January 19, 2007
The Blizzak WS60 w/UNI-T is Bridgestone's Studless Ice & Snow winter tire developed for the drivers of coupes, sedans, minivans and crossover vehicles looking for traction on winter's slushy, snow-covered or icy roads. The Blizzak WS60 represents the third generation of Bridgestone WinterBiter tires designed to deliver wintertime traction and control that inspires driver confidence.
Because Blizzak WS60 tires would not be launched in North America until September 2007 (before snow would fall in South Bend), Bridgestone invited several members of the Tire Rack team to an introductory event in January 2007. The Blizzak WS60 event was held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School.
We drove 2007 Toyota Camry sedans equipped with 268HP front-mounted engines transmitting their power through automatic transmissions and front-wheel drive. While the Camry sedans feature an Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), they were not equipped with traction control. We compared the Camry's Original Equipment (O.E.) Bridgestone Turanza EL400-02 All-Season Grand Touring tires to the snow and ice capabilities of the Michelin X-Ice and Blizzak WS60 Studless Winter / Snow tires. All tires were mounted on 16x6.5-inch basic steel wheels.
The conditions at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School featured light snow on a base of packed snow on top of a foundation of ice. The course's straights, turns and elevation changes, along with single digit Fahrenheit air temperatures, allowed us to experience the tire's capabilities in typical winter road and weather conditions. Unfortunately, every time a car runs through the snow, its very passage can change the conditions just enough to prevent exact comparisons, so several laps were driven by each driver on each tire to support our subjective opinions.
The Turanza Grand Touring All-Season tires provided predictable handling, but only delivered tolerable snow and ice traction. The Turanza tires had a hard time converting the Camry's 268HP into acceleration because without traction control, the entire responsibility of modulating the power was placed on the driver and self-control was required to avoid spinning the front drive tire. The other area where the compromise of an all-season tire was apparent was when cornering. Again the limited snow and ice traction required patience and demanded a very light application of the throttle to avoid wheelspin and understeer coming out of the slower turns that represented typical street corners. Since all four tires and the Camry's Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) contributed to braking, straight-line stopping was the strongest feature of the Turanza All-Season tires in the snow.
The Michelin X-Ice winter / snow tires provided an expected improvement in traction, handling and braking, however they had also some difficulty converting the Camry's horsepower into acceleration. The X-Ice also required a bit of patience and demanded some throttle application discipline to avoid wheelspin and understeer coming out of the slower turns.
The Blizzak WS60 winter / snow tires provided predictable handling and another perceptible increase in traction when braking, cornering or accelerating. While the absence of traction control or a limited slip differential still required judicious control of the gas pedal to control the wheelspin, less restraint was required and the tires provided more acceleration.
While our introductory experience didn't allow us to explore every facet of winter driving, it did show that the Blizzak WS60 Studless Ice & Snow winter tire combines the predictability and traction that can enhance a vehicle's winter capabilities under typical winter driving conditions. We consider the Blizzak WS60 Studless Winter / Snow tires to be worthy of consideration by drivers who will face moderate to deep snow, as well as ice in winter.
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