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VW Golf GTI on Michelin winter tyres: report 4

Can Jon's Michelin Pilot Alpins handle the twists and turns of Wales Rally GB country roads? Report 4 reveals all

‘Meet at my house early doors on the Friday morning, we’ll drive over to Deeside in North Wales and grab some breakfast on the way.’ This was a friend and my plan for a day out in the car to go and see the Wales Rally GB. I’ve never been to watch a rally so it was something I had to tick off the list.

As well as going to watch the rally, while in North Wales we were going to take in some of the wonderful roads, to really give the Michelin Pilot Alpin tyres a workout. We got in the car at 7am, heated seats quickly switched on and Chris Evans was making sure we were wide awake on Radio 2. After a quick stop for fuel and coffee, we hit the road with the destination set for Deeside where we would pick up the Service Park, with a view to following some of the action and trying to catch some of the stages along the way. That was the plan anyway…

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Due to several unseen obstacles – mainly M6 traffic – we never did get to the Deeside Service Park and we didn’t get to see a single rally car, never mind see one screaming sideways through a forest. Slightly disappointed but with some better planning we will be back again next year.

Thankfully, we still sampled some of North Wales’ fine tarmac and took the long way home through Cheshire to fully explore the handling of my winter’d Golf GTI. I asked my friend, a fellow petrolhead, to have a drive and see what he thought of the dynamics, as he was familiar with the car on summer rubber but not on the new Michelins.

After a drive, he confirmed my thoughts that the car seems a little softer around the edges, but does benefit from better traction out of corners. Barreling a little too quickly into corners induces some rather alarming understeer, but using the slow-in/fast-out approach I mentioned in report 3 sorts things out nicely.

The day after we decided to drive the 100 miles or so down the M6 to the NEC for the British Classic Car show. With over 1750 cars and 300 bikes on display there were some very interesting machines to see. Highlights were the incredible Jaguar Heritage collection, lovely collections from Mercedes, Ferrari, Lamborghini and a wonderful original 911 Targa from Porsche.

On the way there and back, the Golf was nothing less than a fantastic motorway companion. The standard fit Adaptive Cruise Control is a joy to use, making the dull journey incredibly stress free and easy. The seats are very supportive, so the 200-mile journey could be dispatched in total comfort. 

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this in winter, but it’s recently been a bit warm for the tyres to work at their optimum. We need the temperatures to consistently drop another couple of degrees to see the best yet, but still the levels of grip they generate continue to impress.

Unfortunately, I’ve been without the GTI for the last couple of days while it has been taken away for a minor cosmetic repair and I’ve been using a diesel Renault Captur courtesy of Enterprise. It’s left me really looking forward to getting back into the Golf, not that the Captur is a bad car (far from it actually), just the synergy of the control weights in the GTI along with the slick infotainment system is streets ahead of the French car.

Rally or no rally, living with the GTI (especially on the Michelin rubber) is continuing to be a pleasure.

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