The way the market likes it
Winter tyre special
The evolution of the winter tyre rewards the general purpose tyre by aiming at performance levels that are increasingly closer to summer tyres in comparable driving conditions; and energy efficiency is also playing a stronger role
by Mino De Rigo
In a relatively short time, snow tyres have metamorphosed into full-fledged winter tyres with increased performance that rewards safety first and foremost
Once upon a time there were snow tyres. The ones that when driven on tarmac, made the vehicle float, increased rolling, gave a worrying feeling of instability and always wore out much too fast. Within about a decade or so, and the change in terminology on the basis of which they are now called winter tyres, we had examples of a completely new generation. The outcome of an evolutionary parable that transformed them from specialist treads to general purpose seasonal products. You just have to look at today's winter tyre to understand the development it has undergone: compared to its precursors, there has been a change in the structure, which is usefully stiffer and lighter, in general the design is cleaner, and the tread even more so, with siping and void distribution that not only guarantees wider contact with the ground and better drainage, but also, thanks to the development of compounds and materials, safer, more efficient and comfortable driving on any surface. Immediate proof is given by visually comparing it with a summer tyre. There can be no doubt: apart from typical product features, they are very similar, which demonstrates that the manufacturers' development process has aimed, and continues to aim, at performance in comparable driving conditions that is increasingly closer to those of a summer tyre. To the extent that there will be no regrets when driving during the cold season. It is testified to also by the rush to raise speed ratings, a phenomenon that nowadays generally means that summer tyres can be substituted by winter tyres with the same ratings. And this has not prevented further product specialization in the area of an offer segmented according to usage conditions: from winter to all-weather and on to hard and pure winter tyres with studs.
With regard to the "green" wave that has washed over the segment, helped also by the new European label arriving next year, it is not unreasonable to ask if there is enough space for winter tyres to gain additional ground also in this respect. Probably there is, given that silica is used in compounds for summer tyres to lower rolling resistance without losing grip on wet surfaces and it is also a key ingredient in compounds for winter tyres. But it remains to be seen whether the contribution to traction made by the other elements, from tread pattern to block shape and sipes, is still prevalent. An aspect on which work has been successfully carried out is noise: the acoustic comfort of today's model cannot be compared with that of the previous decade. In conclusion, the direction that winter tyre development will take seems to be marked out: there will be a gradual refinement of the differences in performance by the two categories to the highly important advantage of greater safety on all kinds of road surfaces. The following is a brief overview of some of the products on the market for winter treads available in the 205/55 R16 and 195/65 R15 sizes.
The company has expanded the range of A001 Weather Control, an all-weather tyre suitable for areas with mild, wet winters like the UK, Ireland, Belgium and Denmark. Available in the sizes 195/65 R15 91H and 205/55 R16 91V, the A001 was created to balance winter performance in both wet and dry conditions and promises longer life thanks to the consistency of the silica compound. The blocks (in a sequence that is the key to reducing rolling noise) are designed to prevent water drainage turbulence and reduce the risk of aquaplaning. NanoPro-Tech technology has been applied to the new Blizzak WS70 and the Multicell compound contains microscopic bubbles and tubes which clear the water while special particles grip the snow and ice.
Numerous three-dimensional zigzag grooves and washboard-shaped sipes with support bars maintain block stiffness under pressure for improved handling. The sizes are for rims from 15" to 17" and include 195/65 R15 91T and 205/55 R16 91T.
Sold in the 195/65 R15 and 205/55 R16 sizes with T and H speed ratings the ContiWinterContact TS 830 boasts a unidirectional tread pattern with functional separation of the centre, developed to grip on ice, from the shoulder areas for grip when braking on snow. The former has large blocks and a high number of sipes (a total length of 30 metres) that generate over 100 gripping ridges that will bite into icy roads; the latter have smaller blocks and few sipes that form open ridges for enhanced manoeuvrability on snow. The compound used is Hydrophilic Adhesion Fluid Technology, with a special additive designed to increase grip in snow, ice and rain. It also contributes to lowering rolling resistance, which the company states is the same as that for tyres on dry roads.
Just launched, the Dunlop SP Winter Sport 4D gets its name from a new "4D sipe" system that combines a new transversal sipe with V grooves and a sawtooth on the inside of the blocks. A solution that the company says has improved braking on snow by up to 4% compared to its predecessor, the Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D. It is available in 37 variant sizes from 195/55 R15 to 255/35 R19.
Featuring directional tread, the Firestone Winterhawk 2 Evo is for small to medium-sized cars in the T (190 km/h) to H (210 km/h) speed range. It employs the silica-rich EVO compound and the high concentration of grooves in the tread contour guarantees traction and braking on snow or ice. Narrow centre blocks generate a strong lateral ridge for improved handling and cornering grip. Available in 41 sizes from 13" to 17", including 195/65 R15 91T and 205/55 R16 91T and 91H.
The new GT Radial Champiro WinterPro for small and medium-sized cars is available in sizes 205/55 R16 91T, 91H and 94H XL and 195/65 R15 91T, 91H and 95T XL. It has a directional tread pattern, a new silica compound and special elliptical grooves designed to channel and evacuate water faster for improved acceleration and braking in the rain. The manufacturer says it is outstanding for comfort and grip on the wet.
Just presented to the market, the new directional Goodyear UltraGrip 8 is the successor to the UltraGrip 7+. Compared to the latter it has a lighter carcass, wider contact surface and uses the latest development of the "Three-dimensional Block Interlocking System" (3D BIS), which increases the number of sipes in the tread to give better grip on ice and snow. Moreover, the sipes interlock thanks to the double V-groove design with raised pyramids and holes that give the blocks the stiffness required for excellent handling and braking on dry and wet roads. The tread compound combines a resin created to optimize traction and a functionalized polymer; by strengthening the silica bonding properties, it improves mileage and fuel efficiency. Sizes include 205/55 R16 91T, 91H and 94H XL and 195/65 R15 91T, 91H and 95T XL.
The latest winter tyre from the Korean company is the Hankook W310 Winter i*cept evo in the 205/55 R16 94H XL, 91H and 94V XL and 195/65 R15 91H sizes. With an asymmetrical tread and three wide longitudinal grooves for water drainage, this tyre separates inside functions for grip on snow and ice from those on the outside for performance on dry and wet roads. The other specifications include a new silica compound and 3D sipes that will increase gripping ridges inside stiffened blocks, which also prevent uneven wear of block edges.
Designed for sports cars, saloons and station wagons and for typically alpine winters, the Marangoni Meteo HP is available in 23 sizes for wheels from 15" to 18", including the 205/55 R 16 94H XL and 195/65 R15 91T, 91H and 95T XL variants. An asymmetrical tread pattern, with four longitudinal grooves and dense siping with variable inclination, according to the manufacturer gives constant performance over a wide range of ambient temperatures and efficiency on any road surface, especially snowy or icy ground.
Designed for city cars, family cars, MPVs and compact saloons, the new Michelin Alpin A4 is the fourth generation of winter tyre from the French company, which says it gives good mileage and fuel efficiency in line with its declared "green" policy. On the one hand, the "Helio compound +" is based on sunflower oil, and on the other, it has the same tread pattern as the X-Ice North model: with 71 different patterns on the tyre surface compared to the 59 of its predecessor, it is designed to give more even pressure on the ground, it has 50% more ridges and variable angle "StabiliGrip" sipes which cross and lock into each other to increase block stability. Moreover, the V-shape tread is self-cleaning and helps to drain snow and water away from the blocks towards to outer edges. There are 17 sizes, including 195/65 R15 T/T XL/H and 205/55 R16 T/H/H XL.
The Finnish manufacturer has presented two new winter tyres available from 13" to 20" that emphasize the "eco" aspect: Nokian WR D3 provides durability and economy for small saloons and compact cars, while the WR A3 is for more sporty use on vehicles in the mid and mid-high range. The former boasts an arrow-shaped tread pattern while the latter has an asymmetrical inside-outside pattern. Common to both is the "Cryogenic Canola" compound based on canola oil, natural rubber and silica for low temperatures, to combine grip on winter and wet roads with wear resistance in varying temperatures, and Silent Sidewall Technology, a special area on the tyre sidewall that reduces noise and vibration. If model WR D3 can count on innovations ("Cool Touch Design") to minimize friction between the sipes, the more sporty WR A3 has a reinforced tread, sipes that block the outer shoulder areas, and cavities on the longitudinal ribs to cool the tyre, reduce drag and noise when driving on wet roads.
Recently introduced, the Pirelli Snowcontrol Series III, a development of the Series II, expands the range of winter tyres also from the point of view of eco-friendliness. For city cars and mid-range saloons, it has inherited the innovations developed for high-range products and has a new structure, tread pattern and compound. Still on the list, the Pirelli Snowcontrol Series II boasts a wide directional tread with siped longitudinal channels for fast expulsion of water and melted snow, a sequence designed to minimize noise and improve driving comfort, and sipes for a compact tread.
The range of 23 sizes include the 205/55 R16 91T and 195/65 R15 91H/T and 95T. With sizes for rims from 16" to 20" (including the 205/55 R16 in the 91H, 91H runflat, 94V and 94H XL variants), the Pirelli Winter Sottozero Serie II comes in two versions: W210/W240 for cars in the mid and mid-high range, and W270 for super-sporty models.
The asymmetrical Yokohama Winter Drive V902 targets a particularly wide range of vehicles with rims from 14" to 22". The product uses the "Zeruma" technology developed to improve the distribution of the silica in the compound, with polymers that remain flexible in the cold and at the same time give the compound greater rigidity and stability at high temperatures; it has thick multiple-surface sipes to maximize the ridge effect, a tread with a fairly rigid internal area which improves traction on snow and ice, and stiffened blocks externally to improve handling on dry surfaces. The tyre also has a rolling resistance of less than 7% compared to its predecessor, the AVS Winter V901. Available sizes include 205/55 R16 91H, H runflat, 94H XL and 94V XL, as well as 195/65 R15 91T/H and 95T XL.