Bridgestone and Tire Rack put tires to the test with winter driving exercises on ice.
Winter driving shifted into slippery overdrive when I got behind the wheel for a #TalkTires blogger experience at Denver’s Pepsi Center on the ice covered Colorado Avalanche hockey rink. My Tire Rack Winter Driving Experience, powered by Bridgestone Blizzak, was fun and enlightening.
The weather can’t be controlled, and the October fall afternoon in Denver brought out unseasonably warm weather in the mid-70s. A beautiful day for those visiting Colorado, but not conducive to testing the effectiveness of winter tires.
The Bridgestone and Tire Rack crew had already considered the weather by bringing the winter driving experience inside on the ice – and giving this Denver gal her first experience on the Avalanche hockey rink. (Winter tire testing on a local hockey ice rink is something Tire Rack does in its Indiana home office.)
Flashback to Midwest winter, driving on studded tires
I remember the biting cold, black ice and drifting snow of the Midwest winters. I also clearly recall the white knuckle grips of my hands on the steering wheel when attempting to drive the country roads of Iowa during winter storms. Winter tires were not an option; they were mandatory to keep our drive safe.
At that time, winter tires actually had studs, literally metal studs embedded within the tread. It was a necessary evil, but on the few occasions when the roads were not snow and ice-packed, the metal studs are annoyingly noisy and distracting. The studs actually dig into pavement, and since I first started driving, many states have limiedt their use during non-winter months or have outlawed them completely, which is why tire companies, like Bridgestone, have engineered stud-less tires.
Flash forward to living in Colorado now where I have opted for all season tires for winter driving. Who knew the Denver Rocky Mountain winters would be more mild than Iowa? So perhaps I was a tire safety skeptic when arriving at the Pepsi Center for the Tire Rack Winter Driving Experience?
Winter or all season tires? Bridgestone and Tire Rack take bloggers to the ice for the answer
Tire Rack and Bridgestone set up the test track on the Colorado Avalanche’s ice hockey rink at the Pepsi Center. We split up into teams to drive two BMW 328i. The red BMW was outfitted with the new Bridgestone Blizzak tires, while the pearl white BMW sported Bridgestone all-season.
We experienced two test drives in each BMW, but the second drive for everyone recorded best. The performance on the ice with red BMW with the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 winter tires was instantaneously impressive. I “gunned” the accelerator to 11.9 mph, feeling how the tires actually gripped the ice. When I hit the brakes, I only felt a nano-second catch before the Blizzak tires gripped the ice, recording a stopping distance of 35 feet.
Then I slid behind the wheel of the white BMW sporting all season tires, and I was immediately transported back to that Midwest winter driving. The wheels spun several times upon hitting the accelerator, and it took several seconds before catching in a slip-sliding fashion upon the ice. I only managed an actual speed of 9 mph, and when I hit the brakes, the stop was not immediate, which instantly brought me to that dreaded winter driving tension. My stopping distance was 38 feet.
I’ve never been good at algebra equations, but the folks at Bridgestone and Tire Rack did a quick calculation for me. If I had been driving even a few miles faster with the All-season tires, my stopping distance would have doubled! That stopping distance could be as much as a car length or more. That’s an accident waiting to happen, and convinced me right there that winter tires are a car safety feature most often overlooked.
Cornering BMWs on the ice
Next, the professional drivers got behind the wheels of the two BMWs to show us, their passengers, what this translates into on the test track. In low speed turns, the all-season car plowed straight ahead, taking out cones and sliding across the ice. The BMW with the Blizzak WS80 was smooth sailing, negotiating the turns as smooth as if driving a Zamboni across the Avalanche hockey rink.
Put the pedal to the ice
The final piece to the Tire Rack Winter Driving Experience was a tricycle ride across the ice rink. These were not your typical tricycles; one model sported Bridgestone all season tires, while the other wore Blizzak.
The result was the same. When I engaged the pedal, the tires of the all season brand spun out, while the Blizzak winter tires gripped firmly and sustained traction quickly and more consistently.
How does this winter tire thing work?
The tire is the only part of the vehicle that touches the ground, so tire traction is imperative. Winter tires, like Blizzak, remain flexible and conform to the conditions.
Anant Gandhi, Bridgestone Winter Product Manager, called the Blizzak tire compound “Black Magic.” That’s the unique multi-cell microscopic hardened particles imbedded in the porous rolling surface of the tires.
When the tire tread rubber maintains its softness and pliability at low temperatures, it’s able to “claw” (like a polar bear) the slippery winter surfaces, acting like microscopic studs to gain traction.
It’s also about the3D Zig-Zag Sipes with Block Stiffness Control (inspired by the gecko). These deep aggressive tread patterns were engineered by Bridgestone to basically wick the liquid away.
Why winter tires?
Let’s recap. Why do you really need winter tires?
- Increased Traction
- Enhanced Braking
- Improved Handling in Winter Conditions
The verdict is in: Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 winter tires are the clear winner, checking off all the reasons why drivers should purchase winter tires.
The results are undeniable — and believe me, I’m surprised too. The difference between the Bridgestone all season tires and the Blizzak WS80 is, well, like winter and summer.
Winter conditions bring on snow, ice, cold temps below 40 °F degrees, and drivers need the consistency of winter tires. Winter tires, such as Bridgestone Blizzak WS80, provide the best performance and safety in winter conditions.
And the price isn’t as inhibiting as you might think. Adding winter tires to your rotation costs a mere $1.47 per day (based on five months per year usage over three years).
Now a tire safety question for you: is keeping your winter drive safe worth the cost of winter tires?
I was Bridgestone and Tire Rack’s guest for the Tire Rack Winter Driving Experience. Opinions expressed are my own.