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Article and photos by Greg Wilson

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Canadian Tire Ice Rink Test

Vancouver, B.C. – Eight tires, two cars, one ice rink, and one nervous driver – those were the ingredients for an illuminating Canadian Tire comparison test between a set of Goodyear Nordic winter tires and a set of Motomaster SE2 all-season tires.

Canadian Tire brought its tire-testing road show to an ice-rink in Vancouver last week after doing similar media stints in Toronto and Montreal. The purpose, of course, was to convince journalists to write stories about the benefits of buying winter tires – especially from Canadian Tire; but for me, it was also a rare chance to test-drive winter and all-season tires back-to-back on an icy surface in identical cars. That’s the surest and most accurate way to observe the differences – it’s similar to the back-to-back comparison method used by AJAC to rate new vehicles at the annual Car of the Year TestFest event.

Feature: Winter Tires vs. All Season Tires winter tires winter driving
Graham Jeffery, Canadian Tire Business Manager, explains benefits of Goodyear Nordic winter tires. Click image to enlarge
Feature: Winter Tires vs. All Season Tires winter tires winter driving
Canadian Tire Ice Rink Test. Click image to enlarge

Canadian Tire equipped two 2013 Hyundai Elantra GTs with the aforementioned winter and all-season tires, and with the help of a professional driving instructor sitting in the passenger seat (who I suspect was there to discourage me from sliding a brand new Hyundai into the boards) I drove each car around the ice rink performing different braking, handling, and acceleration exercises.

I started out riding on the Motomaster SE2 all-season tires. I quickly discovered that a very gentle squeeze of the throttle is required to get moving on ice without spinning the tires. My driving instructor also informed me that traction control doesn’t work on glare ice! That was news to me, but he was right! There was no drama while maintaining a steady speed driving in a straight line, a fact that initially lulled me into a false sense of security. It’s only when I braked and turned that I realized how little traction all-season tires have on packed ice. Even at 20 km/h, the car couldn’t make a 90-degree turn without ploughing through the corner cones. In a straight-line panic brake test, the all-season shod car took almost 50 feet to come to a stop from 20 km/h. On glare ice, even the pulsating anti-lock braking system doesn’t seem to help regain grip and steering control.

After I switched into the car equipped with the Goodyear Nordic winter tires, I performed the same manoeuvres and experienced a big improvement in braking distances, cornering grip, acceleration traction, and steering feel. In the panic braking test from 20 km/h, I stopped 20 feet shorter with the winter tires. Canadian Tire’s own tests show that the new Goodyear Nordic winter tire stops an average of 45 feet shorter than their best-selling all-season tire on ice-covered roads. Obviously, this could make the difference between colliding with another car or pedestrian and being able to avoid them and the financial and emotional costs that go with it. In my ice rink driving test, the improved traction while accelerating enabled quicker starts, cornering speeds were higher and I could hear and feel the tires biting the ice rink surface as I drove through an S-slalom course. Canadian Tire’s claim that winter tires offer up to 50% more winter traction than all-season tires seems plausible.

Feature: Winter Tires vs. All Season Tires winter tires winter driving Feature: Winter Tires vs. All Season Tires winter tires winter driving Feature: Winter Tires vs. All Season Tires winter tires winter driving
Canadian Tire Ice Rink Test. Click image to enlarge

Apart from a grippier tread design and water dispersing channels (V-shaped in the Goodyear Nordic tire) the secret to a winter tire’s extra grip is its softer rubber compound which remains elastic at sub-zero temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius and lower, according to the Rubber Association of Canada. In fact, all-season tires start to lose their effectiveness at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius which affects their performance on cold, dry pavement, not just snow and ice.

While a day at the ice rink is not exactly the same as the Canadian winter experience, it certainly proves that “all-season” tires is a misnomer: “three-season” tires would be a better description.

If you’re worried about the cost of buying four new winter tires, think of it as an insurance policy. One unfortunate collision will probably cost you a lot more.

To see a video of the Canadian Tire ice-rink test, click here.
To see a video explaining the Goodyear Nordic winter tire, click here




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).