By on November 7, 2019

best winter tires

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In most parts of the country, winter is fast approaching. Like it or not, and some don’t, it will not be long before the toques are out permanently and your snow brush is getting a daily workout.

Quebec decrees that all drivers have a set of winter socks on their cars during the cold months and it is strongly recommended that drivers do so in other provinces as well. Even if your town isn’t pummeled with an annual level of snow to rival that of the movie Frozen, winter tires offer a lot of benefits when the mercury drops below 7 degrees Celsius or 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why that strangely specific number? It’s owing to the unique blend of compounds in their rubber that keeps them more pliable at cold temperatures than summer-appropriate tires. This affords them more grip even when the weather is more frigid than a school marm’s heart. Toss in a yaffle of tire engineering that permits a good winter tire to literally claw away at ice or snow and you’ve a set of shoes able to get you through winter’s worst.

We’ve hit up the folks at TireBuyer to bring you a few of the best winter tire options this year, presented in alphabetical order.

(Editor’s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)


1. Continental VikingContact 7

continental vikingcontact 7

New to market this year, which partially explains the lack of consumer feedback on this tire, the VikingContact 7 features a unique directional diamond-shaped tread pattern that differs greatly from just about everything else on this list. The manufacturer claims this design promotes low rolling noise as well.

Available in over 80 different sizes, there should be an option for just about every common and popular vehicle on the road. Its open-shoulder design, one in which the narrow void between the outermost tread blocks flows to the sidewall uninterrupted, is said to evacuate packed snow more quickly than a closed shoulder design.

Pros: Looks very aggressive, it’s called Viking

Cons: Few real-world reviews to date

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2. Cooper Discoverer True North

cooper discoverer true north

One could call this an asymmetrical tread design, since the left and right sides of its tread face are very different. Outboard tread has wide circumferential grooves to provide slush and water evacuation. Inboard tread provides more rubber to the road in an attempt to grip ice. Cooper calls the jagged sipes in each tread block ‘Snow Groove Technology’, a name for which the marketing team should be knighted.

These are studless ice & snow tires, meaning the trademark hum of winter tires won’t be intrusive enough with these Coopers to disrupt conversations in the car’s cabin. In fact, noise dampening structures such as little nubbins of rubber in the tread block voids are designed to keep the racket to a minimum. Its variety of sizes numbers 46, smaller than some of the others on this list.

Pros: Neat asymmetrical design, the inclusion of noise dampening structures

Cons: Not the widest selection of sizes

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3. General Altimax Arctic 12

general altimax arctic 12

The tread design on the General Altimax Arctic 12 is almost comically oversized compared to the others on this list. Still, this studdable tire has earned a solid 4.8 out of 5 from a healthy sample size of customers. Studs, if you want them, will be installed on every fourth tread block of the outer edges and on nearly every block of sipes on the tire’s inside rib of tread.

It is said that the tire’s prominent center tread rib promotes steering prowess and dry handling characteristics. High-void angled tread grooves evacuate water for powerful grip and a wider contact patch. The latter, by the way, should provide reliable grip and improved treadlife

Pros: A constant theatre of improvement since the original Altimax Arctic ages ago

Cons: Studs are noisy

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4. Michelin X-Ice Xi3

michelin x-ice xi3

As denoted by the 3 at the end of its name, this is the third iteration of this tire from the House of Bibendum. Michelin calls those sipes in the tread blocks Cross Z sipes, which sounds like a prototype Z-inspired crossover from Nissan, due to their shape and size. By varying the way its sipes are placed, it stiffens the tread block during a variety of g-force events such as when accelerating or turning. Or accelerating while turning.

The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is also designed to be environmentally friendly to help reduce fuel consumption in addition to having great winter grip. Sizes range from 14-inch hoops to 19-inch barrels.

Pros: Proven performance, excellent brand name

Cons: Eye-wateringly expensive

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5. Toyo Open Country WLT1

toyo open country wlt1

This series of tires from the massive company that is Toyo are generally found on pickup trucks and other heavier duty rigs. The WLT1 has a chunky design pattern with open shoulders and a symmetrical set of sipes running the circumference of the tire.

Toyos says the Open Country WLT1 is designed to handle an increased load-carrying capacity, meaning drivers can still go ahead and load up their truck bed without fear. Despite having the ability to bear a heavy load, Toyo claims it still delivers confident ice and snow performance. This is a non-studdable tire.

Pros: Workhorse-grade load ratings

Cons: May have too much of a truck-ish bent for some customers

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6. Uniroyal Tiger Paw Ice & Snow 3

uniroyal tiger paw ice & snow 3

Bearing one of the best names on this list – Tiger Paw! – this winter tire option sure looks the part with its directional tread and bold pockets for studs that are shaped to look like snowflakes. The latter is appropriate, given its lot in life as a tire to traverse snowy streets.

It is designed to provide major grip in cold weather, thanks to a unique winter rubber compound that maintains flexibility in frigid temperatures. The tire features twin steel belts atop a 2-ply casing to blend strength with comfort. Those wide lateral grooves and shoulder channels should evacuate water and slush with gusto.

Pros: Tremendous brand name

Cons: Only 29 sizes available

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[Images provided by the manufacturer. Lead image: Krasula/Shutterstock.com]

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16 Comments on “Snow Problem: Best Winter Tires...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I run X-Ice3’s. Find that they are very good regarding noise, mileage, driving on cold dry roads, and on ice. However I think that their performance on deep/fluffy snow is truly lacking.

    One of our other vehicles runs on the Altimax and on snow and slush I prefer its performance.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      I also use X-Ice3s. I like them well enough but, on a different car, I thought Blizzaks were a touch better for Michigan deep snow conditions. But it could have been the more aggressive traction control of the BMW versus my current Mustang. Also 174hp versus 305 makes a difference too, also different weight distribution.

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      I have X Ice on one car and Blizzak on the other, and the Blizzaks are better all around. The X Ice isn’t very good in snow at all.

      When I bought my car used it came with Goodyear Ultragrips and I was pleasantly surprised by them.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        >>I have X Ice on one car and Blizzak on the other, and the Blizzaks are better all around. The X Ice isn’t very good in snow at all.<<

        I agree completely, had both and Blizzaks are much better

        Tirerack has the tests and reviews

        • 0 avatar
          Moose&Squirrel

          “Tirerack has the tests and reviews”

          Yes they do:

          https://www.tirerack.com/tires/tests/testDisplay.jsp?ttid=193

          https://www.tirerack.com/tires/surveyresults/surveydisplay.jsp?type=W&VT=C

          And the Blizzaks and X-Ice are each first and second in one of those. Each tire is going to be better for certain drivers, but one is not clearly superior.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      The X-Ice tires on my road noise prone 2000 Corolla are surprisingly, noticeably quieter and cushier than the Defender summer tires on the same car.
      To my mind any winter tire is so far and away better than any all season on snow, so whether one or the other winter tire is better on snow is splitting hairs.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Compare those tread patterns with the different choices out there on all-season tires. A lot of all seasons don’t have any grooves that go across the tire and those ones do pretty bad when it comes to accelerating and braking in snow- the tread simply doesn’t grip the snow, notwithstanding the “M+S” rating stamped on the sidewall.

    The tread pattern on the Tiger Paw looks a bit suspect for driving in deep snow. The grooves in the X-Ice look a bit thin for deep snow, and I’m not surprised to hear Arthur’s and dividebytube’s comments.

    What all that translates into is you just have to take your time a little more when the white stuff is thick. If the same tire does well on ice and it doesn’t wear too quickly on dry pavement or when the weather starts warming up in the spring, then the overall performance is probably worth the tradeoff.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I read an article about the “winter” tire standard. it basically says that a winter tire will out accelerate an all season by a minimum of 10% in testing. Some articles I’ve read state *up to* a 50% advantage over an all-season. Apparently Canada is looking at revising the standards since they are vague.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’ve used X-Ice tires for several seasons and have honestly been underwhelmed. They feel, to my admittedly lay self, like any set of decent all seasons. I’ve never noticed them to be exceptionally good at much. That said, last year I was able to drive on 3 sets of tires back to back: my Mazda6 with the -2 X-Ice tires, my friend’s Mazda3 with factory 19 inch Dunlops, and my mom’s Century rolling Sentury (Thai off brands) tires. The roads were pretty buttery. The Michelins were marginally better, while the Dunlops were garbage and the Sentury tires were laughable.

    In these conditions, the Michelins were similar to a set of Potenza all seasons I’d had years ago.

    Is there anything to the notion that the “winter tire” portion only lasts until 5/32 and then the grip falls off?

    • 0 avatar
      random1

      Sort of. More tread depth is obviously better for snow, no matter what, and the “outer” tread compound is superior to the base.

      Also from TireRack:

      Myth 3: Bridgestone Blizzaks only give half the amount of winter service because the bottom half of the tread is a regular all-season compound.

      Like many myths, this one is a distortion of reality. The first 55% of a Blizzak tire, like the WS70 for example, uses the winter Multicell compound. There are taller wear bars that’ll indicate when the end of the compound is close. Below this is not an all-season compound, but a standard winter compound.

  • avatar
    myllis

    You miss the best one. Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9.

  • avatar
    Redshift

    Continental Viking 7 is new to North America but not Europe. It came in first in class the last 2 years on the Norwegian Automobile Federation test and the Viking6 was 1st for the 2 years before that. This is the test that made Nokian famous.
    For comparison XIce 3 came in 7th last year.

    *Disclaimer I’m getting a set of Viking 7s installed today to replace worn out Bridgestone WS80s on my wife’s WRX. Looking forward to trying them.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      That reminds me that I should have a look at the 2019 NAF test!

      Here’s a review of last year’s test:

      http://www.skstuds.ca/2019/02/14/2018s-best-the-latest-and-greatest-winter-tires-tested-by-the-naf/

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I’m with myllis.

    A winter tire list without Nokian Hakkas?!

    Ridonculous!


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