Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60
Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

With spring just around the corner the last thing you will be thinking of is winter tires – all the more reason to bookmark this article and save it for next fall! As certain as summer follows winter, winter will once again return.

However, in the Ottawa region of Canada we are wondering if we ever had a winter of 2012. It was more like a severe autumn. It must have made many Canadians wonder why they had bothered to take out the winter tires when winter failed to show up.

The fact is that winter tires are made not only to battle ice and snow (or ice or snow) but to provide better traction on dry roads in cold weather too. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, all-season tires begin to lose their grip below seven degrees Celsius. This means that even if you have the grippiest of summer tires on your sport sedan, as the weather cools, the rubber compound hardens and traction deteriorates.

So when the weather turns chilly – and not when the first snow falls – it is time to switch the all-season or summer tires for winter tires, not only to be prepared for the really bad stuff to come but to avoid the line-ups at local service centres when it does. Seriously, though, winter tires can provide better traction on cold pavement, adding a margin of safety in everyday driving and, for enthusiasts, extend the summer driving season.

Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60
Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60. Click image to enlarge

For the winter of 2012, I outfitted our family vehicle, a 2010 Acura ZDX, with Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60 winter performance tires. Intended for performance vehicles, sports cars and sport sedans and some SUVs, the LM-60 has been “designed for performance vehicles to get you through wintry conditions while delivering the solid performance your vehicle demands on dry roads. It provides versatility–performing in wet, icy, snow and dry conditions.”

Before launching into how they performed it is good to understand the evil triangle of tire compromises wherein we look for tires that will do everything well – give plenty of grip in any weather, last forever, run quietly and save fuel – but find that such a tire does not exist.

A softer tire compound will improve traction in any weather – which is why performance tires are made with soft compounds – but they won’t last long – which is why really expensive performance tires don’t come with a warranty. It is also why you should never drive a car with winter tires in the summer. They will wear out way too fast.

Using a harder compound and adding all kinds of tread designed to improve traction works well enough (this is your typical all-season tire), but the additional tread can be hard on fuel consumption and noisy. The new fuel efficient tires typically use hard compounds combined with reduced tread to achieve the fuel savings with a consequent trade-off in handling and ride comfort. Hybrid owners take note – for you it is even more imperative that you run winter tires during the cold months.

Tire technology has improved dramatically in the last ten years, reducing the amount of compromise inherent in a tire choice, but not yet eliminating it entirely.

The Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60, marketed as a performance winter tire, can’t escape the evil triangle of tire compromise, but it does a great job of maximizing the essentials in a winter tire that a performance enthusiast would want – providing decent dry/cold weather traction without giving up too much wet, snow or ice traction, or the other way around.

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