The Continental WinterContact TS 870’s strength in wet and dry conditions was enough to win its second Auto Express Winter Tyre Test in a row. Competing against six other global manufacturers’ products, the Conti tyre narrowly finished ahead of the Bridgestone Blizzak LM-005 – WhatTyre’s Winter Tyre of the Year – by only 0.3 points overall. All seven tyres tested showed a good level of winter performance, with the last-placed Vredestein Wintrac Pro only 3.2 points out of 100 behind the Conti tyre. The performance differences between the top four winter tyres in the test especially were minimal, and the winner was selected as a particularly good tyre for UK winter driving conditions. The tyres were tested in size 225/45R17 in northern Sweden and in Germany.
Continental Winter Contact TS 870 ranks highest among winter tyres
The Continental WinterContact TS 870 remains Auto Express’ first-choice winter tyre, retaining its title for the second consecutive test. Auto Express noted that despite finishing seventh out of seven in snow braking, the tyre’s 97.8/100 score was “on pace” with its rivals, while its fifth-place snow traction result was also very close to the leading Bridgestone tyre. In the wet and dry tests, the Conti product demonstrated strong consistency. It beat every other tyre in the wet handling test, and was second in every other discipline. The tyre also demonstrated the lowest rolling resistance and cabin noise, contributing to the tester’s verdict that the tyre represents the best all-round solution in cold driving conditions. More subjectively, Auto Express also called the TS 870 “the best to drive” citing “a liveliness to the steering that rivals couldn’t match, combined with a very planted rear.”
The Bridgestone Blizzak LM-005 remains a worthy competitor. Auto Express called the tyre “a revelation” and “a snow star”. Overall the tyre was marked on 0.3/100 points behind the winning tyre, finishing top in both snow driving tests (braking and traction). Based on other independent tyre tests, the Blizzak LM-005 is a tyre to consider if you are spending more time on snow than typically experienced in UK conditions. The UK test was more concerned with winter tyres’ performance in wet and even dry weather. There were no truly notable weaknesses in the tyre’s tests, though a fifth place finish in curved aquaplaning with a score of 88.6 exposes a slight disadvantage. Despite this, the tyre is the only tyre in the test with A-grade wet grip on the EU tyre label.
Completing the podium is the Goodyear UltraGrip Performance 3. Overall, the tyre showed particular strength in aquaplaning, finishing first in both straight and curved tests, and wet handling, second by 0.8 points to the Conti tyre. The tyre was not particularly weak in any discipline, but fifth place in rolling resistance, with 92.7/100, contributed to its finish below the top two. Subjectively, the tyre “inspired confidence” without being quite as “sharp” in steering as the winning Conti tyre, though Auto Express called it “a great tyre in the wet”.
The Hankook Winter i*cept RS3 produced results that also suggest it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the higher-rated products – especially interesting given its considerably lower price. The tyre offers “well balanced” winter performance that achieved a score of 99.3 overall. It was particularly strong in the dry, where it “came alive… with deft direction changes and high grip levels,” Auto Express said. It was first in the dry handling test, though testers noted that it “didn’t feel the sharpest”. It was no slouch in the wet too, winning the wet braking discipline and only 0.9 points off first in wet handling. The tyre’s only weakness was its relatively high rolling resistance, scoring 88.2 in seventh place.
Bottom three tyres slightly behind the leaders
The Pirelli Cinturato Winter 2 was also a high overall scorer overall, with 99.1, though the tyre was firmly positioned in the bottom half of the rankings in most disciplines, an anomalous win in dry braking aside. That said, this indicates more a set of seven very good and better winter tyres more than anything else. The Pirelli tyre was strongest in the snow, coming in second overall, though an overall fifth in the wet tests hurt its chances of a better placement. Auto Express noted weaknesses in dry handling, though the tyre’s objective score was still relatively high (98.6), and rolling resistance, in which the tyre was sixth with 91.4.
The Michelin Alpin 6 managed 98.7 overall, with decent all-round performance. Auto Express notes that at five years old, the tyre has been in the market longer than other products in the test, suggesting that this discrepancy was beginning to show on track. The tyre dropped back in the wet, finishing sixth overall, while its dry performance was balanced. Auto Express praised the Alpin 6’s “improved” fuel economy too. The tyre was the noisiest in the test, but only 1.1 points down on the top rated tyre in this discipline. While the tyre never truly challenged for top spot in any discipline, Auto Express surmised that it offers “good all-round performance from a five-year-old design, up against newer competitors that benefit from the latest technology.”
In last spot was the Vredestein Wintrac Pro, another tyre that Auto Express suggests is “starting to show its age”. The tyre was regularly in seventh position, especially in snow and wet conditions, with its wet braking result particularly off the pace (90.8 points). Auto Express said it “lacked the balance of rivals” in the wet, but was “better in the dry, where it was close to the pace and had a decent handling balance.
Other UK tyre options
Acknowledging the UK’s famed aversion to fitting specialist winter tyres, Auto Express also measured the overall performance of an all-season tyre (the Hankook Kinergy 4S2) and a summer tyre (the Bridgestone Potenza Sport). While the latter, a very good tyre for summer driving according to many tests, was clearly unsuitable on snow, as you would expect, Auto Express demonstrated via nearly 20 per cent better dry braking than the best winter tyre shows the need to change back to summer tyres when the weather is warmer.
The all-season comparison is more relevant, since the latest generation are viewed as a much more viable alternative to winter tyres given their convenience. While the figures were generated in the magazine’s all-season tyre test, and so need to be taken with a grain of salt, Auto Express noted that there remained a performance advantage for some full winter tyres, with the Kinergy 4S2 finishing below all but the Wintrac Pro. However, the all-season tyre did possess an advantage in dry performance. In the snow, Auto Express said that the tyre was, unsurprisingly, “eight per cent off the pace on snow, but it did feel safe – and significantly better than the summer tyre.”