Review: Toyo Observe GSi-5

What Do My Star Ratings Mean?

There are two main categories of tire review, in my opinion. The first type is one where the reviewer has actually driven on the tire in question and can review it directly. Obviously this is the best way to review a tire, however in the fast-paced world of tires, it's not always possible to drive everything out there just when you need to. The second type of review is one derived from research and listening to other people's opinions about the tire. I feel pretty strongly about always disclosing when my reviews, such as this one, are based solely on research rather than direct experience, not to mention that About.com's ethics rules require such disclosure.

I have to say that when I think of snow tires, Toyo is not really the first name that comes to mind. In fact it was an email from a reader that first alerted me to the very existence of the Toyo Observe Gsi 5. My only previous experience with Toyo winter tires was a drive on the Garit-KX, which I found emphatically underwhelming. On the other hand, my first look at the Observe has been... eye-opening.

Toyo's Observe Gsi 5 is a Standard Touring Winter tire that is just jampacked with new technology, including some visually striking and functionally interesting new siping patterns. I'm very much hoping to have a chance to drive a set this winter to see if the new stuff actually works.

Technology:

First Edge Technology: Shallow square-patterned sipes designed to enhance multi-directional grip just in the first few hundred miles as the tire is “breaking in” but not deep enough to cause tread squirm and odd wear.

Sawtooth Tread Edges: Large biting edges along the tread blocks increase deep snow grip.

Snow Claw Technology: As with the Xi3 and Hakka R2, this technology puts small extrusions at the bottom of the grooves for traction in deep snow and to stiffen the tread blocks.

Multi-Wave Sipe Technology: This is yet another name for 3D self-locking sipes, an advanced siping technique in which the sipe is not merely cut straight into the tread block, but is cut with an internal topology that allows the tread block to flex just enough to activate the sipes, but not enough to induce tread squirm on dry roads.

Spider Sipe: An interesting collection of hexagonal, vertical and horizontal sipes on the inner ribs purports to increase grip in all directions. It's a fascinating extension of the rapid change going on in siping technology.

Swing Sipe: Another attempt to increase lateral grip, the curved Swing Sipe runs down the center rib and provides biting edges in multiple directions.

Micro-Bit Technology: Crushed black walnut shells are distributed throughout the silica-enhanced rubber compound, providing a bit of grit in the rubber to increase ice grip.

Performance:

As noted, I have not yet driven the tires, but I'm definitely interested. For one thing, when it comes to snow tires I consider the ability (and desire) to use 3-dimensional siping patterns as a sign of having entered the big leagues. In the case of the Observe, the tire has gone beyond 3D sipes to put in siping technology that nobody else has yet tried, building on the work of both Nokian and Michelin, among others, in this area. That makes me sit up and take notice. Given that Toyo is clearly standing on the shoulders of the giants makes me cautiously optimistic that it all really does work the way they say it does.

Customer reviews are largely positive, with deep snow traction being a particular rave and tire noise on dry roads the most often-seen gripe.

Most reviewers who complain of tire noise do stress that they find the snow performance to be well worth it. Some have also disliked the tires' performance in wet conditions.

“Been through snow, ice and slush in the city, and drove 500 km on an icy highway. While a number of people were spinning out and having a hard time negotiating the icy highway, I was able to maintain great traction for the whole trip.”

“Absolutely the best winter tire I have had. Comfort and noise level outstanding. Traction and braking on any type surface is truly exceptional.”

“Very impressive winter tire. Strong on Ice, Snow and Slush, good in cold dry conditions and reliable and predictable in the wet. Good traction off the line, even when I'm using 2WD mode and excellent under braking in slippery conditions.”

“Commuting from a snow belt region during the winter which means I have driven through all types of winter road conditions. These tires handle it all.”

The Bottom Line:

I'm actually quite excited by these tires and their potential. The technology is firmly grounded in work that others have validated and looks extremely promising. The vast majority of users talk about their winter tires in terms of fondness I usually only hear from Nokian owners. From everything I can observe so far, the Observe is worth observing further.

Toyo's Observe Gsi 5 is available in fully 100 sizes from 155/80 R13 to 315/35 R20