Winter is officially here. Choosing the right winter tires for your needs and budget is never an easy task. No one likes to spend on tires, even though they have a direct impact on how your vehicle drives in winter. In fact, good tires can help keep you safe. When you think about it, cheaping out on winter tires is willingly reducing your vehicle’s performance.
What makes a tire effective? It’s not necessarily the price. You often pay more for a brand name. What’s really important is the quality of the compound and the various technologies included in the tread. Each company has its own marketing terms, but you want to find a tire that effectively evacuates water and snow, and that performs well in all weather conditions.
Our experience with the Winter i*Pike RS
Hankook is the world’s seventh-largest tire manufacturer. They asked us to try their Winter i*Pike RS, a model that’s made for touring cars and SUVs. These tires have been on the market for three years under the W419 code, having replaced the former W409. The product engineers enhanced the new generation’s effectiveness by improving several key aspects of the tread and studs. This tire was already great on snow, but the changes improved its performance on icy roads.
The Winter i*Pike RS is Hankook’s go-anywhere winter tire. If you’re looking for a high-performance option, consider the Winter i*cept evo2 (W320) for cars or the Winter i*cept evo2 suv (W320A) for SUVs. Naturally, these will cost you more. The model we tried offers a good balance between price and performance.
What’s its secret? Angled Aqua Slant grooves expel water more effectively to reduce hydroplaning. Spuit hole technology also plays a role by absorbing water and then channeling it out when the wheel rotates. Meanwhile, the 3D sipes (which are much more numerous in this generation) are S-shaped instead of straight. This minimizes block movement and improves contact with the road.
If you drive on icy roads often, you may want to add studs to your tires. Hankook’s engineers also optimized the number of studs and their location on the tread.
How did this tire perform? On the road the Hankook i*Pike RS proved very effective in the season’s first snowfall. The tire maintained its grip when we braked, even on ice—which is common at intersections because so many drivers lock their wheels, creating friction that melts the snow just long enough for it to refreeze.
In the slalom test, our vehicle kept its composure overall, with only a slight slip of the front section on a particularly tight corner. Some consumers have raised concerns about the longevity of Winter i*Pike RS tires. We’ll be testing this aspect throughout the winter as we continue to assess the tire’s characteristics. Our testers also reported good handling on the highway and relatively low noise levels. They rated the tire as “acceptable.”
Sold for less than $100, the Hankook Winter i*Pike RS is suitable for touring cars and small SUVs. It comes in a range of sizes from 13 to 18 inches. Stay tuned for further reports on the subject in the coming weeks.