Generally, when the words “budget-friendly tire” come up, it’s hard to not assume that there’s some compromise on the horizon. Will they be loud? Will they have poor grip? Will they wear out faster than their competition? Historically speaking these are all fair questions, so when the time came to start reviewing the Sailun Terramax HLT—the brand’s top-selling all-season crossover, SUV and Light Truck tire—the initial wonder was where any obvious shortcomings would be found. Of course, we’re looking at something geared toward daily drivers and not an Ultra High Performance tire (they make those too), so I didn’t hit a skidpad or a slalom course. If you’re curious as to what kind of lateral Gs your Tacoma can pull, you’ve definitely got different priorities than the drivers that Sailun is targeting with this rubber.
One of the more interesting facts about Sailun—and one that gives them an upper hand in the affordable/value tire category as a whole—is their corporate structure. Sailun was first spun up in 2002 by its parent company MESNAC, a company based in the Chinese port city of Qingdao known for building equipment used to manufacture tires. It’s a fairly logical move, and one that immediately put the brand ahead of the curve, so to speak. Having access to your own production equipment, rubber materials, and other resources means Sailun has had the ability to tune and tailor its production in ways that would prove more challenging for someone starting from zero in the tire business.
Unfortunately, the brand’s manufacturing location may raise red flags for some of you reading this right now. Yes, there have been Chinese tire brands out there with horrible safety records. That said, remember the Firestone debacle? Those 23 million recalled tires were manufactured in Illinois, proving that country of origin isn’t really the issue. From our research, Sailun has had and continues to have a very solid track record in that respect for safety, reliability and quality control.
Getting back to the tires at hand, the Terramax HLT is geared towards popular crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks , so fitting them onto an Infiniti QX60 was a logical choice. A mix of city driving over pock-marked urban street settings , as well as a road trip out of the city on smoother pavement were both on the agenda, providing ample time to examine their overall performance. Having already spent a good time out on the OEM spec Bridgestone Duelers originally fitted to the QX60, I’d also have a good benchmark to work off of as far as road noise and other criteria are concerned.
Over the first few miles, a distinct lack of increased road noise was the first thing that stood out. I’ve driven on some pretty rough affordable tires over the years—Nexen summer tires on my beater BMW at one point, and some God-awful snow tires that shall remain nameless—and out of the gates that is so often the weak point of “value” tires. You see, often brands will aim for a harder rubber compound to try and stretch mileage capability, and with Sailun backing the Terramax HLT with a 50,000 mile (80,000km) 60 month limited tread life protection guarantee, it would be easy to assume that this would be where they would cut a corner; this is clearly not the case.
The tread pattern of the Terramax HLT is the expected kind of typical yet true, tried, and tested design that one would expect from an all-season tire. Four wide grooves provide ample open channeling to push water out from under your rubber as needed, and three rows of tread blocks are used with limited spacing between to create a large contact patch all while further assisting in noise reduction. Their symmetric pattern means you’ll be able to rotate your tires as needed, unless you’re running different widths between your front and rear axles.
Unfortunately, the weather was bone-dry during the testing period, however, it seems, for the most part, the Terramax HLT easily holds its own in the wet. I did, however, have ample opportunity for NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) testing on the consistently pockmarked pavement found throughout our real-world tire test, as the city roads remained riddled with potholes and torn-up construction zones. Overall the Terramax HLTs once again delivered a smooth ride and its confident handling as promised. At no point did I find the ride too harsh as I rattled over the supposedly paved terrain, nor was I surprised with its softness and compliance. This result is well matched to what I’ve come to expect from the QX60 as well, making the pair a respectable everyday driving combination.
Again, being geared to more towards comfortable cruising and not track days, I only pushed so much in terms of finding traction limits at the wheel of the QX60. At a certain point, it becomes hard to avoid bits of understeer in any portly crossover or SUV, and at threshold braking, the Terramax HLTs did their best to maintain consistent grip as the ABS did its thing—yet again, well within acceptable parameters for the category.
By the end of my multi-day test session, the results were pretty obvious—Sailun didn’t come out to say “we’re going to make amazing tires that beat our competition in all categories by a massive margin”. What they’ve done instead, is they’ve delivered quality tires that can keep up with all of their competitors, all while coming in at a significantly better price. Depending on where you’re shopping across North America pricing will vary a bit here and there, but generally speaking Sailun’s tires are going to undercut their OEM-equivalent competition by roughly 30-35%, which is a big deal when you’re shelling out hundreds of buck on a new set of rubber.
Back to the earlier talking point about place of manufacture, you don’t need to worry about Sailun being some sort of fly-by-night outfit that’ll drop off the map and leave you high and dry either. The brand is well aware of market perception, and their teams (both in Canada and Stateside) are going out of their way to assist customers wherever they can. Have an issue with their included 1-year road hazard protection? Call them. Not sure how the treadwear guarantee works? Get on the phone. Sailun is serious about making sure that customers are looked after, and having talked to a few converts to the brand, by all accounts they seem to be on top of things.
Our Final Verdict
To put it simply, would I run these tires on my daily commuter or SUV? Given that I really couldn’t tell the difference between these and a more expensive tire when getting from place to place, absolutely. Now, If I was driving something like a G-Wagon, a Cayenne, or a V8-equipped X5 with an M-Sport pack, I’d be more prone to select a sticky summer tire, but for the vast majority of all season crossovers, SUVs and trucks out there these Sailun Terramax HLT’s will get the job done without fuss.