February 5, 2008
Snow and ice are the most challenging conditions drivers typically face; and the tires they use can make a big difference. New cars, vans and light trucks are usually fitted with either summer or all-season tires as Original Equipment (O.E.). Summer tires are designed to provide traction in dry, wet and warm conditions, but were never intended to encounter winter's cold, slush, snow and ice. All-season tires are designed to provide traction in a wider range of temperatures, but we've found they can perform like a Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. Only today's dedicated winter / snow tires have proven to be able to blend good noise comfort and winter traction.
In order to better understand how much traction these types of tires provide on ice, several members of the Tire Rack Team conducted tests with our local skating rink's glare ice replicating the slippery intersections often encountered during winter.
While summer tires weren't designed to ever encounter winter's snow and ice, we included them in our test to show just how helpless they can be when driven out of their element in comparison to Original Equipment all-season tires and aftermarket winter / snow tires. Our evaluation used 2008 BMW E92 328i coupes representing rear-wheel drive vehicles equipped with new, full tread depth 205/55R16-sized tires mounted on 16x7.5" wheels.
When winter's cold, slush, snow and ice arrives, drivers often need tires that provide their best traction when the road conditions are at their worst. We expected the summer tires to finish in last place on the ice, but we included them in the test because we are all too frequently surprised to read consumer reviews criticizing their summer tire's traction in snow and on ice (summer tires aren't designed to be driven in snow and on ice). The results also reflect the compromises all-season tires have to accept to provide year-round capabilities. In the end, only today's high-tech studless winter / snow tires have proven to consistently blend good noise comfort along with traction in snow and on ice.
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