Winter Ready: The 6 Best Snow Tires

The wheel still holds up as one of mankind’s greatest inventions along with simulcast sports, exotic dancing, and hard cheese. But a wheel alone is not enough for the high-performance, high-speed, high-energy cars on the road these days. They need something that can handle multiple weather conditions, work in snow and slush, and properly use the torque of your vehicle to give you the best grip on the road. When the snow flies and you’ve put on your best winter gloves, which rubber you’re using on your wheels during the winter driving months can change your whole experience, making your car either a Zen driving machine or hell on wheels.

The best snow tires should be balanced between giving you good grip and being able to support the specifications of your car. What works for a smaller coupe or a sedan isn’t going to be much help if they’re slapped onto a truck or SUV. You’ve got to pick the right tire for winter, and that means considering your daily driving routine. Do you require more traction for better speed or are you working for the long haul with lots of highway miles to go before you hit the homestead? However you drive, and whatever you’re using to do it, one of the 6 best winter tires can save you on the road. *Prices listed are per tire, and we recommend buying snow tires in sets of four.

Kumho IZEN KW31

Kumho I’ZEN KW31

Pro: Safe and inexpensive
Con: Can be difficult to find

Budget Buy: I’Zen is a relatively new name in winter tires, but they’re already making waves, then finding new ways to drive through those waves safely. They come in studded and unstudded varieties, though we suggest the unstudded kind in most cases. They can be a little difficult to find, but you’ll be able to avoid paying a lot more than most of their competitors and be receiving a tremendous winter driving tire for a reasonable price. The compound used to create the KW31 will give you improved braking on icy roads for safer stopping power whether you use a front or rear wheel drive. The tread isn’t very aggressive, so digging into heavier snows won’t give you amazing traction, but as far as durability goes and an ability to deal with numerous conditions during highly varied cold months that range from sloppy to frozen, these will give you a mix of comfort and safety well beyond their MSRP. [Purchase: $67+]

Continental ExtremeWinterContact

Continental ExtremeWinterContact

Pro: Works on almost any vehicle
Con: Better on cleared or plowed roads

The Highwayman: It’s impossible to say which tire is best overall, but for a balance of value, capability, durability, and versatility, we found the ExtremeWinterContact seemed like the best choice, and certainly had the most “ility’s.” Geared primarily for passenger cars, these offer much smoother performance on highways than most of their competitors which is ideal for commuters who need some safety on the back roads, but will also be heading out onto cleared pathways where they require a tire that won’t make their drive unbearable, but does give a high degree of safety. Works for vehicles of any size, but truck and SUV drivers as well as those who go with sedans or heavier luxury cars will enjoy the ability to lay on the brakes even when you’ve got a little extra steel behind them or need grip off the line. Works dry and wet thanks to deep treads with a unique air and liquid flow that moves force outward from the tire’s base. [Purchase: $80+]

Bridgestone Blizzak WS80

Bridgestone Blizzak WS80

Pro: Very versatile new rubber compound
Con: Has not undergone a full season of testing

Car Carrier: Formerly the Blizzak WS70 was one of the top performers in the winter tire game, but they’ve been replaced by the WS80 and Bridgestone has managed to make improvements without knocking out any of the selling and style points logged by their predecessor. These are best suited to passenger cars and minivans built lower to the ground. The multi-directional cross hatch pattern on the new WS80’s combined with the most recent in Bridgestone’s Multicell compound give these a grip like a pair of work boots that work equally well coming off the line as they do for slowing down in icy conditions. They fight against snowpack well and wick moisture away from beneath the tire, which makes them excellent in areas where getting buried is less of a concern than getting soaked. It should be noted that since these are new, tests over a full season couldn’t be made, so if you’re hyper vigilant, finding the tried-and-true WS70 might be worth your time and trouble. [Purchase: $110+]

Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7

Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7

Pro: Works in very icy conditions
Con: Loud

Studly: Though the average driver is not going to do themselves any favors with a studded snow tire, we couldn’t discount or deny that a few of you need the churning traction of studs, and these take the blue ribbon. That being said, these are densely studded which means some states ban them for chewing up pavement and they are deafening when not taking on severely icy roads. The ride is rough but when nothing else will see you safely to your destination, these can only be truly bested by a SnowCat driven by Scatman Crothers. A reinforced center section makes these slightly more responsive than most studded tires when cornering and the Eco Stud system implemented by Nokian reduces overall striking of the studs on any surface, but they’re still going to chew through dry pavement like soda crackers and cost you more than a few pennies. [Purchase: $287+]

Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1

Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1

Pro: Can tow in snowy conditions
Con: Wide base reduces performance

Top Truck Tire: Another offering from the Blizzak line, the DM-V1 specializes in the needs of heavy vehicles rather than their WS80 cousins meant for smaller cars. These won’t stiffen up when it gets cold providing a greater grip on the road when they’re given a little more bulk to deal with. The Z pattern that runs down the center of the tire fights against hydroplaning and moves moisture away like a set of waterproof boots while also allowing more edges to come in contact with the road for enhanced bite even when hitting nothing but snow and ice. Great for both heavy winter weather and conditions that are a little less severe, these will offer you years of runs to the ski resort even in the worst weather. They have sufficient grip to even handle towing over passes, though we can’t recommend that in good conscience unless you need to rack up some extra machisimo points. Overall very aggressive and able to grip where others fail. [Purchase: $109+]

Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4

Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4

Pro: Long lasting
Con: Not exceptional on ice

Pure Performance: First and foremost, these aren’t going to give you as much snow and ice traction as you will get with a winter tire meant to handle those things, these are built so your cars performance doesn’t hit any speed bumps just because you get some wet, cold, or a few patches of ice. The aim here is winter performance, with emphasis on the performance more than the winter. They’re made with a silica-base that is enriched with Helio Compound+ which allows it to be more flexible even when the temperature drops so your ride remains smooth and you won’t get too much noise or tire slap when taking on those dangerous curves. The price is restrictive, but they have proven to last for years with very little tread degradation, so you can spend the cash once and have your tires for whipping through the bends covered for years. A deep, heavy tread offers intense stability with the Stabiligrip 3D sipe technology that Michelin uses in their other high-performance tires. [Purchase: $200+]

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