Throughout the years, the tire industry has evolved quite a lot. In the early days of the cars, tires weren’t something new, but the car tire industry was in its infancy. There was a handful of tire brands in those days, which wasn’t a problem because there weren’t too many cars. Fast forward about a century, and things start to change.
Today, things are a lot different. As the number of cars increased, so did the number of tire brands. Unlike the early 1900s, when there weren’t too many price ranges, today, the options are better. There are now a lot of premium tire brands… but there are also quite a few ones that I would never use as well.
For the most part, you are looking at 3 types of tires: low-cost, mid-range, and premium. As you can guess, they come with a different price tag as well as performance, with the cheaper ones performing the worst.
Speaking of worst, you may remember an article I did a while ago outlining the worst tire brands. It outlined several low cost tire manufacturers that produced pretty bad tires, some of which were unsafe to be driven. On that list was a brand that I will be reviewing today called Westlake Tires. Considering where the brand ended up means that the brand produces terrible tires. Even though that is true and I would advise you in most cases to avoid them, Westlake has one or two positive sides, which some people may find attractive.
Regardless of how much I disprove of cheap tires, I will do this Westlake Tires review and talk about the several tire models the brand offers.
Westlake Tire Models
What the brand lacks in quality makes up with quantity, and I don’t mean this in terms of the number of produced tires. Westlake makes tires for passenger cars, including SUVs and light trucks, and tires for commercial vehicles, busses, and tractors. The brand has several models for each category, but my focus for today will be the passenger car options.
Westlake Tires has ultra-high-performance, touring, winter, and off-road tires, depending on the size and application. For each of these categories, the brand offers several options. This is a wide range of options on paper, meaning that you have a tire for every occasion.
Since I won’t be able to cover every model Westlake has, I’ll focus mainly on the more popular options, as those are the ones that people will be interested in. I’ll skip the drifting; yes, you read that right, Westlake has a drifting tire, as well as the tractor or bus models.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the individual reviews.
#1. Westlake Zuper Ace SA-57
I’m kicking off the list with the Zuper Ace SA-57, Westlake’s try at an ultra-high-performance tire. This model comes as an improvement over the regular SA-57 model. It features a more aggressive V-shaped tread pattern that should help with aquaplaning resistance. On top of that, the rubber compound is enriched with silica with the goal of providing better performance in wet conditions. In the handling department, Westlake stiffened up the center ribs for better driving dynamics.
In some scenarios, the Zuper Ace SA-57 delivers on Westlake’s promises, and in some, it doesn’t.
One area where the tire does pretty good is in the aquaplaning resistance department. It manages to evacuate most of the water with ease and remain stable. The problem with this is the lack of grip in wet conditions, in which case things can get a bit scary if you push it too far. Dry performance is decent, and you can have some fun on a twisty road, but you’ll need to remain cautious. In both scenarios, the braking distances are not the tire’s strongest suit.
For driving dynamics, I have some good news and bad news. The Zuper Ace SA-57 is responsive enough for a cheap tire. The bad news is that it doesn’t offer a lot of feedback, which can be problematic for when you drive it on the limit.
Considering the price, I would probably go with the Hankook Ventus Prime 3 or the S1. Both are similarly priced with the Zuper Ace SA-57 and will perform better.
#2. Westlake ZuperEco Z-108
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Westlake has the ZuperEco Z-108 – a touring tire designed for comfort, safety, and efficiency. On the refinement side of things, Westlake’s variable pitch tread design should provide low noise levels at various speeds. The overall design of the tire, as well as the structure, is the aspect that should help it be more comfortable and smoother. Finally, for the steering, the ZuperEco Z-108 has 5 circumferential ribs designed to aid with handling and improve gas mileage.
It’s a similar story with the previous tire. The ZuperEco Z-108 delivers in some areas but falls short in others.
I can praise the tire for being decently refined, offering plenty of comfort and low noise levels for the price. As a touring tire, this is what you’d expect, and the only issue is that the tire gets louder as the tread wears down. For the rest of the performance, I’m not a huge fan.
Dry traction and grip are good enough for driving around town at normal speeds, and that’s as much as you should expect from it. Highway stability isn’t the best in the business, and your car may feel a bit unstable at times. Driving on a twisty road is also not something you’ll want to do very aggressively. It doesn’t take too much for the tire to lose grip, and more powerful cars will struggle to put the power down.
Driving on wet surfaces is another aspect that isn’t as safe as I’d want it to be. You can upset the tire quite easily as it doesn’t have plenty of grip and traction, to begin with. The aquaplaning resistance also isn’t marvelous, meaning that you’ll need to be careful when it rains hard.
As a touring tire, you don’t expect some dynamic driving characteristics, but the ZuperEco Z-108 is a relatively poor performer in this regard. It drives almost like a winter tire, which shows you that this is an area that Westlake could improve.
Considering how disappointed I was with the wet traction, I would probably recommend the Nokian Wetproof as a suitable replacement tire for this. It’s a tad more expensive, but it performs better in almost every scenario.
#3. Westlake SW618
Westlake also offers winter tires, but unlike the others, there are only two models, and the one I’ll be reviewing is a winter touring tire. The SW618 is a studless winter tire that features an aggressive tread pattern that should help it with snow traction. For dry road performance, the rubber compound is designed to remain soft and flexible in colder temperatures. Like most of Westlake’s touring tires, this one is also designed to be comfortable and efficient.
Unfortunately, I have to report that the tire is not a very good winter performer in multiple areas.
On dry roads, the tire is okay to drive, as long as you keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to push it hard. As a winter tire, the responsiveness is on the lower side of the spectrum, and it isn’t as sharp to respond as some of the other winter tires. Wet performance is more or less the same, with the tire performing safe enough if you drive within the speed limits. The good news is that the comfort levels are quite good for a cheap tire, but I can’t say the same about the noise levels. They can get relatively high when you drive on the highway.
As a winter tire, the SW618 should be good in snow, slush, and ice, right? That’s not really the case, as the tire feels more like an all-season one. It will drive over snow at slower speeds but may struggle with traction if you accelerate a bit aggressively. It will fair with slush a bit better, as long as you feather in the throttle. Ice performance is again on the lower end, but the good news is that you can install studs, so you should get some better performance in these conditions.
I’m not impressed with how the SW618 performed in winter conditions. There were times when the tire felt unstable and unpredictable, which isn’t something you want in those conditions. The Cooper Evolution Winter and the Firestone Winterforce 2 are slightly more expensive but offer better performance, especially in non-ideal situations.
#4. Westlake Zuper Trek Z-203
SUV and truck owners don’t despair; Westlake has a touring tire for your vehicles. The Zuper Trek Z-203 is a tire similar to the ZuperEco Z-108 but designed for bigger vehicles. I would have liked to see it to be an all-season touring tire, but it’s a summer one. The tire has 4 circumferential grooves with plenty of lateral sipes, which should result in a good water evacuation. Combined with the tread pattern, the ZuperEco Z-108 should provide decent traction over multiple surfaces. For a comfortable riding experience, Westlake optimized the casing construction, which seemed to work well with the previous tires.
The experience driving the Zuper Trek Z-203 was more or less similar to its smaller brother, the ZuperEco Z-108.
Comfort and noise are the only areas of the tire that I can praise. Thanks to the rubber compound and design, the tire feels relatively smooth and noise-free. The higher sidewall is also the reason why I would say that it can smooth out road imperfections a bit better.
The downside with the higher sidewall is how the tire drives. When you go into a corner, you will feel the sidewall flexing, which may be expected from a tire like this. In terms of responsiveness and sharpness, don’t expect something particularly good. It’s better than most winter tires but falls quite behind even the mid-range options.
Traction and grip levels on dry roads pass the safety mark and are nothing specific, meaning that you shouldn’t expect the Zuper Trek Z-203 to do wonders. As the speed increases, the tire begins to feel slightly unstable, and you need to be alert. If your commute revolves around town, then you’ll be perfectly fine.
The wet performance takes a hit, as the tire struggles to find traction when pushed hard. The limits are pretty low, meaning you can feel the tire slipping even if you don’t push it too much. The grooves and sipes do a decent job keeping water away from the tread blocks, so the aquaplaning resistance is decent.
In terms of a recommendation for this category, I don’t have anything specific that I can mention, at least not in terms of a summer SUV tire. Cooper’s Evolution H/T is a decent all-season tire that provides better performance but is slightly more expensive.
#5. Westlake SL369 A/T
Last but not least is another SUV or light truck tire that can tackle multiple terrains. The SL369 A/T is Westlake’s option for people that combine on and off-road driving. Looking at the tread pattern, the tire seems promising with the zig-zag placement, meaning that you should expect decent traction in off-road scenarios. The large blocks should help on the road and provide plenty of stability and reduce noise levels. In some extreme off-roading cases, the SL369 A/T is designed with reinforced sidewall, meaning that deflation for rock crawling shouldn’t be a problem.
Like with most of Westlake tires, the SL369 A/T offers decent performance in some areas but falls quite short in others.
Performance on the road is decent, as long as it’s dry. Noise and comfort levels are decently good for a tire that can do some off-roading. Keep in mind that you are paying a lower price, so don’t expect premium-like qualities. Grip and traction levels are passable, and you should be fine. These kinds of tires aren’t designed for some aggressive driving, so if you get them, you probably won’t be doing that.
The wet performance takes a hit, and the SL369 A/T is not a tire that I would push too much. Driving at slower speeds isn’t an issue, and the grip will be decent enough. Traction is the bigger problem, and the tire will slip quite a lot when you accelerate aggressively. In terms of aquaplaning resistance, it’s decent, but I was expecting a bit more, considering the grooves and sipes.
The off-road performance is a bit better but far from good. Hard-packed surfaces will be fine, and the tire will have no problem with dirt roads. The reinforced sidewall does a decent job of keeping the tire from getting damaged or when it gets squished during rock crawling. The biggest downside to this tire is in mud, and despite the zig-zag pattern, the SL369 A/T will struggle in some cases.
For this category, I believe that the Kumho Road Venture AT51 will be a good tire. The price isn’t too high, but it offers a lot more performance than the SL369 A/T.
Unlike some of the prominent brands like Michelin or Pirelli, you won’t find a ton of information about Westlake. It is a Chinese company that is a daughter company of Zhongce Rubber Company. As a Chinese brand, it offers cheap tires that won’t perform as well as the premium ones but will aim to make them safe to drive.
One area of ZRC that I like is how the company operates. Many competitors from that part of the world make tires without the proper research and testing. ZRC has a division for that, but considering it’s a low-budget option, don’t expect it to be as good as the premium options. The company was in the top 10 tire manufacturers in 2019, and with good reason. With several companies under its umbrella, it makes a lot of tires.
Being one of those, Westlake is a brand that hit the market in 1995 and was initially aimed at the local market. After a while, as the need for cheaper tires increased in the US, the retailers started selling them. On the company’s website, it says that the keywords for Westlake are “safety.”
To be honest, I wouldn’t classify the tires as the safest ones, at least not as safe as the premium options. I would categorize the tires are safe-ish for normal driving conditions.
Westlake Tires Overview
Going through the 4 tires, I reviewed you probably noticed a pattern. There were some areas where the tires were good, and somewhere, they performed poorly. As cheap tires, you shouldn’t expect them to be good at everything, and that’s the price you pay for going with these options.
You probably noticed that I didn’t include the pros and cons section, and with good reason. Since this is a Westlake tire review, I’ll include the pros and cons in this section that cover most of the tires.
Westlake Tires Pros
Even though Westlake isn’t a brand that I would recommend to everyone, I have to be honest that the brand does have some positive sides to it.
The main one is the price. As one of the cheapest options on the market, it can be an attractive option for people who drive older cars or have a tight budget for new tires. There are some drawbacks, but in general, the tires are safe enough to be driven. Don’t expect them to be as good as some of the mid-range options on the market and drive a bit more carefully, and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Another positive side to the Westlake tires is the comfort and noise levels in some models. As far as touring tires go, they won’t offer the plushest ride or the lowest noise levels but are pretty good for the price. In most cases, the noise you will hear will be at higher speeds. As for comfort, they will do a decent job of eliminating road imperfections and vibrations in the cabin.
Depending on the tire model and application, you will be getting a long-lasting tire. When I say long-lasting, I don’t mean as long as the premium options. When you factor in the price that is sometimes a quarter and combine that with a half treadwear warranty, you are actually looking at a pretty good bargain.
Westlake Tires Cons
Now we come to the negative sides of the tires, and I’ll start off with safety. Even though I categorized them as safe enough to be driven, there’s a reason why you pay extra for better performance as far as safety goes. As traction in some cases is a problem for most Westlake tires, it means that the braking distances won’t be as good. They fall within the safe zone but are still longer than the mid-range and premium models. In an emergency braking situation, every inch counts, so keep that in mind.
Rain and wet roads are other enemies of most Westlake tires. In many scenarios, the traction and grip levels are pretty low, meaning that you won’t be getting as safe driving as you’d want. The result of this is another case of longer braking distances, something you wouldn’t want in various driving conditions.
The story with winter driving is similar, which is the biggest letdown. Westlake has winter tires, which I mostly recommend for harsh winter conditions. The problem is that the tires don’t perform as well as they are advertised in those conditions. As I mentioned previously, they feel more like all-season tires with the snow performance, which isn’t a very positive thing to say.
My Overall Thoughts
To be honest, Westlake Tires is still a brand that I wouldn’t recommend. Even though I managed to find some positive sides to the tires, there are some serious negative areas of which I’m not a fan.
The combination of pros and cons results from the fact that it’s a low-cost brand, meaning that you are looking at a lot of compromises. My biggest gripe is that you may find a decent replacement for a similar price in some cases, especially if you’re chasing discounts.
Overall, if you are on a really tight budget and own an underpowered car, Westlake tires should be fine. People who own these cars generally don’t drive aggressively, so they won’t notice too much of the downsides. Despite that, I would still caution you to drive carefully, as Westlake tires aren’t too prone to being the safest option out there.