 Km/H|
|Curved Aquaplaning||▲Bridgestone Blizzak LM005: 85.1 m/sec2||▼Nokian Snowproof P: 76.5 m/sec2|
|Snow Braking||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5: 15.67 M||▼Imperial Snowdragon UHP: 16.99 M|
|Snow Traction||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5: 5.26 s||▼Imperial Snowdragon UHP: 5.65 s|
|Snow Handling||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5: 86.2 s||▼GT-Radial WinterPro2 Sport: 92.81 s|
|Snow Circle||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5: 33.99 S||▼GT-Radial WinterPro2 Sport: 36.3 S|
|Subj. Comfort||▲Dunlop Winter Sport 5: 10 Points||▼Bridgestone Blizzak LM005: 8 Points|
|Noise||▲Nokian Snowproof P: 68.6 dB||▼Hankook Winter i cept evo3: 73.2 dB|
|Price||▲Imperial Snowdragon UHP: 55||▼Michelin Pilot Alpin 5: 127.29|
|Rolling Resistance||▲Bridgestone Blizzak LM005: 8.566 kg / t||▼GT-Radial WinterPro2 Sport: 10.612 kg / t|
These are not nordic / extreme winter tires as found in the northern parts of North America, there will be a seperate test for these in the future.
225/40 R18 is a popular winter tire size for vehicles such as the Audi A3 / A4, VW Golf GTI / R, BMW 1 Series and 3 Series, and many other vehicles with this wheel size.
Testing at 3c, the slowest around the dry handling lap were the Dunlop and Goodyear pairing, both exactly 1.21 seconds, or 2.5% off the fastest lap. Both tires felt controllable, predictable and nice to drive on, but ultimately both lacking grip in these cool dry conditions.
Next up was the Hankook and GT Radial, both around a second off the best time. The Hankook was one of the softer feeling tires around the dry handling, it didn't feel super precise and didn't appreciate being pushed laterally but it did feel great on the brakes, whereas the GT felt like it had some good traction out of the corners, but would lose some time mid apex.
Fifth, fourth and third was Bridgestone, Continental and Nokian. They all seemed to have similar levels of grip across the lap, however the Nokian was the nicest to drive quickly, offering a nice rounded grip circle and predictable handling.
Second place was the Imperial budget tire. It didn't feel that good on the brakes, but cornering it felt like the best tire here. Almost as if it's a summer compound that they've stuck some sipes in. Watch this space to see how that develops.
Finally, the fastest tire of the group, nearly matching the summer tires lap time, was the Michelin Pilot Alpin 5. This tire wasn't the most fun to drive, probably sitting 3rd or 4th subjectively, but it had lots of grip both laterally and on the brakes.
As for the summer tire, well, that was the fastest, and the most fun to drive, and the quickest to steer, and the most direct on brakes, everything you'd expect from a summer tire, but at the 3c test temperature, it didn't have a huge advantage. Summer tires usually lead in the dry at any temperature.
Dry braking was again led by the Michelin Pilot Alpin 5, with over a meter gap to the second placed Hankook Winter Icept evo 3, and Continental placed third with the new WinterContact TS870P. The summer tire just edged out the winters at the cool 3c temperatures.
Like the dry, we tested at 2.5c to 3c in the wet, and like in dry, the group overall was very close.
Unable to repeat the surprise performance in the dry, the Imperial had the lowest levels of grip by far, it was over 10% behind the best, and if that doesn't sound much in your head, it really is when you're driving on it. Even though the grip circle felt rounded, it was rounded with no grip as you were constantly waiting on grip in all directions, you seemed to be sliding constantly, and you felt more like a passenger. Not recommended.
The next group of tires consisted of Nokian, GT Radial and Dunlop. They were around 5%, or 2 seconds of the best, and all three sets of tires just felt lower in grip than the fastest in the group. The Nokian and Dunlop both had a hint of oversteer in their balance, which made the car feel more playful, but ultimately cost time when combined with the limited traction, whereas the GT Radial needed to be driven in a really neat manner to make a quick lap.
Getting nearer the sharp end were the Continental, Michelin, and Goodyear, all around 1.5% off the best, or less then a second! The Continental felt like it had a very safe understeer balance with good lateral grip, but lost out a little in traction, and overall it just felt a little numb. The Michelin improved the steering feel a little, but again seemed to be a little traction limited, where the Goodyear was an easy tire to drive quickly, giving more confidence than previous tires and a neutral balance with just a hint over understeer.
While Hankook was only a few tenths on, I've separated it because it was my favorite subjectively being really lovely to drive and feeling like it had excellent grip in all directions. It just worked really well with the Golf 8, almost like it was an OE tire and the lap time reflected that.
The Bridgestone Blizzak LM05 was over half a second faster than any other tire! When testing blind, I've no idea what tire I'm driving on, but when I'm making my notes in the car I like to try and guess which tire is which, and after running wet braking, the Bridgestone was obvious. The tire has grip, and lots of it. HOWEVER, it didn't feel that sporty, which meant I definitely found the Hankook and Michelin way more enjoyable to drive the lap on, which is an interesting tradeoff. Best grip, vs most fun. That's why I give you this data, so you can pick.
The summer tire struggled at the cooler temperatures, it felt like it was sitting on the road rather than keying into it and it was a constant fight to get the car around the lap.
The Bridgestone LM005s wet advantage continued in wet braking, with nearly 1.5 meters advantage to the second placed Continental. Hankook again placed well, nearly tying with the summer tire which fared better in wet braking than in handling. The budget winter tire stopped over TEN meters behind the bridgestone, which is a huge gap and could easily be the difference between stopping and a crash.
There were some interesting differences between straight and curved aquaplaning, but on average the Continental, Goodyear and Hankook performed the best across both tests.
As with the all season test, I was unable to travel to Nokian tires impressive winter testing facility due to travel restrictions, so instead hired a finnish independant test driver to perform the snow testing.
Snow traction was led by the Michelin Pilot Alpin 5, with the Goodyear UltraGrip Performance+ in second and Hankook Winter i*cept evo 3 in third.
Snow braking was again led by the Michelin Pilot Alpin 5, this time with the Nokian SnowProof P and Continental WinterContact TS870P in second and third places, which also closely matched snow circle results.
Snow handling rounded out the incredible Michelin performance with the French tire again proving best in the important snow handling test, which makes it a flawless snow result for the Pilot Alpin 5. The tester said the Michelin had "Excellent overall grip level, Best balance between front and rear and steers effectively even though rear doesn’t slip much. Feels like Nordic winter tire."
Goodyear placed second across the snow handling lap, 1.5% behind the michelin and described as having good balance with good front axle grip at all steering angles. The tire oversteers a bit which helps turning.
Third place went to the consistent Hankook, which like the goodyear had excellent front axle grip at big steering angles and a stable rear axle, and the fourth place continental had a sharp front end and resisted oversteer very well.
As with the all season test, the summer tire could barely make it to the circuit.
The Nokian Snowproof P had the lowest noise on test, with the impressive Michelin and Continental also performing well.
The Dunlop, Goodyear and Continental led the way in subjective comfort.
The Bridgestone and Continental also had the lowest rolling resistance, which is impressive given their performance in the dry and wet!
There was over 100% price difference between the best and worst tires on test, with the cheap Imperial tire once again proving you often get what you pay for with tires.
A winter tire with no real weaknesses. Excellent in all conditions and all tests.
Slightly slow steering.
The brand new Continental WinterContact TS870P was the king of consistency, and is a mighty impressive tire. In many ways you could argue it's the best tire on test, as the lowest it placed across all fifteen categories I scored on was fifth in wet handling, but only 0.9 seconds off the best, and fifth in snow traction. Every other test was "green", meaning it was in the top group of tires.
Interestingly, it didn't win a single test, but with a string of fourth, thirds and second places in every single category, you can't help but appreciate the engineering that has gone into this tire. It essentially has no drawbacks, which is an engineering masterpiece!
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Significant lead in the dry and snow tests, best straight aquaplaning resistance, low external noise, low rolling resistance.
Average wet performance with extended wet braking and poor curved aquaplaning resistance, high purchase price.
The Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 won both dry handling and dry braking, and was the best in ALL FOUR SNOW TESTS, and even had the second lowest noise and fourth lowest rolling resistance! It lost points in the important wet braking test where it only managed 6th, where the Continental was second, and while it was best in the straight aquaplaning test it could only manage seventh in the curved aquaplaning test. An excellent winter tire for a climate which sees a lot of snow.
Short dry braking, very good performance in all wet tests including aquaplaning and the best subjectively around the wet handling lap, very good grip in all snow tests.
Sightly reduced dry handling performance, high external noise, high rolling resistance.
It's third place for the Hankook Winter I Cept Evo 3, another impressive tire from Hankook, they certainly seem to be on a roll at the moment!
The only deficiencies in performance was a high external noise, high rolling resistance, and average dry handling, everywhere else the tire excelled. It had the second shortest dry braking, second fastest wet handling lap with my favourite subjective handling, good wet braking, good aquaplaning resistance, and very good grip in all four snow tests.
By far the best performance in wet braking and wet handling, good dry handling, excellent curved aquaplaning resistance, lowest rolling resistance on test.
Long dry braking, poor grip in the snow with very low snow traction.
The Bridgestone Blizzak LM005 is again the wet specialist, dominating the wet testing. This performance comes at the expense of dry and snow performance, making this an unbalanced tire more suited to a winter climate that sees a lot of rain.
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Good grip in the wet with high aquaplaning resistance, excellent grip in the snow.
Slow dry handling lap, high external noise, high rolling resistance.
The Goodyear UltraGrip Performance+ had good grip in the wet and snow, but couldn't match the best tires in the test in the dry. The Goodyear is usually well priced for a premium tire.
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Consistent performance in most tests with good aquaplaning resistance, good traction in the snow.
Slow dry handling lap, high external noise, high rolling resistance.
The Dunlop WinterSport 5 placed a well deserved sixth overall. The tire was very consistent in nearly all tests with no real weaknesses other than a slightly slow dry handling lap, but unfortunately the tire didn't excel in any test either.
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7th: Nokian Snowproof P
Very good in the dry, good snow traction and snow circle, lowest noise on test, low rolling resistance.
Weak grip in the wet tests with the lowest aquaplaning resistance on test.
Nokian will be disappointed with seventh place for the Snowproof P, largely down to the wet performance of the tire where it seemed to struggle both in the shallow water of the handling and braking tests, and the deeper water of the aquaplaning tests.
Reasonable dry performance, well priced.
Long wet braking, weak aquaplaning resistance, reduced grip in all snow tests, high rolling resistance.
The GT Radial WinterPro2 Sport was significantly ahead of the budget tire, but failed to match the performance of the best tires on test.
Good dry handling, low external noise, cheap purchase price.
Extremely long braking in all conditions, low grip in the wet with weak aquaplaning resistance, significantly reduced grip in the snow, high rolling resistance.
The Imperial Snowdragon UHP peaked in dry handling where it was fast, AND good to drive on, and it wasn't the noisiest tire on test, but the tire couldn't perform well in any other test, and had dangerously long wet braking distances.