It’s often said that tires are like shoes. In addition to the obvious “rubber meeting the road” similarity, with both products it’s important to have the proper ones for the conditions and usage. But the analogy is deeper than just performance. As with shoe retailers, tire dealers typically only carry a handful of brands, usually related to the amount of advertising and co-op dollars the manufacturer is spending.
For consumers shopping for tires, options are often limited to what their favorite dealer stocks or is promoting. But for those willing to dig a little deeper, or venture away from the brands they’ve used in the past, some brilliant discoveries can be found.
Vredestein is one of those brands. While not a household name in the US, Vredestein is a global brand, manufacturing tires since 1909. Based in the Netherlands, the company makes tires for cars & trucks, bicycles, and agricultural/industrial applications. One cool differentiator for Vredestein tires is their appearance. Since the late Nineties, Vredestein has collaborated on the designs of their high-performance models with the legendary Giugiaro Design firm.
I’ve been familiar with the company for quite a while, having purchased my first set of Vredestein tires for my modded Renault R5 (aka LeCar) when I was in college in 1980 (yes, I’m old). Back then I was looking for improved grip for both daily driving and occasional autocross events. The Vredesteins delivered. I remember the slightly wider (145mm versus 135mm stock) 13 inchers being a big improvement in both wet and dry conditions over the stock shoes. Weighing only 1800 pounds the LeCar didn’t exactly stress the rubber, but even when flogging them around the cones the tread wear was still really good.
Fast forward to 2017. I needed new 18” rubber for my Audi A3 6MT daily driver. All these years later, my basic requirements for three-season rubber hasn’t changed much: excellent wet and dry grip for daily use—including spirited drives on back roads—and the occasional lap day at Monticello Motor Club.
The good folks at Vredestein offered up a couple of sets of their max-performance Ultrac Vorti tires. To put these tires in perspective, think Michelin Pilot Sport 4 for direct comparison. The Ultrac Vorti has an aggressive assymetrical tread pattern with wide longitudinal grooves for excellent water drainage and a full silica compound for max performance in both dry and wet conditions. The Giugiaro-designed tires are sharp looking and the sidewalls have a raised rim protector to help lessen curb rash.
After mounting up the Vortis at Speedsport Tuning in Danbury, CT, I hit my favorite local roads to see how they perform.
Noise level and ride comfort.
Based upon the aggressive tread design, I was expecting the tires to be fairly loud at higher speeds. Surprisingly, the noise levels were down from my previous rubber. The ride as well was a pleasant surprise with little harshness from the stiff sidewalls. Rating: A
Like most wide high-grip tires, the Ultrac Vortis require a tiny bit more throttle to get rolling. When coasting on a flat road, the speed will drop a bit quicker, too. A small price to pay for the performance, but if you are addicted to hypermiling, the Vortis may not be your first choice.
Whoa. The Ultrac Vortis grab the pavement like glue on sandpaper. Full pedal stopping distances were noticeably shorter with minimal ABS intrusion.
It rains up here in the Northeast and wet performance is one area I put a lot of weight on when it comes to tires. When the first big downpour hit, and much to the chagrin of my wife, I went out for some fun in the twisties. Driving my familiar backroads, I was able to take the corners at a good clip with no drama. On low speed corners, understeer was imperceptible. Through high-speed sweepers, I was hard pressed to feel a lack of grip or imprecision.
To evaluate hydroplane resistance, I hit the Saw Mill Parkway to take advantage of its notorious poor drainage. Normally I would be avoiding standing water, but not on this day. Fortunately the rain was coming down at a steady pace and I found lots of pools to attack. The Vredesteins cut right through with barely a twitch of the steering wheel. Even in the deepest water, the tires felt confident and stable. With no cars behind me, I also tested the wet braking. Jumping on the binders, the tires gripped as if the road was nearly dry. Rating: A+
To test the full potential of the Vortis I motored up to my favorite track, Monticello Motor Club, nestled in New York’s beautiful Catskill Mountains. Monticello’s 3.6-mile road course features 18 unique turns and one of North America’s longest straights. MMC’s technical circuit includes off-camber turns, decreasing radius turns, a tricky switchback, a carousel, and a hairpin. A single lap will quickly reveal a tire’s shortcomings.
Exiting the pits, I took it easy through the first few turns to build up some heat in the tires before accelerating through the esses. Entering the carousel, turn-in felt very precise and responsive with no slip even as I tightened my line. Powering through turns 10 and 11, I set my sights on the Hangar Turn which is a 45-degree right-hander exiting onto the ¾ mile long Hangar Straight. You want to carry as much speed as possible through this corner to set you up for maximum speed at the end of the straight. The loads on the left front tire are pretty severe in the hangar turn, especially with FWD, and most street tires scream for mercy when pushed here. Not a peep out of the Vortis. The initial turn-in was precise, there was little to no understeer and the tires were quiet. Just getting the job done. I took the Audi up to nearly 130mph before jumping on the brakes to slow for the uphill right-hander into the always fun Switchback.
I did a half dozen laps and headed for the pits before the fronts brakes began smoking like Joe Camel. After a cool down lap around the paddock, I parked and inspected the tires for wear. The tread looked damn good with minimal wear and no chunking. I don’t know how long they would last with that kind of regular use, but it looks as if they could deliver a lot more track days with no problem.
The Vredestein Ultrac Vorti surpassed my high expectations for a high performance summer tire. They took everything I could throw at them in both wet and dry conditions and excelled throughout. With the increased rolling resistance, the tires might have a slight impact on your fuel economy. But if you enjoy spirited driving, fuel economy is probably not your first priority. Since Vredestein does not spend heavily on advertising in the US, the tire’s price is considerably lower than the competition. You might have to work a little harder to find a dealer, but you will be rewarded every time you hit the road.
Overall rating: A+
A second take:
As mentioned, Vredestein sent us two sets of Vortis: the 225/40-18s for the A3 and a set of 225/45-17s for RxSpeed’s Chief Trouble Maker Michael Chapin’s 2001 400whp Audi S4 (yes, we like Audis). After a few weeks with the Vorti’s on his S4, here are Michael’s thoughts:
I recently acquired the S4. I needed to sort out some software and hardware issues, but eventually we got it to deliver a full 23lbs of boost. With the engine problems behind me, I could now focus on driving. The Vredestein Ultrac Vorti’s impressed me from the start. Even under full throttle launches, the Vortis hook up with virtually no wheelspin. Once under way, the feedback from the tires is excellent, which allows me to get the most from the S4. The handling and grip at both low and high speeds is on par with the best high performance DOT tires I’ve experienced.
Considering the grip and the aggressive tread design, I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet the tires were, even at triple digit speeds. With the old rubber, the S4 was a bit sketchy in the rain. The Vortis have transformed the car with an impressive level of wet weather grip, allowing me to push harder than I probably should. Overall, the tires are a perfect match to the S4 and allow me to fully explore the car’s potential.