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Last year, Continental Tyre PJ Malaysia decided to distribute their wholly-owned Norwegian tyre brand, Viking, domestically. Combining Scandinavian flair and German technology, while being acclimatized for this country meant that Viking was poised to be a notable contender for the diverse market here. Manufactured at Continental’s Alor Setar plant using proprietary technology, and priced below Continental’s top flight and Dunlop range, the citizens are finally getting great value for money without the usual quality trade-offs.

When the writer first heard about Viking tyres, it was when Continental fully acquired the company in the early 90s. That was way back when Continental tyres were only found on fully imported continental cars and were one of the top tyre brands in the country alongside Michelin, Goodyear and Pirelli. Back in the day, the only brands we ever heard of or seen on our roads were Michelins or Pirellis for high end cars while bread and butter marques were shod with Dunlops, Goodyears and Silverstones and even Sime tyres. Japanese brands were sought after in the aftermarket tuning scene, with names like Toyo, Yokohama and Bridgestone being quite a commonplace. Those days, if you had 50-series tyres on your ride you were considered elite and could easily muscle your way around city streets.

Then in the early millennium Korean tyres appeared onto the scene with their super value propositions. There weren’t many takers back then, for at that time the Koreans weren’t too convincing in their automotive side of things, so it was hard to convince the masses that Korean tyres were any better (than their cars). Still, Korean brands like Kumho and Hankook soldiered on, with Nexen eventually joining the fray for a three-pronged attack on the local market. In due time the masses finally accepted Korean shods for their balance of performance vs cost.

Last year, Continental Tyre PJ Malaysia decided to distribute their wholly-owned Norwegian tyre brand, Viking, domestically. Combining Scandinavian flair and German technology, while being acclimatized for this country meant that Viking was poised to be a notable contender for the diverse market here. Manufactured at Continental’s Alor Setar plant using proprietary technology, and priced below Continental’s top flight and Dunlop range, the citizens are finally getting great value for money without the usual quality trade-offs. Having already made a name for itself in its home country Norway, and then on to other European countries like Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Italy, before getting introduced in the States and even Australia meant that Viking, although unheard of in this region thus far, comes with a pretty impressive heritage. Understandably, Viking was more known for its winter tyres, but when it made its way into China in 2012 it catered to a massive consumer base in a country with four seasons, quickly gaining traction in the second largest economy in the world.

Even so, with the balmy local weather that takes no prisoners, how would a Viking who’s used to the extreme cold, fare in the most testing of conditions on our roads? The answer lies in acclimatization of Viking’s proprietary tech married to local resources to make tyres that can withstand the intense heat emanating from our roads as well as from the thousands of cars that ply them day in day out. Another plus from the acclimatization project was the fact that Viking tyres are priced very competitively, sitting below Continental and Dunlop in the portfolio. But does that mean Vikings are of the budget variety, and are simply positioned to tackle the lower-end mass market that does not care about performance? That’s what the writer aimed to discover for himself, after having a brand new set of Viking ProTech PT5 tyres on his ride, courtesy of Viking Tyres Malaysia (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Continental Tyres Malaysia).

Viking ProTech PT5: Looking good

The writer was given a set of 215/45 R17 Viking ProTech PT5s which were a direct replacement on his Kia Forte 2.0 SX. The PT5s have a lot of markings along the entire sidewall, so for those who like to show off their tyres these are a good set to start with, especially after having them waxed. There’s ample information debossed on the sidewall, including a depiction of Viking’s unmistakable mascot Olaf. he’s a firm believer that good tyres should also look good as well, and in this respect the PT5s get a 4/5 rating. Also, in terms of general appearance, by having almost the entire sidewall debossed with either descriptions of the tyre’s general capabilities and other design elements, you can hardly find any smooth areas that would look old and bedraggled over time after being exposed to countless hours of the harshest of elements. In a nutshell, the PT5 would still look new and have the bling factor even until its tread gets worn down to the treadwear indicators. The reviewer’s only niggle is with the rib which he felt could’ve benefitted from a thicker design with which to protect my precious OZ Alleggeritas from curb rash.

As for the tread itself, Viking used an Asymmetric pattern design that is said to improve handling and braking in both wet and dry conditions. Looking at the groove and block patterns, there’s a lot going on here. Viking placed a great deal of emphasis on wet handling as the Wet Zone occupies more than half of the tread design towards the inner sidewall while the remaining 40% tread along the outer sidewall is dedicated to the Dry Zone. A solid center-rib separates the wet and dry zones, and if you look at the tread carefully you will notice that the dry zone contains chunkier blocks while the wet zone has many water dispersing channels stamped in. As it is, a 215mm tread width looks gorgeous as it is; he can only reckon that the widest (245mm) tyre in the range would be even more impressive. Upon closer inspection, you will also notice that the grooves on the tread pattern are rounded off to reduce road induced frictional noises, so aside from being a performance-oriented tyre, they were also designed with a degree of comfort thrown in.

Viking ProTech PT5: Running them in

With tyres, you can’t really decide on their performance off the bat as they will need at least a few hundred kilometers of breaking in period before unleashing hell on them. The writer usually make his judgement after at least 1,000km of normal, unrushed driving. As with most new shods, the moment they are fitted on your ride you will notice a certain buoyancy about them, as if you had a new set of shockers put in. However, with most tyres he has used so far, that cosseting feeling wears off after a mere 100km or so and then it’s back to the daily grind. However, he’s happy to report that after clocking around 2,000km with these Vikings that that nice, pliant ride comfort still remained. Viking says they use a proprietary “Navigasjon” ply technology that absorbs impacts and vibrations on uneven road surfaces. Whatever Navigasjon means, they definitely work, even more so on our famed tarmac.

Also, noise levels are always fantastic with new tyres, until they start to harden up and then that’s it. With the Viking ProTech PT5s, he felt that they were equally quiet from Day One until the 1,000km mark, and then on the noise level went up a notch, albeit ever so slightly. On a lark, he tried a few bouts of hard cornering when the tyres were barely 50km old and I immediately felt that grip levels were definitely higher than on my previous Falken ZE522 budget-oriented doughnuts. Considering that the Vikings are priced around the region of the Falkens, he reckoned the Vikings are definitely the better of the two. And not to mention, the ZE522s are directional tyres which are supposed to be performance oriented. Well, the Falkens have served him well and he don’t have much to complain about save for an iffy performance in wet conditions. The PT5 manages to outperform it on both wet and dry tarmac at around the same price point, which says a lot about the Vikings.

Viking ProTech PT5: Tried and tested, after 2,000km

With the PT5s properly run in and showing no signs of uneven wear, it was time to do some serious testing. The writer mentioned in an earlier para that new tyres need around 1,000km of breaking in, but between 1,000 – 2,000km there is an additional break-in period, this time for the driver who needed some time to fully understand what the tyres can do in a variety of conditions.

It is quite hard to find a budget-friendly tyre that combines commendable road comfort with good performance, but the Viking PT5s really set the bar quite high in these areas. First off, let’s take a look at low speed cruising. Right up to 120km/h, the PT5s are well composed and absorb road imperfections quite well. The Forte is known for its firm ride, and going over mini speed breakers used to be a little too firm for the reviewer’s liking. The PT5s manage to soak up some of that judder and soften things up for the occupants, enough for the reviewer to discern a difference between the Vikings and the old Falkens as Impressive, really.

In terms of road noise, on very hot days and on old and worn out tarmac, tyre rumble was quite noticeable, but it was a duller, lower frequency note compared to his old shods that definitely sounded harsher and higher pitched. When the tarmac is cooler in the mornings and after a wet spell, tyre rumble was much less intrusive.

For high speed cruising, the PT5s were comparatively quieter than his older Falks, right up to 200km/h. Of course, at such speeds the last thing on his mind was how the tyres sounded and more towards keeping the car on track while watching out for that cheeky bastard who might suddenly switch lanes without warning. Notably, at high speeds and especially for dry road cornering maneuvers, his Falks weren’t too shabby as they were directionals. In this area he felt that although the PT5s did not squeal much in protest, the degree of understeer was more pronounced. he’s not sure if the PT5s are the sort of tyres that would not audibly complain until the limits of adhesion are nearly reached. If it were so, then he’d be careful about taking things to the limit. After all, these Vikings are merely targeted at the budget conscious with a dash of fun thrown in and aren’t an all-out high performance design to begin with. With that said, operating these tyres within limits will reward you with a reassuring confidence that they are good enough for most driving situations on public roads which does not include heroics normally meant for the race track.

With the Klang Valley experiencing almost daily rainfall, it was easy to test out the tyres’ wet capabilities. When encountering large puddles on one side and at speed, the writer could feel the car being dragged a bit, but it wasn’t enough to throw the car off. You will feel a tug on your steering wheel and a slight shift of the car’s weight from being pulled back on the side where the puddle is, but the numerous water channels do an effective enough job of banishing that water and swiftly reclaiming traction.

Verdict

Viking tyres have come at the right time, when the economy is reeling from internal and external factors and has yet to regain its footing. In these trying times it really makes sense for consumers to shop around for the best value proposition. After all, to most consumers, a tyre is a tyre. To this group, the tyre’s job is to provide traction and push water and roadkill blood away from its path as quickly as possible. In a way, you could say that the factors for tyre choice for the ordinary consumer should be Price, Wet Traction, Dry Traction, Comfort and Noise, in that order. In the case of the Viking ProTech PT5, it’s priced right, has good wet traction and is quite comfortable though being a little noisy, probably due to a hard wearing compound (Treadwear 360). However, a high treadwear index means you can use the tyre for longer, which leads us back to the price factor. So all’s well.