If you live in a region that gets cold winters, changing your tires is a must whether you live in an area that gets snow or not. There is a general belief that winter tires are only necessary if you live in a region that gets a particularly large amount of snow fall, in fact they’re even sometimes labeled as snow tires.
That idea couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Winter tires provide increased traction, braking and handling in wintry conditions, all of which are important for safe driving during the winter season. Think about it this way – a snowplow can’t clear the cold. If it’s cold enough to see your breath, you should consider changing to winter tires,” said Philip Dobbs, Chief Marketing Officer for Bridgestone Americas.
There are other aspects that come into play with cold weather, even if it isn’t snowing.
“All tire rubber will begin to stiffen as the weather gets colder, but the latest generations of winter tires remain flexible in freezing temperatures, maintaining traction and available grip,” said Anant Gandhi, Bridgestone Americas product manager. “Your tires are the one thing between your car and the pavement. As temperatures approach freezing, winter tires can provide increased traction, braking and handling.”
To make winter driving safer, Bridgestone has announced the launch of their newest tire in their winter line, the Blizzak WS80. The technology behind the tires will make you re-evaluate your perception of winter tires and show you how important they are.
For starters, the Blizzak WS80 features a next-generation Multi-Cell Compound, which contains gaps in the rubber designed to pull moisture away from the road like a suction cup allowing the rubber to make contact with the surface and prevent hydroplaning. As pressure is applied to ice, it becomes water making this compound even more crucial to traction and the hydrophilic coating the compound has helps pull the moisture away from the road and into those gaps reducing slippage in icy conditions.
The final feature that makes the Blizzak WS80 stand out is the 3D zigzag sipes with block stiffness control. That technology allows for an optimized footprint and contact patch, or in layman’s terms a more uniform distribution of force across the tire as it makes contact with the road. The ZigZag Sipes also increase the number of biting edges, which improves traction as well. There are also 20% more block edges that provide 10% more snow traction over their predecessor, the Blizzak WS70.
These are all features that aren’t available in “all-season tires.”
“An all-season tire and even an M&S (mud and snow) tire do not provide maximum traction in wintery conditions as a true winter tire does,” Gandhi said. “When you equip your vehicle with winter tires you may be better prepared for changing road conditions.”
To test these new features out, we put the Blizzak WS80 through several tests and comparisons. The first involved driving two identical cars on an ice rink, one equipped with Blizzak WS80 winter tires, and the other those of a competitor.
In the first trial we were able to get the car with the Blizzak WS80 tires up to an average speed of 10.243 miles per hour, and then stop the car in an average distance of 36.71. The competitors tires on the same rink were able to accelerate to 9.352 miles per hour and stopped in a distance of 45.045 feet. The WS80 model finished 18.5 percent better than the competition.
A second trial held true to form statistically. The car equipped with Blizzak WS80 got up to an even faster average speed, 10.447 miles per hour and stopped in even less distance than the first trial, 34.712 feet. The competition was also better in the second trial, but the Blizzak WS80 tires were still 15.9 percent better by comparison.
The difference was noticeable when driving, but when viewing others drive the cars. Set up like a drag race you could watch the two drive down the rink side by side, both cars given the instruction of slamming on the gas. The Blizzak WS80 also controlled the car’s direction as it drove down the rink better, whereas the other brand’s tires tended to cause the car to drift slightly.
The final show case was at the rink was a car equipped with Blizzak WS80 on one side and the competitor’s winter tires on the other. When the driver slammed on the breaks as the car made its way down the rink, the Blizzak WS80 side noticeably gained more traction and control, while the other side spun around.
The next set of testing was clearly the most fun. Bridgestone took us out to their Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colorado to drive cars equipped with Blizzak WS80 tires and their two primary competitors to compare. One comparison was done on one track, while another comparison was done on a different track; both courses were packed snow and ice, no asphalt.
Like the ice rink run, the difference was noticeable. The ability to stop when needed, to make abrupt turns to avoid obstacles, and to maintain general control were all noticeably better in cars equipped with Blizzak WS80 tires. They inspired a confidence on the course that allowed you to accelerate comfortably going out of turns while maintaining control.
“When winter driving conditions are at their worst, Bridgestone’s Blizzak winter tires are at their best,” said Gandhi. “And now, the Blizzak WS80 takes that to another level, giving drivers even greater peace-of-mind. The Blizzak WS80 stops shorter, handles better and grips the road more than our best-selling WS70 tire, which the WS80 replaces.”
Equipped with a new understanding and appreciation for winter tires and the technology behind them and fully aware that all winter tires are not created equal, I was curious as to what someone driving in Steamboat Springs for a living would choose. When you’re driving people in inclement weather you’d want the best tires, and when the shuttle arrived to take me to the airport I took a quick glance down at the tires to see what brand they were using.
They were Blizzaks.
The WS80 is desgined coupes, sedans, minivans and crossover vehicles and is currently slated to become available in July with 48 sizes ranging from 15” to 18” rim diameters, 35 to 70 series, and speed ratings T and H. Buying a set of tires will last your three to four seasons according to Gandhi, and can work out to a price point that is less than the cost of your morning latte. With these tires you also don’t have to worry about spilling your latte because of wintery road conditions either.