The Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D plows through snow just as easily as the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3 (*Est. $185) -- for a lot less money. The trade-off? Softer bare-road handling and less ice grip in one expert test.
But plenty of owners are thoroughly pleased anyway. The Dunlop runs neck-and-neck with the Michelin in owner reviews at TireRack.com.
Terrific in snow, but not as sporty on dry roads as the Michelin. The Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D lags behind the top-rated Michelin in one major test. It gets outstanding traction in snow -- but only "so-so" on ice.
Owners disagree. They rate the Dunlop higher on ice and snow than the Michelin, although performance on dry roads is less impressive.
"Remember the VW commercial where they asked the question 'Have you ever wondered what the snowplow man drove to get to the snowplow?' Well, here is your answer," writes one customer at TireRack.com, who runs Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3Ds on a Mazda3 to get to their snowplow job in New Hampshire.
A Minneapolis owner says the Dunlops turned a Dodge Neon SRT4 "into a fantastic winter car. I regularly went up against snow much deeper than the bumper, struggling to see through the drifting snow passing over the car after plowing it out of the way ... Simply amazing winter experience."
An all-wheel-drive Audi owner agrees that the Dunlop plows mightily through snow, and adds that on black ice "so slick that I could barely stand up, the car drove away like there was nothing there."
Expect a quiet, comfortable ride. The Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D is quiet and easy-riding, reviews say -- just not as outstanding as the Michelin. One top test rates the Dunlop just as quiet as the Michelin, but not quite as comfortable. Owners say the opposite: They rate the Dunlop just as comfortable as the Michelin, but not quite as quiet.
"They are pretty quiet on dry pavement," writes one Minnesota owner after 45,000 miles on the Dunlops. "A little noisier each year with the added wear but not bad (turn up the tunes)."
Long-wearing, but no treadwear warranty. Like most winter tires, the Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D carries no treadwear warranty. But owners at TireRack.com rate it as highly as the top-rated Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3. With more than 600 reviews posted, plenty say they've gotten more than 30,000 miles out of the Dunlops.
"Wore like iron," says one Minnesota owner who finally replaced them (with the same model) after 45,000 miles.
Review Credibility: Excellent Experts compare the Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D with 14 other performance winter tires. They test each tire's snow traction, braking on wet, dry and icy roads, hydroplaning, handling, ride comfort, noise and more before picking the top buys.
Review: Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
2. Tire Rack
Review Credibility: Good TireRack.com conducts regular comparison tests of winter tires. Although they haven't fully tested the Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D, Jim Holloman names it as a top pick for performance winter tires.
Review: Winter Tires for General Cold Weather Performance, Jim Holloman, Oct. 29, 2010
3. Tire Rack
Review Credibility: Good The Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D still rates highly with customers here, but this former favorite tire has been surpassed by the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3. This page includes users' written reviews and a link to a chart where consumers rank the Winter Sport 3D against other winter tires.
Review: Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D, Contributors to TireRack.com, As of November 2012
4. Automobile Protection Association
Review Credibility: Good The Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D is a top pick at this Canadian nonprofit. Experts say it offers "performance similar to the Bridgestone LM-60 at a slightly lower price point."
Review: Winter Tire Info: Performance Tires, Editors of Automobile Protection Association, Not Dated