Winter tyres comp: PHers report back

Well, the idea was great in principle. Ask PHers for their most entertaining and/or embarrassing winter driving mishaps and, thanks to Dunlop, reward the best stories with a set of winter rubber to see them through the ice and snow. We got some great stories. The winners got their tyres.

And then it steadfastly refused to get cold and just rained instead. And rained. And rained. Not exactly the conditions for winter tyres to shine - a set of giant rubber rings would probably have been more appropriate. Though saying that a few of our winners actually heard the crunch of frost and snow beneath their fancy new rubber. And as the evenings turn dark and we bid farewell to summer you might be considering whether or not to make the investment yourself. So you might want to take a look at how our winners got on - here are their stories.

Name: Ben Williams
Lives: Yorkshire Dales
Car: 1980 BMW E12 M535i
What was your winter like?
"This year we got a break from the usual Yorkshire Dales winter blizzards but were treated to rather a lot of rain and a few precious icy days. The old BMW is a bit of a handful in the wet and can be considered a true widow-maker in icy and snowy conditions. However, we can't let piffling things like that stand in the way of our fun so on went the Dunlop Wintersport 4Ds."
What did you make of your winter tyres?
"I've been using winter tyres for many years on both my road and competition cars. Grip from the Dunlops is immense. I deliberately used the M535i on the few icy days we had and it felt planted, safe and provided bags of traction even from standing starts on slippery inclines. In the wet they performed similarly well, standing water in particular is just not a problem.

"Increased road noise is there when compared to regular summer compounds but certainly no more than any other of the premium winter tyres I've used before. I used them on one occasion when the temperature hit over 17 degrees and they were surprisingly good. Noticeable block movement when really hammering round fast, open corners but certainly not the death traps some would have you believe once the mercury rises."

Nigel Ogram
Car: "Alfa Romeo GT Blackline 1.9 diesel"
What was your winter like?
"Mild and (very) wet - maybe only half a dozen frosts from December to mid-March."
What did you make of your winter tyres?
"Prior to being one of the lucky winners of this competition, I had often considered winter tyres and decided against on two grounds. 1) Cost and 2) I've never got stuck in snow, despite running a 450hp+ FWD car on UHP summer tyres. However, when my daily commute went up to nearly 100 miles, I decided to retire the turbo-nutter car to weekend duties and run a diesel hack instead, hence the Alfa.

"My initial reaction was very favourable. The tyres had noticeably more compliance. I also expected and experienced a noticeable increase in road noise. Having frameless windows, the Alfa GT is known for poor sound insulation through the door seals, and I found that the 'hiss' from the winter tyres was very noticeable.

"Cornering precision also dropped, which again was not a surprise. Tipping into a corner in the dry always felt just a little bit vague, as though I was running 50 per cent too low pressure in normal summer tyres. Once loaded up though, it was acceptable. Changes in direction were less confidence-inspiring, with a definite pendulum motion threatening if I was over-exuberant. However, cornering grip in anything other than dry conditions was definitely better.

"The only time I felt that the tyres actually saved me was exiting the M42 south at the NEC - there's a long 180-degree two-lane slip road. It had been frosty and the gritters had been out, but not on this particular slip road. The inside lane was fine, but as I drifted out to the outside lane to pass a truck, I found that there was nothing but black ice and it all started to get a bit sideways. I'm fairly convinced that on summer tyres, I would have been swapping paint with the scenery.

"I've done about 7,000-8,000 miles on them and I was expecting the unusually mild weather to have taken its toll. However, when they were removed the tread was still looking very good - probably good for at least another couple of winters."

Name: Christian Gardner
Lives: Newcastle
Car: "Ford Focus ST (2010 2.5T)"
What was your winter like?
"Although we only had snow on a couple of days, it was still a very cold winter, with the overnight and early morning temperature being below zero degrees for quite a few weeks and thick overnight frosts, making the roads pretty slippery."
What did you make of your cold weather tyres?
"For comparison, I use Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2s as my summer tyres, so the WinterSport 3Ds had a lot to live up to. My first impression wasn't brilliant as the tyres seem to take a long time to bed in, in my case around 500 miles. During this period they were pretty awful, spinning easily when accelerating even on dry roads in second and third. They did progressively get better though, so stick with them if you experience this.

"Once bedded in, I found the tyres were, on the whole, excellent in winter conditions. The best praise I can give them is that I didn't notice I had winter tyres fitted 95 per cent of the time - in winter conditions, they often felt like summer tyres on dry roads.

"On snow they were unbelievable - on a dual carriageway covered with a light dusting of snow I could accelerate and brake reasonably hard with confidence and no intervention from the ESP at all. On frosty mornings, you would be hard-pressed to tell it was frosty, the tyres finding grip from nowhere as neighbours slipped and slid up the street.

"In both damp and wet conditions, again the tyres were outstanding, even through standing water. As with any tyre, accelerating out of junctions caused a little slip but certainly nowhere near as much as a summer tyre in wet conditions and cold temperatures.

"Having followed the winter tyre threads on PH, I expected these tyres to be near useless when conditions warmed up. Apart from a slight 'woolliness' on turn in, they still felt pretty good. Of course you can tell the difference compared to dedicated summer tyres, which would have felt more planted and given more confidence to push on, but at this time of year with puddles, greasy roads and colder temps, it was nice to know I was more prepared for the unexpected and could enjoy the drive.

"Summary: The tyres still get caught out every so often, and certainly aren't infallible. I still get the odd bit of unexpected behaviour, such as a little wheelspin where I wouldn't usually expect it in the dry. During the short period of snow they proved exceptional. But I would always also have separate summer tyres; whilst the winters were capable in the dry, they still leave a gap to summer tyres."

Name: Mike Rennie
Lives: Fife
Car: "Audi S3 2002"
What was your winter like?
"Winter was quite mild but wet. A few frosty mornings but no snow."
What did you make of your winter tyres?
"The tyres were great, really grippy in all conditions and even when temperatures rose above seven degrees they didn't feel too soft as the cheap winter tyres on my Subaru Legacy do. They were slightly less precise feeling than the summers but certainly better than any other winters I have tried; Saab 95 Turbo on Nokians, Mazda 6 on Pirelli Sotto Zero and Legacy on Nankangs.

"Not any noiser than the summers and seem to have stood up well to an enthusiastic 3,500 miles of mixed driving with very little wear evident. Should last me another couple of seasons if the car lasts that long!

"Overall really happy with them and will be buying a set for the Scooby when the Nankangs bite the dust."

Name: Simon Hiscock
Lives: Kent
Car: "2003 Mercedes E320CDI Estate"
What was your winter like?
What did you make of your winter tyres?
"I decided that the Dunlops would go on the family battle bus ... a Mercedes E320 diesel estate that is normally used to transport kids, empty crisp packets, riding kit and bits of horse poo.

"In hindsight I have decided the Mercedes poo transporter is, in fact, a rather excellent test vehicle given its combination of low down torque, feckless chassis and the ditch finders fitted by the previous owner. As an example during a sudden snowstorm last March I considered the need to write a Captain Oates letter whilst trying to make it up a hill out of Rochester.

"So, you can imagine my delight when a set of Dunlop SP WinterSport tyres went on during a rather mild January and found that, despite the fact that the temperature here in the south east resolutely stayed above the magic seven degrees, average corner speeds leapt with the Dunlops finding grip in the dry, in the damp, and in the monsoon that was to follow.

"Ironically after winning a set of tyres I did not need to go drive to the Alps for the first time in many years and nor did the UK weather drop much white stuff so I am unable to furnish the readership with an in-depth performance test of the poo mobile in snow and ice compared to last year. However, and perhaps more relevant in the south of England, I can report on how the tyres performed during damp, wet and very, very wet conditions including standing water and mud washed country roads."

Name: Brian Spratt
Lives: Birmingham
Car: Honda CRV
What was your winter like?
"Perhaps flotation aids would have been a better bet!"
What did you make of your winter tyres?
"I've been happily trundling up and down the UK's roads confident that my tyres can cope with anything that's thrown at them. Only problem? Not much has been thrown! I've used winter tyres before, so needed no convincing as to the benefits; even when there is no snow and ice to have fun with the additional grip in the wet, and even on cold dry roads, can be readily identified.

"Yes, they're noisier than the standard tyres, but it's a small price to pay. Storage can be a problem and the cost of swapping them over is an irritation, but a small one. Oh yes, to paraphrase the man who liked the company so much that he bought it; I liked the winter tyres so much that I bought a set for my wife!"

Name: Andy Downey
Lives: Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Car: Honda Civic SE 1.8 Petrol 2008
What was your winter like? "The mildest winter for the last five or six years!"
What did you make of your winter tyres?
"Gutted! That pretty much sums up my winter driving experience on my delicious new Dunlop SP WinterSport 4Ds. Firstly, I will qualify my stance on winter tyres - I am a huge advocate, having used them for the last seven winters, originally on my previous derv Accord Tourer (Continental Winter Contacts) and then on my Civic (Falken Eurowinter HS), and had already swapped over to my Falkens by the time I was selected as a winner in your competition.

"I really would have liked to put the Dunlops through their paces over a few weeks of sustained snowfall, akin to our last few winters. However, as much as the white stuff tried to blanket our pot-hole laden tarmac ribbons, there was nothing at all for the Dunlops to get excited about.

"My journey to work is relatively staid; a simple five miles up the A1 and another mile or so of dead-straight connecting roads, interspersed with a smattering of decent sized roundabouts. Compared with my summer Goodyear Eagle F1s on one favourite roundabout the weight transfer gets delayed as the tyres grip later, it's a bit more fun, but also increases the danger levels as the kerbs on the roundabout are a fair old height.

"The biggest compliment that I can pay them is that they managed to find virtually the same levels of grip on 'my' roundabout in wet and slippery one to two degrees conditions as I would expect from my summer tyres in conditions above 10 degrees. Praise indeed!

Name: Phil Playle
Lives: Hertfordshire
Car: "Alfa Romeo 159 Estate, 1.9 diesel"
What was your winter like?
"Wet, mild, and only saw a couple of real frosts."
What did you make of your winter tyres?
"I feel a little sorry for Dunlop. This was an interesting competition, and I was looking forward to seeing how good these tyres really were. I fully appreciate that they are 'winter' tyres, not 'snow' tyres but, let's be honest, we all know the acid test is seeing how they work in snow and ice.

"Unfortunately we did not have a great winter for such a test. I barely saw any ice, let alone snow, and in general it was very mild. As such, I really couldn't give the tyres the full evaluation that I was hoping to. After changing them back to my summer tyres I can safely say the Dunlop WinterSport give a very comfortable ride, which I guess is down to the softness of the compound. They certainly were a lot quieter. The rim protector is very good and the MPG seemed to improve, but maybe I was driving like a granny. They didn't wear as much as I thought they might when it got considerably warmer and I didn't notice too much drop-off in grip at higher temperatures, which I was expecting. The tyres are now safely stowed in the garage for the coming winter..."

Thanks to all the PHers who took part and shared their stories

Additional photos: Highways Agency on Flickr/Creative Commons

Comments (27) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Nigel_O 13 Oct 2014

    I agree with Phil - the last of the reviews - its seems a shame for Dunlop that we couldn't report amazing results after driving through deeps snowdrifts. I was waiting patiently for the white stuff, just so I could go out and play, but it never came

    However, I imagine that most of the competition winners reverted to summer tyres when the floods receded, so there's a fair chance the Dunlops will be refitted when the weather finally breaks

    Mine have been safely stored during the warm weather - expecting to re-fit them in November

    @ Dan Trent - could I suggest that those that are able should submit another round of feedback when (if) the weather actually turns wintry - I'm sure Dunlop would appreciate some further feedback

  • phil1979 13 Oct 2014

    Nigel_O said:
    I agree with Phil - the last of the reviews - its seems a shame for Dunlop that we couldn't report amazing results after driving through deeps snowdrifts. I was waiting patiently for the white stuff, just so I could go out and play, but it never came

    However, I imagine that most of the competition winners reverted to summer tyres when the floods receded, so there's a fair chance the Dunlops will be refitted when the weather finally breaks

    Mine have been safely stored during the warm weather - expecting to re-fit them in November

    @ Dan Trent - could I suggest that those that are able should submit another round of feedback when (if) the weather actually turns wintry - I'm sure Dunlop would appreciate some further feedback
    I am the Phil above. More than happy to report again. They are safely stowed at present, ready for the temps to drop.

  • ZOLLAR 13 Oct 2014

    How about another competition this year?

    Could do with a free set of Tyres for the Discovery and would happily take it off road and up the brecons in the snow if they wanted feedback tongue out

  • RemaL 13 Oct 2014

    This year will be our first year of trying Winter tyres. Having justt got a GT86 I am hoping sooner than later to get a set and been looking at Nokian WR A3 after a few people rated them highly and seemly good reviews online

    I have been having a good read at the various winter tyre thread on here also

  • Merp 13 Oct 2014

    If you ever need a real test, send them over here.

    I live in the Alps & were expecting plenty of snow early November through to April.

    ANOTHER Alfa GT (2.0 JTS), but my commute is ~40km per day. Plus to local ski resorts every weekend.

    My current winters are due replacing at the end of the month, hint hint!!

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