Which Snow Tire: Studless Ice and Snow, Studdable Winter / Snow or Performance Winter / Snow?

Friday, August 26, 2011 by Cy Chowattukunnel
In order to purchase the correct snow tire, you should decide which performance category works best for your driving style and your typical winter weather.  The three major categories are: Studless Ice and Snow, Studdable Winter / Snow and Performance Winter / Snow tires.

Studless Ice and Snow tires give you optimum ice and packed snow grip, but are less responsive on dry roads especially if you're a fast driver with a sportier vehicle. To achieve high traction levels on snow and ice they do offer less grip on dry roads and your vehicle will not respond as crisply or quickly to steering inputs, under hard braking or under hard acceleration.

Studdable Winter / Snow can be run studded or unstudded. When studded, they'll give comparable ice and packed snow grip but they will be even less responsive on dry roads. When unstudded, they'll lack ice and packed snow grip but perform well in moderate and deep snow.

Performance Winter / Snow tires will exhibit the above dry-road deficiencies to a much lesser degree. If your vehicle came with summer performance tires, the Performance Winter / Snow tires will be more comparable in steering response, acceleration grip, braking and cornering grip. They'll give up ice and packed snow grip. Performance Winter / Snow tires will wear slightly better compared to Studless Ice and Snow tires, especially during the warmer early and late winter days.  All snow tires will have more tread noise and this will vary from tire to tire, but Performance Winter / Snow tires tend to be quieter.

Specific Tires

Studless Ice and Snow tires tend be available in higher profile tire sizes and include the following:
If you go with Studless Ice and Snow, you should also consider going with a narrower tire as the narrower tire cuts through deeper snow better especially for a lighter car like a MINI Cooper.

Studdable Winter / Snow  options include the following:
The Altimax Arctic is slightly better in ice and packed snow and is quieter than the the Winterforce. The Winterforce is more effective in deeper snow.

The Performance Winter / Snow tires tires tend to be available in lower profile sizes and include the following:Depending on the exact size, your choices may be previous seasons' versions or SUV/light truck versions of the above tires.

So should you get a Studless Ice and Snow, a Studdable Winter / Snow or a Performance Winter / Snow tire?  It depends on your car, where you live, how you drive on dry roads and how you want to balance the above compromises.

For example, my brother lives in Marion, Indiana, about an hour northeast of Indianapolis. He got the Blizzak WS60 Studless Ice and Snow in 235/40-18 on Sport Edition A7 wheels for his 2008 BMW M3. He chose this tire because central Indiana is more apt to get ice storms and there's the potential for heavier snow that wouldn't be quickly cleared from the country roads between offices. He's willing to drive slower on dry roads.

If we look at a hypothetical driver in Louisville with the same car but a heavier foot, he would be better served with  Performance Winter / Snow Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D tires in 235/40-18 front and 255/40-18 rear. Louisville's milder weather allows him to emphasize dry road performance, but still have emergency snow capability.

Let it snow.

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