Our annual test on a local indoor hockey rink gives us an early look at how this year's winter tires will perform on one of the most challenging driving surfaces there is: a sheet of ice. This year, as we commonly do, we focused on the Studless Ice & Snow performance category. This class of tires includes the most innovative winter compound technology and is very competitive. Tires in this class also are designed to maximize snow and ice traction.
Studless Ice & Snow tires meet the challenging winter driving conditions by delivering studded-like snow and ice traction without employing noisy, road-damaging studs. These tires feature pliable tread compounds molded into purposeful tread designs that trade some handling in dry and wet conditions to deliver outstanding snow and ice traction. Tires from this performance category typically are for drivers of coupes, sedans, minivans and crossovers.
It's quite impressive to experience the level of grip that these tires can generate even on a smooth sheet of ice. While the traction control and ABS certainly help, they can only work within the limits of grip supplied by the tires.
During our test, we compared the new Bridgestone Blizzak WS80, Dunlop Winter Maxx, Michelin X-Ice Xi3 and Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c. All four tires performed well. The Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 and Michelin X-Ice Xi3 provided the best traction overall. The other two tires were slightly behind the Bridgestone and Michelin tires.
For a complete recap of our test, take a look at "Studless Ice & Snow Winter Tires: Finding Which is Best When Winter Weather is at its Worst."