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VW Golf GTI on Michelin winter tyres: report 8

Jon explores the limits of grip in his winter tyre-shod GTI

At long last, the cold snap hit West Lancashire last night, which meant I woke up like an excited puppy at the thought of going to properly test the Michelin Pilot Alpin Tyres.

As I mentioned in the last report, I managed to get a feel for how the tyres performed after a heavy hailstorm but its when the temperature gauge shows the minus figures and the ice is blanketed across the ground that things tend to get really tricky.

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The car was properly iced over so after warming it up, scraping the ice from the windscreen and most importantly, setting the heated seat to it’s highest setting, I set off down the road. I always think its wise just to test grip levels at slow speeds on quiet roads before mingling with traffic by almost trying to unstick the car to see how it will react. A couple of ‘emergency stops’ from 10-15mph revealed that the contact patches really do appear to sucker themselves to the slippy surface, generating a level of grip that I’ve never experienced before in such conditions. 

The roads surrounding my house are mostly great driving roads, narrow B-roads with a few decent straights and loads of tight, well-sighted corners, meaning they generally don’t get the salt treatment like the larger A-roads. Perfect roads to test the grip of the winter tyres out, and they didn’t disappoint. Yes, if you make sharp inputs and upset the balance of the car it will move around a bit but if you are gentle, smooth and take things a bit easier, the tyres offer an astonishing amount of grip, much more so than I was expecting.

Having winter tyres fitted doesn’t mean you can drive normally in treacherous conditions, but if you feel what the car is doing underneath you and don’t go silly, it’s amazing how much progress you can make. Out of sheer curiosity, I took my wife’s BMW 1-Series for a spin just after driving the winter-shod Golf and the difference was remarkable. I got to the end of the road and the rear-driver with its run-flats – even with its modest 1.6 petrol motor – was struggling. I may well decide to fit the winters to that car next year but for now I don’t think it will be going very far whilst it’s white outside.

In other news, the Golf had its first service last week as park of the Volkswagen Inclusive Service Pack. Liverpool Volkswagen booked the car in at 8am in the morning and got on with the job right away whilst I waited in the showroom. The staff was excellent and kept me fueled with coffee and a good wi-fi connection meaning I could take care of some business whilst I waited. The job was done in less than two hours and the best bit: no bill to pay.

It’s a brilliant idea and for the measly price of £199 when you take out VW Finance, it’s great value for money. It also confirmed that the Michelin tyres are wearing at a consistent rate. I’ve done just less than 4,000 miles on the tyres and they are still showing 7mm of tread on all corners.

That said, the car has developed an electronic issue meaning that the doors won’t lock from the inside manually or with the auto lock feature that engages once over 10mph. After taking a quick look during its service the fault couldn’t be traced so the dealer has booked it in for a whole week as they suspect it’s a wiring loom issue. I’ve got my fingers crossed; I really hope it isn’t the start of some problems.

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