Cooper WeatherMaster WSC winter tire; image courtesy Cooper Tires. Click image to enlarge
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By Jim Kerr
It is still summer, but it’s also time to start thinking about winter tires. While the temperatures haven’t dropped low enough yet to install winter tires (seven degrees Celsius average is the recommended change point), now is the time to start shopping and beat the rush.
Quebec now makes winter tires mandatory. Other provinces haven’t followed that path, but they do recognize the safety that winter tires provide. Tire engineers and specialists have agreed on one thing over the years: the newest tires on the market typically have the newest technology and will provide superior traction and handling.
Now, Cooper isn’t a name most drivers associate with top-line winter tires, but that is about to change. Cooper is bringing the new Weather-Master WSC tire to market and it incorporates all the latest technology. I had the opportunity to test them against some quality competition and I was surprised at what I found out.
To make the testing equal, all tires were installed on the new BMW X5, were the same size, and inflated to BMW’s recommended pressure. First we drove the BMW with the stock Bridgestone all-season runflat’s. These tires do a good job but as an all-season they can’t be expected to compare to a dedicated winter tire. The BMW did slide around a lot on the slalom and road course (both covered in several inches of snow) and the stability control was constantly active when it was turned on.
As a comparison, we also drove Cooper’s Weather-Master S/T 2 tire. This is a winter tire that has been a popular choice in the Cooper line-up. This tire provided better grip on corners and shorter stops but the stability control was still active a lot to keep the X5 in control.
One of the industry standards when it comes to quality high-grip winter tires is the Nokian Hakkapeliitta. This is a good tire and provides excellent grip on ice and snow. As expected, the BMW responded well to the added traction and it not only cornered and stopped better but it could accelerate almost like it was on dry pavement.
Now the real test was about to begin as the newest Cooper tire, the Weather-Master WSC strutted its stuff. The first thing I noticed is that during hard uphill acceleration, the BMW felt much more stable than the previous tires, even with the Hakkapeliittas. On the slalom course the X5 cornered with more grip and we could get through the course faster. On the road course, which represents real road driving, the Weather-Master WSC’s gave me a feeling of confidence although they can be pushed too hard so the vehicle spins out. Even the laws of physics can’t be overcome by superior traction tires.
Several technologies are incorporated in the Weather-Master WSC tire to provide the traction. Silica is incorporated in the rubber compound as nano-scale particles. The chemists and engineers still debate whether the silica grips ice physically or through a chemical reaction, but they do agree it works to provide superior winter traction when mixed in the right proportions with the rubber.
The rubber chemistry is also designed to keep the tire soft during cold weather yet provide good wear capability as temperatures rise. This helps traction by allowing the tire to conform to the road surface.
The tire also mechanically grips ice and snow. The tread creates wedges that grip snow, while over 3000 sipes provide a million biting edges per mile to dig into ice and snow and let water escape from between the road and the tire for better traction.
Cooper is another name to add to your list of premium winter tire manufacturers when shopping for your next set of tires. Now is the time to start shopping while there is a good selection of sizes and the dealers have time to talk with you. When the snow flies, it is a scramble for everyone and shopping is much more difficult.
Once you have experienced the safety and handling that a good set of winter tires can provide, you’ll never want to drive in winter on anything else.