Tire Test Results

Studless Ice & Snow Winter Tires: Finding Which is Best When Winter Weather is at its Worst

Tires Tested

Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 (Studless Ice & Snow, 215/60R16 95H)
  • What We Liked: Superior traction on snow, ice and wet
  • What We'd Improve: Reduce road noise a little
  • Conclusion: Bridgestone's newest winter performer sets a new standard
Dunlop Winter Maxx WM01 (Studless Ice & Snow, 215/60R16 99T)
  • What We Liked: Good snow and ice traction
  • What We'd Improve: Wet and dry traction
  • Conclusion: A winter tire focused on providing good snow and ice traction
Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (Studless Ice & Snow, 215/60R16 99H)
  • What We Liked: Good road manners and capable traction in all conditions
  • What We'd Improve: A little more snow and ice grip
  • Conclusion: An older tire that still performs well in every form of winter weather
Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c (Studless Ice & Snow, 215/60R16 95T)
  • What We Liked: Good ice and snow traction
  • What We'd Improve: Increase dry and wet traction somewhat
  • Conclusion: A good value that performs well on ice and in the snow

Vehicles Used

2014 BMW F30 328i Sedan

You can't control the weather, but you can control what tires you put on your vehicle.

And when it comes to dealing with the worst winter weather, there's no better tool for the job than a tire from the Studless Ice & Snow category. These winter season performers are focused on providing the best possible traction in slush, snow and ice, without the excessive noise and pavement damage associated with using traditional winter tires equipped with metal studs. Every tire in the Studless Ice & Snow category looks the part with their special winter tread rubber compounds molded into heavily siped and aggressive tread patterns. These tires not only look good, but work well, too, delivering far better snow and ice traction than even the best all-season tire can muster.

There are several appealing options in the Studless Ice & Snow category. The first is the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80. Back in 1993, Bridgestone revolutionized winter driving when they debuted the first Blizzak tire in North America, featuring its innovative Multicell tread compound. The Blizzak WS80 features a directional tread pattern molded into Bridgestone's adaptive NanoPro-Tech Multicell tread compound designed to further improve ice traction by coping with the thin film of water that forms under the tire as it rolls over snow or ice.

Another tempting choice is the Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c. The iceGUARD iG52c also features a very special winter tread compound, and like the Blizzak is designed to wick away the water under the tire's footprint. Absorptive Silica, Shelled Microbubbles and Multi-Layer Carbon combine to work their magic when winter roads are the most slippery.

To see how well the Blizzak WS80 and iceGUARD iG52c perform, we compared them with two other Studless Ice & Snow winter tires, the Dunlop Winter Maxx WM01 and Michelin X-Ice Xi3. Our evaluation used 2014 BMW F30 328i sedans fitted with new, full tread depth 215/60R16 tires mounted on 16x7.5 wheels.

Driving in Winter Conditions

Winter weather is often unpredictable, and road conditions can change so fast that it's hard to know what waits for you around the next corner. Studless Ice & Snow winter tires are all about maximizing ice and snow traction. As we say, these are the best tires for when winter weather is at its worst.

Ice Traction

For many drivers, the glare ice found at a slick intersection or the black ice found out on the highway are two of the most challenging winter conditions experienced. To evaluate each tire's traction in this environment we headed to a local hockey rink where the smooth ice replicates the packed snow and polished ice often encountered at busy intersections during winter months.

We measure each tire's acceleration traction using the vehicle's traction control system to help the driver maximize the available traction. After a short rolling start we record the time needed to accelerate the final 60' to the center ice line. Once you get your vehicle moving, being able to stop becomes just as important. In a separate test we measured the distance required to stop from 12 mph (20 km/h) using the vehicle's Antilock Braking System to control wheel lockup.

Tire 60' Acceleration
(seconds)
12 - 0 mph Stopping
Distance (feet)
Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 4.554 30.9
Dunlop Winter Maxx WM01 4.682 35.4
Michelin X-Ice Xi3 4.644 30.3
Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c 4.727 33.6

All four tires performed very well. The Blizzak WS80 and X-Ice Xi3 tires provided the best traction overall. The Winter Maxx WM01 and iceGUARD iG52c also did a good job starting and stopping on the ice, with overall traction levels just slightly below the Bridgestone and Michelin tires.

Snow Traction and Handling

A constantly changing test surface makes side-by-side comparisons difficult, so we use a dedicated winter testing facility in Northern Sweden with acres of groomed snow that provides the consistency we need to get reliable acceleration and braking comparisons. This facility also has a prepared snow-handling course where we evaluate the stability and control of each tire during abrupt maneuvers.

Having also tested some of the best all-season tires during the same trip, it's still a little hard to describe the increase in outright grip and feeling of confidence and control when driving in the snow on any of the Studless Ice and Snow winter tires in this test group. All four tires delivered very good snow traction with a small overall advantage for the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80, especially noticeable when asking the tire to brake and turn at the same time. The Michelin X-ice Xi3 was a close second overall, and like the Blizzak WS80 also delivers very good overall traction with just a little less cornering capability than the Bridgestone tire. Right behind the Michelin was the Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c. The Dunlop Winter Maxx WM01 rounded out the group. Similar to past years, the spread from shortest to longest in the measured acceleration and braking tests was just a few feet.

What We Learned on the Road

Our 6.0-mile loop of expressway, state highway and county roads provides a great variety of road conditions that include city and highway speeds, and smooth, coarse concrete, as well as new and patched asphalt. This route allows our team to experience noise comfort, ride quality and everyday handling, just as you would during your drive to school or work.

We waited to conduct our drive in the cooler temperatures of fall to better simulate what you'll experience when you install your dedicated winter / snow tires at the beginning of the season. While the best Studless Ice and Snow winter tires are closing the handling gap between tires in this category and all-season tires, all four tires in our test delivered somewhat slower steering response and less stable handling, underscoring at least one of the inherent trade-offs needed to achieve the snow and ice traction advantage these tires possess over their all-season counterparts.

Under the light handling workload of our Road Ride, the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 continued its leading position for the category, feeling well connected to the road. The Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 was very close behind, and a noticeable improvement in this area versus previous-generation Blizzak Studless Ice and Snow tires. The Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c showed reasonably quick initial steering response, but didn't feel quite as connected as the Michelin and Bridgestone tires. The Dunlop Winter Maxx WM01 rounded out the group with a little slower response and less precise feel.

The Blizzak WS80 led the group for ride comfort, by a small margin. After that it was the iceGUARD iG52c followed closely by the X-Ice Xi3 and Winter Maxx WM01 tires. All four tires produced somewhat more tread noise than a typical all-season tire, but none were found to be objectionable. Such as it was the X-Ice Xi3 generated the least, while the Blizzak WS80 and iceGUARD iG52c scored close behind. The Winter Maxx WM01 produced a bit more growl from its tread than the other three tires.

What We Learned on the Track

Given the intended purpose of Studless Ice & Snow winter tires and their inherently softer tread compounds and more open, heavily siped tread patterns, we did not subject them to the rigors of repeated lapping on our handling course. We did conduct measured stopping distance and cornering tests in both wet and dry conditions in an effort to understand the ultimate traction differences between each tire during clear road driving. These tests were conducted when ambient temperatures were in the upper 30s to low 40s (F), to replicate conditions found during the winter season.

Tire 50-0 mph Stopping
Distance (feet)
Cornering Traction
(Lateral g's)
Wet Dry Wet Dry
Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 128.0 88.2 0.61 0.87
Dunlop Winter Maxx WM01 159.4 97.6 0.54 0.81
Michelin X-Ice Xi3 131.4 93.2 0.63 0.84
Yokohama iceGuard iG52c 148.8 94.7 0.55 0.81

While all four tires in this test performed similarly well in the snow and on ice, our testing did reveal some differences in traction in dry, and especially wet, conditions. The Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 provided the best traction in the dry and wet 50-0 mph panic stop test, and also in dry cornering. The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 was a close second, while providing slightly better wet cornering traction than the Blizzak WS80. The Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c offered noticeably less grip for stopping and cornering in both dry and wet conditions, while the Dunlop Winter Maxx WM01 trailed the others, taking 31 feet longer than the Blizzak WS80 to stop in the wet from 50 mph.

Summary

If you want surefooted traction on winter's most slippery roads, Studless Ice and Snow winter tires deliver when it comes to snow and ice traction. All four of our test tires performed well in those conditions. The separation came when asked to perform abrupt maneuvers on dry and wet roads. It's here the Blizzak WS80 and X-Ice Xi3 showed a distinct advantage. The iceGUARD iG52c proved adequate, but at a level below the Bridgestone and Michelin tires, while the Winter Maxx WM01 didn't have the traction of the others, particularly in the wet.

Fuel Consumption Results

Due to a technical issue we were not able to capture fuel consumption data for this test.

Product Details

Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 (Studless Ice & Snow): The Blizzak WS80 is Bridgestone's Studless Ice & Snow winter tire developed for compact, coupe, sedan and minivan drivers looking to power through winter with confident control. When winter driving conditions are at their worst, Bridgestone's Blizzak WS80 winter tires are designed to be at their best. Read more.

Dunlop Winter Maxx WM01 (Studless Ice & Snow): The Winter Maxx WM01 is Dunlop's Studless Ice & Snow tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans, minivans and crossover vehicles looking for driving control in wintry driving conditions. Designed to increase confidence in cool and cold driving conditions, Winter Maxx WM01 tires enhance traction in slush, snow and on ice.
Read more.

Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (Studless Ice & Snow): The X-Ice Xi3 is Michelin's third-generation Studless Ice & Snow winter tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans, family vans and small crossover vehicles that are looking for ice and snow traction along with predictable handling in cold, dry and wet wintry conditions. Meeting Michelin's Green X standard for low rolling resistance confirms the X-Ice Xi3's contribution to reducing vehicle fuel consumption and emissions of CO2 gases. The X-Ice Xi3 is designed to take on ice and snow while it provides lasting winter performance. Read more.

Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c (Studless Ice & Snow): The iceGUARD iG52c is Yokohama's Studless Ice & Snow winter tire developed for the drivers of compacts, coupes, sedans and vans looking for traction in challenging winter driving conditions. Featuring Yokohama's advanced winter tire technology, iceGUARD iG52c tires are designed to be proficient in cold temperatures on dry, wet, slushy, snow-covered and icy roads. Read more.

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