For the second winter test of 2023, Tire Reviews as looked at nine of the best SUV performance winter tires in the popular 235/60 R18 size. As always, all the tires have been testing in the dry, wet and snow, and had the noise, comfort and rolling resistance analysed.
Will an heavier AWD vehicle have any impact on the overall results? Read on or watch the video below to find out!
|Dry Braking||▲Leao Winter Defender UHP: 41.45 M||▼Nokian Snowproof 2 SUV: 44.18 M|
|Dry Handling||▲Pirelli Scorpion Winter 2: 66.11 s||▼Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Plus SUV: 67.36 s|
|Subj. Dry Handling||▲Maxxis Premitra Snow WP6 SUV: 100 Points||▼Leao Winter Defender UHP: 88 Points|
|Wet Braking||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV: 32.86 M||▼Maxxis Premitra Snow WP6 SUV: 35.11 M|
|Wet Handling||▲Pirelli Scorpion Winter 2: 73.11 s||▼Leao Winter Defender UHP: 76.14 s|
|Subj. Wet Handling||▲Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Plus SUV: 100 Points||▼Leao Winter Defender UHP: 80 Points|
|Straight Aqua||▲Nokian Snowproof 2 SUV: 90.7 Km/H||▼Continental WinterContact TS 870 P: 84.9 Km/H|
|Curved Aquaplaning||▲Nokian Snowproof 2 SUV: 4.3 m/sec2||▼Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Plus SUV: 3.4 m/sec2|
|Snow Braking||▲Hankook Winter i cept evo 3 X: 15.92 M||▼Leao Winter Defender UHP: 19.46 M|
|Snow Traction||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV: 3.53 s||▼Leao Winter Defender UHP: 4.51 s|
|Snow Handling||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV: 88.65 s||▼Maxxis Premitra Snow WP6 SUV: 96.3 s|
|Subj. Snow Handling||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV: 100 Points||▼Leao Winter Defender UHP: 80 Points|
|Subj. Comfort||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV: 100 Points||▼Pirelli Scorpion Winter 2: 92 Points|
|Subj. Noise||▲Pirelli Scorpion Winter 2: 100 Points||▼Hankook Winter i cept evo 3 X: 90 Points|
|Noise||▲Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV: 68.9 dB||▼Hankook Winter i cept evo 3 X: 74.6 dB|
|Price||▲Leao Winter Defender UHP: 98.99||▼Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 SUV: 171.49|
|Rolling Resistance||▲Continental WinterContact TS 870 P: 6.493 kg / t||▼Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Plus SUV: 8.476 kg / t|
The worst tire in snow handling also happened to be the cheapest. It felt more like an all season tire, and a bad one at that, provinging very low grip.
Next up was the Maxxis, 8.4% off the best, so you can see already much more grip than the budget, but sadly much less grip than the best in the test. This tire also had high levels of understeer and limited communication around the limit meaning you were constantly worried about if you were near the limit of grip.
Next up was the Bridgestone, it felt better under traction than the Maxxis and had less understeer, but it was still quite an understeer bias tire.
The next group of tires were all within a percent of each other, and that was the Nokian, Hankook and Pirelli. All three of these had better front axle bite on turn in which helped the lap time, and all of them were really well balanced and nice feeling tires to drive. If I had to pick one of the three, the Nokian would take it subjectively, but all of their snow performances were perfectly good.
A little ahead of that group was the Goodyear and Continental. We're in the realm of very good now, and they felt a lot like the preceding group but with just and extra little bit of grip. The Goodyear did pick up a little more understeer but it had plenty of grip to back it up.
The best tire in snow handling was also the best in the Tire Reviews car winter test, so it seems at least in snow, a different vehicle and AWD doesn't make a difference. There's no escaping the Pilot Alpin 5 SUV is in a class of its own, and if you'd told me the tire I was driving on was actually a soft compound winter tire snuck into the group, I'd probably believe you, it just found grip where no other tire could, and was thoroughly well balanced and enjoyable to drive too. One day I might be able to tell you that a Michelin winter tire isn't the best in the snow, but today is not that day.
The Hankook Winter I*Cept Evo3 had the best snow braking, with Nokian close behind. The rest of the field were close, apart from the Leoa which finished 20% behind the group.
Snow traction brought the the Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 back to the front, with the new Pirelli Scorpion Winter 2 jumping to second place. The Leao was once again 20% behind the rest cementing it's snow performance as well below an acceptable standard.
Wet handling saw the pack compress, no doubt helped by the AWD platform I'm testing with.
There was only one bad tire, and it wasn't even that bad. The Leao winter defender was 4% off the best in time, and it definitely wasn't the best balanced tire for the road as it had pretty snappy oversteer making it quite the challenge. Fun for me as a tester in track , but I wouldn't want to put my dad on it on the road.
Next up was the Maxxis, just 2% off the best, so it's already a very close group. The Maxxis was one of the most lovely tires to drive, offering really predictable grip, good steering response and just a hint of understeer in the balance.
Nokian was next now just 1.5% off the best, and again was a lovely tire to drive with an understeer balance.
Bridgestone and Hankook essentially tied next just 1% off the fastest lap. The Bridgestone had a frustratingly high amount of understeer compared to some of the other tires around it and a vague feeling front axle. Understeer is safe, but this was a lot. The hankook was better in this regard, the car was more balanced, but there wasn't any extra grip.
The top four tires were separated by just 0.4% and where Michelin, Continental, Goodyear and Pirelli was the fastest.
The Michelin had good grip, but like the Bridgestone it was one of the numbest tires with a lot of understeer, the Continental was more fun but a little twitchy around the limit, the goodyear was one of the best subjectively and felt a lot like the Maxxis, and the Pirelli was the fastest.
The differences were very small, and all of these tires are impressive in their own ways. Apart from maybe the Leao.
The Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 was best in wet braking, narrowly beating the excellent performing Bridgestone.
The new Nokian Snowproof 2 SUV was the best in both straight and curved aquaplaning by quite a margin! Bridgestone also performed well in second place in both of the deeper water tests.
If you want to take your SUV on a track day and insist on doing it on winter tires, fit the Pirelli, Hankook or Maxxis!
Apart from that, there's not a huge amount else to learn from dry handling. All the tires were stable during lane changes and they all felt similar around the limit.
Dry braking had the Laeo finally performing well, stopping the car in the shortest distance, narrowly beating the Pirelli!
As noise and comfort for an SUV is more important than something like a sports car, I spent quite a lot of time doing subjective noise and comfort, but as always, things were very close, so I also measured external noise too.
In terms of overall subjective noise and comfort levels when driving, I thought the Michelin did a VERY good job, and Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear, Hankook and Nokain were also good. The Pirelli was a lovely sounding tire inside, it had a low noise low pitch sound which was kind to the ears, but was a bit firmer than the best in the test, and if you want to avoid a tire which crashes over impacts, that award goes to the Maxxis.
Energy use is getting more and more important, and depending on how important it is to you it can change the overall results of the test. Continental had the largest lead in rolling resistance I've ever seen. Bridgestone was the next best, then Hankook before quite a big gap to the rest of the tires. If you have an EV, the Continental is the one to get.
A very well balanced tire, good in the dry, very good in the wet, good in the snow, lowest rolling resistance on test.
Mid pack for noise and aquaplaning resistance.
The winner of this winter SUV test was the Continental WinterContact TS 870 P. This tire seems to have performed the impossible, by blending a HUGE lead in rolling resistance with excellent grip in the dry, wet and snow. It couldn't quite match the Michelin in snow traction or dry braking, and it was mid pack for noise, but it traded blows with the best in every other category. The amount of grip it had while having such an advantage in rolling resistance makes this tire the best tire in this test, and if you drive an electric vehicle or are sensitive to rising fuel costs, you shouldn't even consider any other option in this size. Remarkable work by Continental.
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Very good in the dry, best wet braking on test with good wet handling, best in the snow overall, lowest noise and highest levels of comfort.
Average rolling resistance, average curved aquaplaning resistance.
The Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 narrowly missed out on the top spot, but arguably it's the best winter tire of the group. Let me explain how that works. The Michelin was the best in snow, one of the best in the wet and one of the best in the dry, it was also the quietest and most comfortable, so why isn't it first? It could only muster the 5th best rolling resistance score, and even with my reduction in the rolling resistance weighting, the 26% gap to first place was too much to overcome. The Michelin Pilot Alpin 5 is an incredible tire, and once again I'm highly recommending it in this SUV size.
Very good in the dry, good in the wet with good aquaplaning resistance, very good in the snow with the best snow braking, low rolling resistance.
The Hankook Winter i cept evo 3 X is an extremely well balanced tire, one of the best around the dry handling lap, great wet braking, best snow braking and just generally a nice tire to drive. It also had the third lowest rolling resistance on test. Where did it lose out? It wasn't the most comfortable or quietest of the group, but otherwise an amazing tire. Highly recommended.
Very good in the wet, excellent aquaplaning resistance, very good in the snow, very low rolling resistance.
Average in the dry.
The Bridgestone matched the Hankooks overall result, but was slightly better in the wet, and slightly worse in the dry and snow, but it was more comfortable and had an even lower rolling resistance. The LM005 once again proves it's one of the best winter tires on the market.
Good in the wet with the best aquaplaning resistance, very good in the snow, comfortable.
Reduced performance in the dry, average rolling resistance.
The new Nokian Snowproof 2 SUV almost matched the Pirelli overall on score, but did it in a totally different way. The Nokian was one of the best tires in the snow, the very best in the deep water tests of aquaplaning which should be good for slush, and was very quiet and comfortable. It wasn't great in the dry, with the longest dry braking but the margins were small, and it was only midpack in wet handling and braking, but like in the dry the margins weren't huge. Recommended.
Best in the dry with quickest lap and short braking, fastest wet handling, good in the snow, low noise.
Average wet braking, average aquaplaning resistance.
The new Pirelli Scorpion Winter 2 was the best in the dry overall, the fastest around wet handling, though it couldn't quite match that in wet braking, good in the snow, and one of the quietest tires on test. It did struggle a little more in the deeper water of aquaplaning and like the Goodyear, didn't have a great rolling resistance, but overall a good tire. Recommended.
Very good in the wet, good in the snow, good levels of comfort.
Limited dry performance, highest rolling resistance on test.
The Goodyear UltraGrip Performance Plus SUV was much better in the wet and the snow, having excellent grip in both categories, and was a comfortable tire to drive on. As usual for this tire it was one of the worst in the dry, but unusually for this tire it had the highest rolling resistance of the group and struggled in the aquaplaning tests. It's still a good tire, but as one of the older tires of the group it's starting to show its age.
Good grip in the dry, predictable handling in the dry and wet, low noise, good aquaplaning resistance.
Limited grip in the wet and snow, high rolling resistance.
In eighth place overall was the Maxxis Premitra Snow WP6 SUV. This was a nice handling tire, it was predictable and stable and had good grip in the dry, however sadly the grip in the wet and the snow just weren't up to scratch and it had the second to worst rolling resistance, 30% higher than the best on test.
Best dry braking, low rolling resistance.
Low grip in the dry, wet, and snow, uncomfortable.
The Leao Winter Defender UHP was the best in dry braking, but it was the worst in all the wet grip tests, the worst in most of the snow tests, and was pretty noisy / uncomfortable. It did have the 4th best rolling resistance though.