When it comes to winter in North America, it is always brutal and every region has something a little different.
* Buffalo - Snow fall so heavy that its easy to forget where you live
* Calgary / Edmonton – Snow fall like nobodies business, but the cold can hit you like a ton of bricks.
* Vancouver or Seattle – WET, Simply WET, spring comes early, but when its winter, you you can always expect to battle ice.
* Alaska and the Great White North – You never see mother earth, you drive over snow all winter long with no breaks.
* Toronto – Where you live in fear because your not sure if it will snow at all, or snow for days straight. The weatherman is never right and should be fired. The only two things you can count on is that the sun will come up and go down.
This is North America! And these are the conditions a modern winter tire has to stand up to be worth their weight in gold.
Over the past 3 years I was fortunate enough to evaluate over 5 winter tires for the Mitsubishi Lancer and the EVO X. My personal Lancer is 3 years old and already has 125000 km on it. Most of which is winter. The same can be said for the 300000km on my Mazda and Toyota each.
So when it comes to reviewing tires and testing them day in and day out. There are a few that impress me and rise to the top of my list. And so far the Sailun Ice Blazer is off to a good start.
So who is Sailun Tire?
To make a long story short Sailun is a Chinese tire company that has a strong position of authority when it comes to the manufacturing of tires within China and the greater Asia region. For years the core of their business has been light truck, transport truck, and specialty truck tires. Sailun has carved a name for themselves in that arena and now they seem to be bringing all their technology and experience to bear on the passenger car market. So when you say Sailun… Think big… think real big…
The Ice blazer is a first firm step for Sailun. I have put a lot of km’s on these tires and Toronto Canada seems to throw just about every type of winter weather at you. Let me share with you what I found.
Disclaimer – I purchased these tires with my own money shortly after my Firestone Winterforce tires suffered a fatal flat tire.
I took the death of my Winterforce tires very hard. I pulled a huge triangle piece of (slug) out of it and took the tire to the repair shop. Took them 3 seconds to tell me that shop said that looked a little like this.
Then I had a tough decision to make. Do buy replacement tire or go with a new set? Well after sleeping on it, the decision was simple. My tires were 3 going on 4 years old. It didnt make sense buy one tire, or even two Winterforce tires to get me thru the winter. Because the remaining tires would have to be dealt with sooner or later. So I made the decision to to jump into a new set of tires. And after favorable comments by the global online community and some of my peers, I decided to make the plunge into Ice Blazers.
Tire Type Analysis
The Sailun Ice Blazer is what I call a “WEDGE Type” winter tire.
Other well known “Wedge Type” tires include Hankook I*Pike W409 and General Tire Altimax Arctic.
Now its important not to judge a book by its cover. Its very easy for people to look at a tire and say wow that looks really good or really bad. But tire design is much more than that. The construction of the tire, the rubber blend / composition, as well as a design are all key to accurately assessing a tires worth.
When it comes to the Ice Blazer, it turns out to perform just as good as its industry peers and provide a surprise or two. Here is what I found.
Dry Grip / Sound / Feel & Comfort
The Ice Blazer performs very well on dry. While I dont recommend driving winter tires at the extremes, it is important that I share with you what i found. The tire design allows you to take the car in hard cornering in dry yet below freezing temps. It feels sticky and planted. Its only when you increase the speeds do you begin to feel the squirmy nature of winter tires. I have a co-worker who has this on a small subcompact hatch and he doesn’t hesitate to throw his lowered car around, regardless of weather. There tires strangely enough do not generate much sound at the extremes. Which translate into a lot of reserve grip. Its not unusual to hear this bout winter tires having just the right level of softness and grip to perform well at the freezing point. This tire does that at even colder temps. 4 / 5
The sound & vibration given off by the tires at low speeds are inline with winter tire expectation. Sound at the higher speeds were impressive and on the lower side of the average winter tire experience. 4.5/5
The feel and comfort of the tire was one of the harder things for me to assess. The ride or harshness of the tire was more on the firmer side of things. Something that differs from most winter tire experiences I have had. When it comes to winter tires, you almost expect to be pampered by a softer ride. While its not the normal criteria for a winter tire. It is a comfort level more a kin to a performance tire, something that feels out of place in a winter genre. 3.5 / 5
Overall Dry Winter Performance review 4/5
Wet Grip / Hydroplaning Resistance
Wet grip was remarkably good. Toronto has been full of rain that doesnt really form as snow and situations where a large snow fall is followed by above freezing temps and direct sun. Resulting in lots of water in the streets. The tire performs well when navigating the streets full of water. Most of these opinion is based on mid to low speed use. There is always that risk of black ice and I am not interested in wrapping my Lancer around a pole. The tire does happen to handle itself in a good manner in normal to aggressive driving. 4 / 5
Hydroplaning Resistance was tested in depth and the tire does a good job of plowing threw standing water and getting that tire foot print planted on the ground underneath. One of the tests to verify this is to still how much drag or pull to the right I get when venturing too close to puddles close to the curve. I am happy to report that the car maintains its forward momentum and resists drags or pulls to the side. 4 / 5
Overall Wet Performance Review 4 /5
Light & Deep Snow Bite / Ice
The Sailun Tires have the ability to surprise. The light snow performance was fairly average and hard to quantify exception good. When it comes to light snow, if the tire flunks that you should immediately remove the the tire. In this case, the Ice Blazer tires performed inline with expectations. The surprise comes from its high level of confidence in deep snow. Was it the best tire ever, No. But the fact that it rose to the occasion and actually lets you know its doing ts job, says a lot and should be noted. Braking also comes in to be consistent and confidence inspiring. Something proven to me when I turned the car over to other family members and the girl friend. Something I dont do lightly. But its good to know that other people can drive my car home and have little difficult in foul weather. 4 / 5
Ice traction is hard to quantify. Ice testing on a skating rink is great like what you see with more advanced testing from tire rack. But I measure tire performance on ice in the real world. I drive my car and count how many instances where you realize your on black ice and get an idea of how the car and ABS system manages itself. Some places are very easy to guess / anticipate. Local side roads where there are stop signs are classic places where you can see tire slippage due to black ice covered by blowing snow. I cant tell you how many times I see people approaching a stop sign at a high rate of speed, and then they mash the brake you see them coast straight thru the intersection yanking the wheel left and right as the wheels lock up. In most cases these are the people with all seasons, but I have seen some winter tires perform not so good. All that said, the Ice Blazer lives up to the name Sailun selected for it. I saw an orderly engagement of ABS systems and very little curb creep. (where the car starts sliding to the right due to the ice and decline towards the curb.) 4 / 5
Overall Snow & Ice Performance Review 4 /5
X-Factor and Conclusion
Every product is going to have an X-Factor that makes this product unique. In this case, the X Factor for the Ice Blazer is its price. Now in today world, price speaks volumes. But here, we have a tire that performs very well for the money you are spending. The only other tire that has done this for me was the WinterForce tire. Now yes the Winterforce tire was a little clumsy on ice, loud as a Pack Elephant on the highway, squirmy as hell. But boy did it shine when you drive in fresh deep snow. You never got stuck. EVER! And it quickly rose to the top of my list as an underdog story. Here, Sailun has captured that same winning underdog status without many of the negatives the winter force tire had.I would recommend this tire for anyone who is on a budget and looking for a tire that can do the job, and do it well. I generally rate products pretty harshly, but this tire hangs on to a solid 4 /5 rating and I challenge anyone else to come to a different conclusion.