Win­ter tire de­signed for Cana­dian mo­torists

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - HANEY LOUKA

THERE’S some­thing about that 49th par­al­lel. Look­ing out­side at our first snow of the sea­son, I was com­pelled to find out just how much of our coun­try is blan­keted in the white stuff. Turns out the stereo­types and old wives’ tales are true: on a snow-cover map of North Amer­ica I found on the web­site of the Cana­dian Cryospheric In­for­ma­tion Net­work at the Univer­sity of Water­loo (www. ccin.ca), there is a line that roughly fol­lows the Canada-US bor­der. Above that line it’s white, be­low there’s noth­ing but brown and green. Who knew?

It’s no sur­prise, then, Yoko­hama’s lat­est win­ter tire, the iceGUARD iG52c, was de­signed specif­i­cally for the Cana­dian mar­ket. New this sea­son, th­ese tires rep­re­sent the lat­est in win­ter tech­nol­ogy avail­able from Yoko­hama and build on the iG51v truck and SUV tire in­tro­duced last year.

This year’s test tires were in­stalled when the pave­ment was still dry but tem­per­a­tures had al­ready dropped be­low that magic 7 C mark, where win­ter tires have been shown to pro­vide trac­tion su­pe­rior to that of all-sea­sons even be­fore snow and ice make an ap­pear­ance.

All win­ter tires are des­ig­nated as such only af­ter pass­ing rig­or­ous test­ing as es­tab­lished by ASTM (the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Test­ing and Ma­te­ri­als) and earn­ing a trac­tion rat­ing of 110 or higher on packed snow. It’s the Rub­ber As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada that rec­og­nizes tires that meet this stan­dard and ap­prove use of the “snowflake-on-moun­tain” sym­bol that can be found on the side­wall of all win­ter tires.

But that’s just the start. There are plenty of win­ter tires out there that claim to be of the “per­for­mance” va­ri­ety, which do an ex­cel­lent job of pre­serv­ing your car’s sharp han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics through the win­ter months. But this is in­vari­ably achieved at the ex­pense of op­ti­mal snow and ice trac­tion. And per­son­ally, I’m happy to sac­ri­fice dry-pave­ment han­dling to get the best win­ter per­for­mance pos­si­ble out of my tires.

The iceGuard name may not have the same mar­ket pres­ence as Bl­iz­zak or X-Ice, but rest as­sured there is some se­ri­ous win­ter rub­ber tech­nol­ogy at work here. There are cer­tain traits we ex­pect to see in all ded­i­cated win­ter tires, and those traits are a softer rub­ber com­pound and plenty of sipes (those nar­row, closely-spaced zigzag slits in the tread). Yoko­hama com­ple­ments th­ese char­ac­ter­is­tics with some tricks they hope will dif­fer­en­ti­ate their tires from the class stan­dards. While it’s al­ways dif­fi­cult to get spe­cific in­for­ma­tion out of tire com­pa­nies — rub­ber com­pound for­mu­la­tions are highly-guarded com­pany se­crets — the dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fea­ture of this tire is said to be the abil­ity of its com­pound to draw mois­ture away from the con­tact patch to re­duce the chances of skid­ding on slick sur­faces. Small air pock­ets (“ab­sorp­tive bal­loons” in Yoko­hama-mar­ket­ing speak) wick wa­ter away through cap­il­lary ac­tion to keep the rub­ber ac­quainted with the road.

Other iG52c fea­tures touted by Yoko­hama in­clude gen­er­ous drainage grooves in the tread to dis­perse wa­ter and slush, plus a wide, con­tin­u­ous cen­tral rib to aid in straight-line sta­bil­ity — a must when deal­ing with tread blocks that al­low a lot of flex.

The tires also meet Yoko­hama’s own “BluEarth” eco-stan­dard thanks to their low rolling re­sis­tance and long tread life. But in my book, any claim of long tread life should be backed by a tread­wear war­ranty. Like most win­ter tires, though, the iG52c does not carry a tread­wear war­ranty.

The 225/45-17 tires were in­stalled on our Volk­swa­gen Golf Wagon by my lo­cal Kal Tire shop on one of the busiest Satur­days of the year, ac­cord­ing to man­ager Mike Downey. “Our sign says we’re open un­til 5 but we’ll be here well af­ter 10 tonight.”

My first drive on the new rub­ber was ex­actly what I’d hoped for: the VW’s nor­mally first-rate steer­ing re­sponse had been re­duced to a mud­dled mess. Lest you think I’ve com­pletely lost per­spec­tive here, al­low me to ex­plain. Tires that be­have like this do so be­cause their tread com­pound is softer and the tires’ struc­ture is de­signed to al­low more flex as the car makes its way down the road, around cor­ners and to a safe stop.

But I see that squishy feel­ing be­tween the VW’s con­trols and the road as a sign of prom­ise. A sign this isn’t a tire that rides on the fence. And with­out giv­ing too much away about how the tires per­formed af­ter we woke up to a blan­ket of white out­side, let’s just say this is a great start for a tire that just might chal­lenge the front-run­ners in the stud­less win­ter tire mar­ket.

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