[Originally published February 9, 2015]
Review by Jeff Wilson, photos by Jeff Wilson and courtesy of the Cooper Tires
Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci, Quebec – The folks at Cooper Tires want Canadians to know that they are not the same Cooper company that makes hockey equipment. Indeed, the Cooper Tire & Rubber Company from Findlay, Ohio has been around under that name since the mid-1940s, but can trace their roots back a century.
Cooper Tires is the fourth largest tire producer in the United States (11th in the world) and they are looking to capture more buyers here in the Great White North with a growing selection of great tires.
A recent trip to a Cooper Tires testing event at the Mecaglisse Track northeast of Mont Tremblant, Quebec helped solidify just how serious Cooper Tires are about their winter products.
On a beautifully sunny but very cold morning my writing colleagues and I arrived at the track where we were presented with three different scenarios to demonstrate three different Cooper winter tires.
First up was the Weather-Master WSC winter tire designed for light trucks and crossovers. It has been on the market for a few years now and is a dedicated winter tire with a high-silica compound to ensure considerable grip even in extremely cold settings (like our test day).
Driving a new Jeep Grand Cherokee fitted with the Weather-Master WSC tires around a portion of the Mecaglisse track, we were shown just how effective this tire is in handling the very icy conditions. The WSC has a very high sipe count (the squiggly lines cut into the tread blocks) that are placed at varying angles ensuring that even when the vehicle is mid-turn, the grip is maximized.
The Weather-Master WSC is a studdable tire that proves to be a very stable and capable winter tire in this setting, also giving impressive grip when starting and stopping even without studs fitted. For crossovers and SUVs, the WSC is a fine choice for winter weather.
Next, our group of drivers moved on to the second stage featuring a pair of identical BMW 320i’s with xDrive all-wheel-drive. Set up on a large snow-and-ice covered skid pad, we were invited to summon our inner drift-master driving skills.
The black BMW – and the car I drove first – served as a benchmark fitted with the popular Continental WinterContact tires while the silver car wore Cooper WM SA2s. Starting out in second gear, the Conti-equipped BMW pulled away from rest with good assurance and grip. As the speeds increased and we reached a particularly icy patch of the skid pad, the 320i would begin to plow wide with considerable understeer as a result of terminal loss of grip.
However, a jab of the throttle would kick the Bimmer’s back end around initiating a fun four-wheel drift for as long as the Continentals could hold on before relenting, causing the car to spin.