Review: Vredestein Wintrac Xtreme

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.

The Wintrac Xtreme is the flagship winter tire from nationality-challenged tiremaker Apollo Vredestein BV. Apollo Tyres, the parent company headquartered in India, now owns a small constellation of subsidiary tire manufacturers, including the Dutch company Vredestein Banden BV, in fact with the brand-new addition of Cooper Tires here in the US. Apollo has recently become the 7th-largest tire company in the world.

Vredestein is located in the Netherlands, where the brand is more than 100 years old, and despite being almost entirely unknown in the North American market, has long been known in Europe for making winter tires that range from decent to pretty darned good. The newest addition to their lineup fits right in. The Wintrac Xtreme is marketed as a UHP Winter tire, combining snow and ice grip with extreme high-speed capability and sporty handling “suitable for the world’s fastest cars.”

Technology:

The Wintrac uses two different forms of siping for both wet and snow performance. The central tread block has straight sipes for maximum wet traction and braking. The outer shoulder has “zigzag” siping patterns to bite into softer snow surfaces. The angled “W” pattern of the central tread plus the 3 circumferential grooves assist in water evacuation.

Vredestein is also the only tire company I've ever heard of that uses a design consultant to make sure their tread patterns are visually striking enough. Italdesign Giugiaro, an iconic automotive design firm that has lent its expertise to such autos as the Maserati Quattroporte and the VW Golf, works with Vredestein on nearly all of its tread patterns, along with aftermarket design firms Carlsson and Hamann. I'm frankly unsure of how to feel about that. On the one hand, more power to them – it's nice that they want their tires to look fashionable. On the other hand, how much is look allowed to trump function? It's hard to say how much of the Wintrac's interesting tread pattern is for looks and how much is function.

Performance:

As I noted, I have not yet had the chance to drive the new Wintrac, although I can note with great confidence that it is very well-regarded in both the European tire press and with customers. However, European media does not really review tires the way I do, so for opinions about performance it's best to look to the users of the tire.

In the main, customers are impressed by the Wintrac's performance in all but the worst conditions. Deep snow grip is a particular point in the tires' favor, while a few owners disliked the wet performance.

“Its winter properties are very good, with almost no loss of traction unless pushed. Handles snow and icy roads, with [Electronic Stability Control] lighting up the dash only when I am heavy on the throttle.”

“In the wet they are confident performers, clearing standing water quite well and with good braking. Not the best aquaplaning resistance I've experienced in a straight line, but they do not "pull" when one tyre hits deep standing water.”

“Just came back from ski trip in Italy and it's performed without fuss in the mountain snow and on 90mph French motorway in both dry and heavy rain.”

One gripe noted by a majority of owners who reviewed the tires was the extended “run-in period” they require before they will really start to perform well.

“First 100+ miles or so is quite scary. They have next to no grip, and are lethal in damp conditions. They feel completely detached from the road surface, like driving on bars of soap. When the dealer warns you about this, take them seriously. It was very easy to lose traction even in a 4WD and literally slide on corners at anything over 30mph.”

“Once run in, then the sealing agent wears off and they start to perform. The grip is consistent, and the tyres are very progressive even in greasy conditions. When really pushed they don't break away, but rather "judder" in a controlled manner as they repeatedly lose and gain grip around a tight corner.”

“Once the sipes open up the tyres feel very attached to the road surface, (I doubt very much if they would work at all in wet snow in the first 100 miles or so....)”

The Bottom Line:

Everything I've ever heard about Vredestein's winter tires suggests that; if they are not capable of the technological supremacy of a Nokian, Michelin or Continental, they are at least worthy of being mentioned as a decent lower-cost alternative. Especially if you live in Europe, the Vredestein Wintrac Xtreme is an excellent performer at what is usually an excellent price. If you live in North America, the same is true but the tires will be much harder to find except perhaps online, and the price may not be quite as attractive.

Vredestein's Wintrac Xtreme is available in 53 sizes from 215/65 R15 to 285/25 R20