Hankook’s Optimo 4S Tires

In the winter, driving in many parts of Canada is a challenge. Considering this daunting task, if I asked five drivers their thoughts on tires, I would probably get five different theories surrounding the best type of “attire.”

For the most part, all-season tires work fine in the late spring, summer and early fall, but forget about winter effectiveness. Some people argue with me and state that they have driven around with this style of tire for years, with no problems.

I’ve never been really happy with typical all-seasons in the winter, and my skepticism increased exponentially after narrowly escaping a potentially nasty crash many years ago.

It would appear that my vision of what an all-season tire should be and the realities of the product were quite different. I like a larger margin of safety.

Going back in snow tire history, for many years the extremely aggressive “Ground Grip” was found on the south end of rear drive vehicles.

I have a certain memory of my Grandmother’s 1976 AMC Pacer with a set of such snow tires. A strange car from the onset, it looked like a low-level unidentified flying object. Equipped with hard, super-chunky snow tires, the car emitted a low frequency hum once in motion, adding to its UFO persona. The tires worked in snow, but the noise was obtrusive and annoying.

Super-soft compound snow tires made the scene about 20 years ago. While this design of tire does work well, expected tread life may be quite short.

For most drivers it takes only a couple of seasons to wear the tire down to harder rubber, thus decreasing the tread’s effectiveness in snow and ice conditions. While not as vocal as the Ground Grips, most of these tires exhibit some tread noise.

My opinion aside, many people simply cannot or will not buy a set of winter-dedicated tires. So what might be a good solution, and can one set of rubber work well under all conditions?

I’ve been testing a set of Hankook’s Optimo 4S tires. Billed as a true four season tire, it was originally released in the fall of 2009. Since that time, distribution has ramped up and the product has been widely available through Canadian Tire Stores since the middle of 2011.

The Optimo 4S has a unique tread design and sports wide grooves with an asymmetrical tread pattern. Top-secret rubber compounds are touted to yield great winter traction, and yet the Optimo still offers handling and smoothness for the off-season.

The manufacturer claims that one side of the tread works well for winter conditions, and the other side is optimized for everything else.

As a point of interest, the tire does qualify as a suitable winter tire in Quebec under provincial laws, which is a testament to the tire’s winter prowess.

While Hankook suggests that this tire is aimed at the urban user, I elected to take the first test drive a bit further . . . further being the foothills west of Calgary. The test vehicle was a Chrysler minivan shod with 215 65 R 16 rubber.

At the very least I expected there would be some tread noise. But in reality, I found the tires to be very quiet on the highway.

Once in the foothills the road composition turned to gravel, with loose snow over top. The tires seem to clear the snow well from the tread in addition to staying flexible in the cold ambient temperature. My trek wasn’t limited to flat ground but also included some fairly steep sections. The tires worked great – I didn’t get stuck, loose traction, spin out or fear for my life.

The second major test was urban – in Calgary, and included a base of freezing rain, covered by 10 cm of heavy snow. Admittedly, the driving conditions were ugly, and still, I was satisfied with the safety and traction of the Optimos. About the only grief I encountered was on a slight slope though 15 cm of chopped snow.

This is a situation where a dedicated set of snowies would have worked better.

My final analysis? Overall, I think these are great tires, and it is obvious Hankook has done a great amount of research and development with this product.

If my budget dictated only one set of tires, I would seriously consider the Optimo 4S.

29 Responses to Hankook’s Optimo 4S Tires

  1. DAVID MEDJUCK says:

    Is the rubber softer than most all seasons and therefore less durable?

    • admin says:

      I would say that it is a bit softer in some areas of the tire. It probably won’t last as long as a conventional all season, but it will do the job better in all 4 seasons. I don’t have any long-term test data, as I just haven’t driven far enough on the tires yet. The tread blocks are also quite wide in spots, so the tire clears out the snow well. As a bonus, the tires are reasonably quiet on the dry pavement. There is always this compromise between tread life and traction.

      I was happy with the performance in the winter, and on the dry pavement.

      • admin says:

        The tire has a tread wear rating of 600. I would suspect that at a certain point in tread wear, the tire becomes harder, and thus less effective in the cold and snow.

  2. David says:

    Canadian tire has these on sale this week in Toronto and I am considering then. Both my summer and winter tires need to be replaced this year. My car is a 2001 Ford Focus. The OE size is 205/50R16. Do you think the aspect ratio is too low to be optimal in the winter? I have always dropped a rim size in the winter, but the truth is the car is getting older. Why by 2 sets when I can buy just 1? Just curious of your opinions?! Also, how have they been in the summer?

    • admin says:

      I talked to one a friend who has gone through a set of these tires. He didn’t tell me how many kilometers he had driven, but he did say that he would buy another set. He drives a CRV, and the tires did indeed work well. Now, he didn’t rotate his tires by the look of the wear on the fronts, and I would certainly recommend rotation every 10-12,000 km. The tires will wear quicker than a conventional all season but I still haven’t put enough kilometers on my set to give accurate advice. Lately, I’ve also been giving thought to the storage issues of having two sets of rims and tires, and it seems like there is forever a battle for space in the garage. Myself, I would probably go with the stock size.

  3. Drew says:

    Any experience with these tires on a rear-drive car?

    I just had a set of these installed in 195/70R14 size on an old battle cruiser, a 1980 Volvo 245. Despite the eyebrows that came with the request, the tires were fitted, and I’m about to take a trek into the interior of BC, where it is presently snowing like a banshee. The car handles great in Victoria, where all we have for the most part is rain and wind, so it’ll be interesting to see how a rear-drive vehicle from ancient history takes to the snow with these. The previous tires, some cheap Wal-Mart All-Season special, were awful.

    • admin says:

      I have them on a front drive van at the moment. It is about -20C and slippery on the roads. I’m still quite happy with these tires. For the Volvo, I think you may want some weight (a couple of sandbags) in the trunk. Let me know how the tires work for you.

  4. steve gammon says:

    This is just my opinion but any tire that says its a 4 season tire, it will no doubt do winter and summer driving. However it will Not be the BEST winter or the BEST summer tire as it does a little of everything. Sure it works in the summer with reduced tread life and sure it works in winter but not like a top rated winter only tire. If people want the performance and safety then buy tires that are meant for the driving conditions that are needed for where they live. Don’t even get me going on people that have no idea what a speed rating or load index they should have on their car. The wrong tires can put others on the road at risk.

    • admin says:

      I agree. There is no tire that is perfect in all Canadian weather conditions.

      • John says:

        I agree as well but I would also like to add that if you drive with the appropriate level of caution as dictated by the weather conditions this tire will get you safely where you are going. I guess what I am getting at is you don’t NEED the “BEST” tire unless you are driving at the outer limits where performance counts in the first place.

  5. Kelly Ducharme says:

    I’ve been pondering a set of these tires, being female, im not all that literate on tire stats, but I’m a hi-way driver, and I need something that has abit of everything, and in my experience, the all season tires dont last me much more than these tires say their mileage rating is capable of. I think im going to give them a shot, Id rather have some control in the winter, then non at all when the first snow storm of the year hits!
    (by the way, i read your review in hopes to find good responses and I got what I was looking for, positive remarks! thanks!)

    • admin says:

      I’ve been ripping around the city all winter this year, and I still like these tires. The one place that I notice a difference between these tires and a dedicated snow tire is in the chopped snow – the stuff you get on the roads before the plow has gone past.

  6. rocking rob says:

    For me I think these Optimo 4S tires would be good for summer, late fall and early spring. I would stay with my snow tires in Dec Jan Feb running the Optimos more during the shoulder seasons thus getting more miles from my winter tires during the winter months. The big problem with these tires is price – very expensive! Ironically my snow tires are Hankooks and it appears cheaper to buy new snow tires over these Optimo 4S.

  7. Dick Lalonde says:


    My wife owns an ’03 Corolla. We live in Thunder Bay but the car is headed to Nova Scotia this coming fall so our daughter can use it her last year of school. I’ve had 2 sets of tires but both need replacing this summer. I’m just about to have our studded winter tires changed over. Thing is if I buy ‘all weather’ tires I can use them for the summer and then when the car goes east we wouldn’t have to worry about snow tires, if the ‘all weather’ tire is as good as they and you say. Thing is its our daughter, not a very experienced driver but a good one and NS can have quite a bit of snow. Would you still go for the ‘all weather’ tires (say Hankook Optimas) or would you go for the second set of true winter tires? I’m struggling with this.

  8. Tom says:

    I have an Acura TL and I just bought a set of Optima 4s (205-60-16) over a set of useless Goodyear Eagle GT tires which didn’t even last a year.
    I only bought two because I don’t wanna do the same mistake I did with garbage Goodyear tires.
    So far Optima tires were very quiet. It gives me a good start up (acceleration) grip on wet rainy conditions and pushes the water nicely to the side so I won’t lose the steering when I drive over the water puddles.
    I believe a tire like this must be very soft. So let’s see how much of it is left by next summer.
    By the way, up until now, the best four season tire I have ever had was a uniroyal – Rainsport which is not sold in Canada and or US!!!

  9. eugene says:

    I bought the Optimo 4s in the size 195/70/14 since I have a 1997 Camry and I can not buy my usual Nokian WR2 tires since they are not available for my car size any more. My Nokian lasted five years and were very good even in heavy snow in city driving. The Nokian were also expensive compared with the Optimo I bought on sale at Canadian Tire. I hope they behave as well this winter in Southern Ontario

  10. William Waite says:

    I live in Kelowna BC . I bought a set of Optima 4S tires 18 months ago. I only have
    just over 14 thousand KM,s on them. I have made a couple of trips from Kelowna to Winnipeg & found them quite fine, not too noisy. In Kelowna we don,t get a lot of snow so I have never given them a real good test. I just rotated them and at 14 thousand KM,s there was very little wear. Sure beats having all those extra wheels & tires to store.
    So far very satisfied.

  11. Paul says:

    Excellent reviews from the U.K. on these exact tires. http://www.tyrereviews.co.uk/Tyre/Hankook/Optimo-4S.htm

  12. sam says:

    I have the Optima 4s tires on a 2000 Mazda protege and have been really happy with them. I drive a lot in Toronto and north. Even in 6 inches of unplowed snow they handle very well. I’m impressed after 2 years of use.

  13. Lana says:

    I was told to not by all seasons, as they are not really for winter, they are more of a 3 season. But then I was told there is a difference between *All Seasons & *All Weather.

    After an overwhelming amount of homework, I have decided to go with the Hankook S4. Anything has got to be better than what is on my vehicle now. Granted, this is one of the worst winters in my 30 years of living in Calgary, and it’s only the beginning of January!!

    This year we have had sooooo much snow already, that I have been stuck daily since the end of November; in fact, more than once a day. Yesterday I got stuck 7 times in that really soft dry snow, that we have been getting. I’ve had enough, so I am going to buy my first set of ALL WEATHER tires, for my Honda Odyssey. I hope I am going to be half as happy with these Hankook S4 tires, as most reviews are stating.

    • admin says:

      My Hankooks are on a Chrysler van. I think you will be satisfied. And yes, I’m getting a little tired of the snow in the city too!

  14. Paul says:

    Just bought four of these tires on sale, but not installed yet. My son is a mechanic and will install before this winter. My question is, are there rights and lefts specific for mounting? I noticed the tires say inside and out, but when you put the tires side by side the tread is not a mirror image. Just looks strange to me

  15. Dave says:

    I had a set of Optimo 4s on my 2005 Dodge Caravan and was very satisfied with them. I now have a 2012 Grand Caravan and will be putting new Optimo 4s on it shortly.

    One great advantage of these tires for me is that I drive to Florida in February and I don’t have to worry about changing tires or deciding which tires to keep on the van. I drive through NY, PA and the Virginia’s and sometimes a bit further south before I can breath easy about winter weather.

  16. Chris says:

    Tom, the Uniroyal Rain Sport is marketed as a summer tire.

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