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Top 10 winter tires for 2016

Winter tire selection guide for cars, minivans, SUVs and light trucks
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Read now: Popular Winter Tire Brands for 2017

The farmers’ almanac is forecasting another extremely long cold winter for most Canadian regions so it’s time to start preparing. The best tool to help drivers cope with winter conditions is a dedicated set of winter tires. Winter tires for passenger vehicles are generally designed for the combination of cars/minivans and SUV/light trucks. This guide will focus on the best overall winter tires available in Canada.

Canadians deal with some of the worst winter driving conditions so investing in a quality set of winter tires is prudent for winter driving safety and confidence. All-season tires work well in most weather conditions but when the ambient temperature drops below 7 C, the rubber hardens and looses its ability to grip the contact surface. All-weather tires do an adequate job in most conditions except in severe winter weather, they do not perform as well as a dedicated winter tires.

Winter tires are made of rubber compounds that remain flexible in cold temperatures to enable better traction on snow, ice and slush. Look for the mountain/snowflake symbol on the sidewall to indicate that the tire meets the Severe Winter Traction Standard. All-season tires are marked with M + S which means mud and snow, however they provide inadequate traction in deep snow and on ice.

Many road tests have been done to score how winter tires perform in various conditions. These tests measure the tires’ ability to stop on snow, ice, wet and dry pavement. They also measure acceleration grip, fuel consumption and take into account subjective attributes like control/handling, ride comfort and road noise. No single winter tire is the best in all conditions so to help identify the best performers, I talked to tire expert Billy Lau, owner of Tires 23 in Mississauga and Markham. These are Billy’s top picks.

Top winter tire recommendations for passenger cars/mini vans:

Michelin X-Ice Xi3

x-ice xi3

Michelin X-Ice Xi3 achieved the best overall score in tests of studless ice and snow tires conducted by Canadian Tire. Michelin’s Flex-Ice full-silica compound maintains flexibility at low temperatures for incredible winter performance. It also maintains firmness at moderate temperatures, improving wear, grip and fuel efficiency. It is recommended for passenger cars and mini vans.

“Michelin is a pioneer in developing winter tires. Their X-Ice series combines all the attributes of a great winter tire; stop and go traction, handling and ride comfort” commented Billy Lau.

Barum Polaris 3

barum polaris

Barum Polaris 3 is a well-rounded winter tire and has best value for budget conscious drivers since its’ special rubber compound ensures long life performance and low rolling resistance for reduced fuel consumption. Snow catchers in the tread keep the snow in the groove, making it possible for the Polaris 3 to transfer the power of the engine to the snowy slopes when accelerating and providing excellent braking performance.

Glislaved Nord Frost 100

gislaved

Glislaved Nord Frost 100 provides phenomenal traction in deep snow. Glislaved is the exclusive winter tire of Volvo vehicles and a popular choice in European regions that receive heavy snow. Made in Sweden, Glislaved Nord Frost 100 is a studdable tire that combines excellent performance in all winter conditions and smooth quiet ride.

 

Bridgestone Blizzak WS80

blizzak ws80

 Blizzak WS80 scored the best results for acceleration traction and stopping distance on snow and ice plus excellent road manners in tests of studless ice and snow tires, conducted by Tire Rack. Blizzak WS80 is best for city commuters and features an optimized contact patch with the road, helping to distribute forces evenly and effectively for better stability and control in dry, icy and snowy conditions.

“I have WS80s on my Honda Odyssey and they are fantastic in all winter conditions. The WS80 is Bridgestone’s flagship model for cars and minivans.” commented Billy Lau.

tires 23

New!! 2017 Winter tire picks

Pirelli Ice Zero FR

pirelli

Ice Zero FR is an excellent choice for highway travel because of its’ high level of stability and control and superior driving comfort. The directional tread pattern design enhances grip on all surfaces. High sipe density in the central area increases snow retention and the grip level plus 3D sipe technology keeps the tread blocks stable at higher speeds.

 

Top winter tire recommendations for SUVs/lights trucks:

Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2

michelin x-ice

Latitude X-Ice Xi2 has a wide tread contact patch that generates acceleration and braking power plus cornering traction for outstanding winter manoeuvring. Michelin Comfort Control Technology helps deliver a comfortable ride by using computer-optimized design and precision manufacturing to offer greatly reduced vibrations and road noise plus tread wear longevity. These tires are highly recommended for SUVs and light trucks.

New!! 2017 Winter tire picks

Firestone Winterforce

firestone winterforce

Firestone Winterforce makes tough road conditions easier to handle and the price is easier on your wallet. Whether in snowy, wet or icy conditions, improved traction with Winterforce will ensure confident handling and a comfortable driving experience. Winterforce are siped and studdable to offer additional traction potential in the most severe weather conditions. Winterforce has great value for the budget conscious and works perfectly for heavier cars like SUVs and light trucks.

General Tire AltiMAX Arctic

general altimax

General Tire AltiMAX Arctic has unique grooves and sipes, combined with a modern compound to offer high performance at low temperatures and in deep snow. Innovative Quad-Tech Smart Tire Technology provides improved handling and exceptional traction on snow and ice. The unique Multi-Angle Sipe System has 270 degrees of sipes with biting edges that maximize traction plus this tire is studdable. Water evacuation is maximized and straight-line stability enhanced by directional pattern with centre stability rib.

Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V2

blizzak

Blizzak DM-V2 is a new model for 2015 that combines superior grip on snow and ice with confident handling on wet roads and in slush so perfect for city commuters. Designed with a focus on ice traction and braking, the DM-V2 is also excellent at wet road handling and hydroplaning resistance to provide wintertime driving assurance.

Continental WinterContact SI

winter contact

New!! 2017 Winter tire picks

Best for highway travel; ride comfort, road noise, and fuel efficiency, Continental WinterContact SI is a new model for 2015 and an excellent choice for luxury SUV drivers who want a winter tire with sport handling characteristics. The WinterContact SI is engineered with an advanced tread compound and structured siping to dramatically improve ice and snow traction. PolarPlus Technology with +Silane additives enhance grip on slippery roads, reducing stopping distances. Traction grooves provide additional biting edges inside the groove to improve snow traction and grip.

Two more options for the budget conscious:

For another perspective, I asked my long time mechanic (and tire guru) Leo Nucci, co-owner of Mississauga Auto Repairs, for his top winter tire picks. Leo also recommends the Michelin X-Ice and Bridgeston Blizzak series as the best overall performers. For the budget conscious, Leo recommends Uniroyal Tiger Paw Ice & Snow II (passenger cars/vans) and BFGoodrich Winter Slalom KSI (SUV/light truck).

“It is important to consider how a tire will perform when it is half worn. All tires provide good ride characteristics when they are new but when they are worn at later half of their service life, the Michellin X-Ice and Bridgstone Blizzaks maintain superior performance compared to other brands.” advised Nucci.

I do most of my driving in the greater Toronto area and deal with heavy city traffic. I have winter tires for both my cars; Michelin X-Ice Xi3 and Bridgestone Blizzak WS80. Both are outstanding in Ontario’s winter conditions. I feel that winter tires are an important and necessary purchase for everyone’s safety on the roads. Quebec mandated the use of winter tires from mid-November to mid-April and I support the notion that other provinces should follow suit.

Regardless of which winter tires you choose, don’t wait until the first snowfall to have them installed on your vehicle. I see the lineups every November at tire retailers and thank myself that I didn’t procrastinate – get them on at your earliest opportunity. Winter will be here sooner than you think.

Read now: Popular Winter Tire Brands for 2017

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