Sailun is a Chinese tiremaker, which is often a derogatory statement – Chinese tires have not generally been noted for their quality and/or handling. Sailun, however, wants to break out of that mold and defy the conventional wisdom, and I would have to cautiously say that they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it so far.
Sailun is what we call a third-tier tiremaker. Michelin, Bridgestone, Pirelli – these are first-tier companies that make very high-quality tires at a premium price. Second-tier companies might include General, Uniroyal and Hankook. Third-tier companies focus on pricing value over premium quality. Distributed in the US by value tire giant, TBC Corp, Sailun pretty wholeheartedly embraces their position as a third-tier company, while insisting that what they want is to make a tire that is good enough for daily drivers at an excellent price. I frankly find that attitude refreshingly honest.
For a tiremaker in their position, Sailun actually offers quite a wide range of tires, but at the moment their flagship is the UHP All-Season Atrezzo Z4+AS. This Ultra High Performance tire is designed for wet and dry handling as well as some mild snow performance, but it is by no means a winter-biased all-season. Sailun decided to let journalists and dealers try out the Z4+AS in TBC's backyard: Palm Beach International Raceway in Florida. Their method for letting us test the tire was entirely unique in my experience – they set up a blind test between their tire and a first-tier comparative, in which both tires had their identifying information completely buffed off the sidewalls.
- Decent handling and grip.
- Smooth and comfortable ride.
- Somewhat slow to engage.
- Slightly unstable under braking.
- Low treadwear rating.
Silica-Enhanced Tread Compound: Increases wet and dry grip.
Solid Center Rib: Improves lateral stability and road comfort.
High Angle V-Shaped Grooves: Aggressive high angle grooves enhance water evacuation to improve wet handling and hydroplaning resistance.
Grooved Tread Blocks: Reinforces block stiffness, promotes even load to improve handling and wear characteristics.
Tapered Tread Edges: Promotes uniform contact pressure for improved stability.
Shoulder Tie Bars: Shoulder tread block stabilizers increase block stiffness for better control and stability.
Angled Micro-Sipes: Provide biting edges to improve traction in wet and snow.
Shoulder profile: Unique shoulder profile designed for increased shock absorption.
Sailun pitted their Z4+AS tires against Continental's Extreme Contact DWS, fitted on Mercedes C350 sedans. We began by taking both tires out for a spin on public highways and roads near the track, followed by a high-performance handling course laid out on the track itself, including slalom cones, evasion maneuvers, diminishing-radius turns and a braking box.
In terms of handling, the Z4+AS does not in any real way match up to the Conti DWS. The tires engage slightly less quickly and are slightly less precise, so that the handling feels a bit muddy. There is a bit less grip, and the grip is a bit less progressive. The Atrezzos also showed a tendency to lose the rear end too easily under hard cornering, although minor throttle modulation was enough to save it from a full skid. More concerning was the tendency for the rear end to become unstable and start to swing out under hard braking, although braking distance was decent. Somewhat surprisingly, the tires actually seemed to perform marginally better in wet conditions than in dry. The Atrezzos did have a noticeably softer and smoother ride on the highway, however. Whether that is an advantage or not largely depends on whether you as a driver prefer sidewall response or sidewall comfort – both are valid choices.
The Bottom Line:
Ordinarily I prefer not to discuss or even identify comparative tires in a review – I try to review all tires solely on their own merits - but in this case it seems to be important for a number of reasons. For one thing, Sailun's intent was not to show that their tires were better than the comparatives, but that the 30% price difference between their tires and the Conti DWS was not matched by a similar difference in quality or handling. In one sense, Sailun is absolutely correct. Their Atrezzo Z4+AS is certainly not as good as the Conti DWS, but it is by no means 30% worse in any one measure of handling. I do question whether the cumulative effect of all the differences in handling might add up to 30%, but that becomes impossible to measure in any empirical or even reasonably subjective manner.
My other concern is treadwear. Although the comparison between the Atrezzo Z4+AS and Continental's DWS is nearly perfect – identical speed ratings and load ratings, for example – Sailun failed to mention that the treadwear ratings are not nearly comparable. While the DWS has a UTQG rating of 540, the Atrezzo is rated at 380, a significant difference in expected treadwear that even approaches that magical 30% bar. While UTQG ratings are very fuzzy things, even if the DWS lasts 20% longer, the higher price may yet be a bargain in the long term.
So in the final analysis, while I think that Sailun's tires are good enough for daily drivers who don't push their tires, and safe enough for families to feel confident with, I think that the overall advantage in quality and value still goes - albeit narrowly - to the higher tier.