The studdable General Altimax Arctic is a solid runner-up winter tire in reviews. Studded, it doesn't grip quite as well on ice as the top-rated Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7 (*Est. $165) -- and studless, its ice grip trails the best studless snow tire, the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (*Est. $105).
Experts still recommend it as a good, inexpensive snow tire. And owners love it: The General Altimax Arctic is one of the top-rated snow tires of any type at TireRack.com.
Mediocre ice grip in one test -- but owners rave about it. Like most winter tires, the General Altimax Arctic plows effortlessly through snow in tests, but it gets mixed reviews on ice. One leading testing authority judges the General just average at braking on ice without its studs when compared with the outstanding Michelin X-Ice Xi3.
But when TireRack.com drives the studless General on a naturally iced test track in northern Sweden -- roughed up and polished to approximate a busy Swedish intersection -- "the General Altimax Arctic felt sure-footed on the rough ice surface," testers say. Add studs, and the General bites even more tenaciously on ice, TireRack.com experts say. ConsumerReports.org experts test it with studs, too, but it can't quite match the ferocious ice grip of the pricier Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7.
Owners rave about the General Altimax Arctic, whether studded or studless; more than 900 have rated it at TireRack.com, and 95 percent award it 4 or 5 stars. Only a couple rate it below average. One North Dakota man put General Altimax Arctics on his wife's daily-driver Subaru Forester -- right before the record-setting, 75-inch snowfall winter of 2008-2009. "Never once did she get stuck. The tires got her through when the snow was higher than the underbelly of her Forester. It plowed through without hesitation." Another man bought the Generals for his girlfriend's Ford Focus. "Her car actually made it out of a parking lot that my 4x4 pickup got stuck in, up in Vermont."
Like all severe-winter tires, the General Altimax Arctic doesn't fare well on bare pavement. One source judges it just fair for hydroplaning resistance and braking on wet roads, and poor on dry roads. Some owners say the General feels "squishy" on bare pavement at high speeds, but it's a trade-off they're willing to make for snow and ice safety.
Smooth-riding -- without its studs, anyway. Studded tires always ride rougher and noisier. Without studs, the General Altimax Arctic rides very comfortably -- just as smoothly as the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 in one test. It's not as quiet, though; the studless General earns middling scores for noise.
Although TireRack.com combines owner reviews for the General with and without studs, it still earns a rating of Excellent for both noise and comfort.
No treadwear warranty, but owners say it's durable. Unlike the Michelin X-Ice Xi3, the General Altimax Arctic (like most winter tires) carries no treadwear warranty. According to owner reviews, however, the General is one of the longest-wearing snow tires you can buy.
"First set lasted 3 winters," one Colorado driver says of the Altimax Arctic. "Just put my new set on yesterday." Another driver in New Hampshire reports that after 14,000 miles, the Generals "still look new with very little wear."
A Wisconsin driver still has half the tread left after 35,000 miles. "I didn't even bother to pull them off during the dry summer months and they have worn better than most all season tires." This isn't recommended, though -- severe-winter tires don't grip well on wet and dry roads.
Review Credibility: Excellent ConsumerReports.org tests the General Altimax Arctic without studs. Experts rate it for snow traction, braking on icy, dry and wet roads, handling, hydroplaning, ride comfort, noise and more before ranking it against other studless winter tires.
Review: General Altimax Arctic, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
Review Credibility: Excellent In this free article, ConsumerReports.org experts test the General Altimax Arctic with studs alongside four other studded winter tires. They don't say how the General did -- only that the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7 wins.
Review: Putting Studded, Studless Winter Tires to the Test, Gene Petersen, Oct. 16, 2012
3. Tire Rack
Review Credibility: Good Experts travel to northern Sweden to test the General Altimax Arctic -- both studded and without studs -- against two other studdable winter tires without their studs. The studded General gets the best ice grip and wins the test, but it does give up some traction on wet and dry roads. Without studs, the General still beats the other two unstudded tires -- the Firestone Winterforce and Pirelli Winter Carving Edge.
Review: Winter Testing at the Arctic Circle: Studdable Winter/Snow, Editors of TireRack.com, Sept. 6, 2009
4. Tire Rack
Review Credibility: Good If you can't afford the priciest snow tires, Gary Stanley recommends three budget alternatives, including the General Altimax Arctic. Tests at TireRack.com prove that even inexpensive winter tires will keep you safer than all-season tires on ice.
Review: Best Affordable Winter/Snow Tires, Gary Stanley, Nov. 14, 2012
5. Tire Rack
Review Credibility: Good With more than 900 owner ratings posted, the General Altimax Arctic is the favorite studdable winter tire at TireRack.com (the Best Reviewed Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7 isn't sold here). The vast majority of owners are very happy with this tire, even without studs.
Review: General Altimax Arctic, Contributors to TireRack.com, As of November 2012