Heading out to the track, you don’t want to have low rolling resistance eco tires on your track toy. Likewise, you wouldn’t head out to do some mudding with high performance summer tires on your off-roader. So, why is that so many people who live in areas that get snow and cold temperatures every winter don’t have snow tires? Recently I had the opportunity to go to Denver with Bridgestone and Tire Rack to test the newest version of the Bridgestone Blizzak for the Tire Rack Winter Driving Experience, Powered by Bridgestone Blizzak.
The tire I had the opportunity to test was the newest iteration of the Blizzak, the WS80. Winter tires are not a new development, nor is the Blizzak. Developed by Bridgestone in 1988 in response to bans on studded tires in Japan and other countries. Four years later, the Blizzak line came to the United States. Since the introduction of the Blizzak, it has become synonymous with winter tires.
Winter tires are specifically designed for the cold climates. Yes, there are all season tires, but because they are tailored for all conditions, aren’t great at anything one thing. So, all season tires are really a Jack-of-all-trades, master of none. The new Blizzak features a new tread pattern, a hydrophilic coating, bite particles and is optimized contact pressure and cavity shape to distribute force evenly. What that means is that they will perform better in the cold, when there’s snow or ice.
To test the tires, they took us to the Pepsi Center, since there wasn’t any other surface at the time that would be suitable for testing. Since the surface was so small there was a limited amount of space, and there was only two tests we could do; an acceleration & braking test and a handling test. The vehicles used for the test were two identical BMW 328is – the only difference being the type of tires. The red BMW sported the Blizzak WS80 and the white BMW had Bridgestone all-seasons.
For the acceleration test we were told to mash the gas for a short period, before standing on the brakes. Doing this is exactly the opposite of what you would normally do, but doing it did give a good picture of how the tires worked. Getting on the gas, the tires immediately started to spin, but eventually grab and pick up speed. Looking over, I noticed that I was not really pulling away from the BMW with the all season tires. I then stood on the brakes and I could feel the tires locking up and sliding before they finally grabbed. Looking over I saw the other BMW go right past as I stopped.
Getting into the BMW with the all season tires, with the same directions I stepped on the gas the tires spun, but this time they didn’t grab nearly as quickly. I immediately knew that I wouldn’t be stopping as quickly. That was exactly what happened as looked over I saw the other car had stopped and I was still struggling to find traction.
In the handling test a professional driver took us around the rink. In this test the car with the Blizzaks handled the turn with absolute ease. The car with all season tires just understeered, plowing off line.
Even with this short experience, the benefits of winter tires was evident. Knowing that you can do something as simple as changing the type of tires on your vehicle and not only will the vehicle perform better, but also be safer, it’s hard to argue against getting them. As far as the Blizzak from my limited experience I can say it’s a good tire, but without experiencing other manufacturers tires I can’t say that they are the best.