Yokohama IceGuard iG52c
Yokohama IceGuard iG52c. Click image to enlarge

Review by Haney Louka, photos by Haney Louka and courtesy Yokohama

It’s not often I look forward to making a change to my car that results in inferior handling, but that’s exactly what I was hoping for when I first had Yokohama’s new iG52c winter rubber mounted on our family wagon.

It was early November and Old Man Winter was knocking on Winnipeg’s door; areas of the country to the east and west of us having already had the pleasure of his company. The pavement was still dry but temperatures had already dropped below that magic seven-degree-Celsius mark where winter tires have been proven to provide traction superior to that of all-seasons, even before snow and ice make an appearance.

The tires were installed 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 5:00, but we’ll be here well after 10:00 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.

Yokohama IceGuard iG52c
Yokohama IceGuard iG52c. Click image to enlarge

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.

There are also studded tires, which trump studless tires on ice but can be quite noisy and are prohibited for use in many parking garages due to their potential to damage protective driving surfaces.

So studless winter tires are what I like to try out each year, and this year my tire of choice is the iceGUARD iG52c from Yokohama. 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. The company says this tire was designed specifically for the Canadian market, which makes sense as I look at the current state of snow cover over North America. There’s something about that 49th parallel. (Image downloaded from the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network at the University of Waterloo,

Yokohama IceGuard iG52cYokohama IceGuard iG52cYokohama IceGuard iG52c
Yokohama IceGuard iG52c. Click image to enlarge

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 that 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 claimed 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 Yoko-marketing speak) wick water away through capillary action to keep the rubber acquainted with the road.

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