March 26, 2013
Review and photos by Haney Louka
I’ve been following the Blizzak’s evolution ever since a set of WS-15 winter tires graced the hindquarters of my 1989 Nissan 240 SX in the mid-nineties and transformed it into a livable (and quite fun) winter driving machine. There has been a whole lot of developments in the winter tire industry since then, and even though the Blizzak name hasn’t changed, the brand’s offerings have improved significantly.
Bridgestone has been selling winter tires under the Blizzak name in North America since 1992, and today there are eight different tires in the Blizzak line for cars, trucks, and crossovers.
For consumers, making the decision to buy winter tires should be the easy (and smart) part. The more difficult task is deciding which tire to buy. Assuming your set of wheels can accommodate rubber from several different manufacturers, the thought of narrowing the selection down to a preferred model can be daunting. After all, you can’t take winter tires for a spin around the block before deciding. And virtually every tire website includes consumer reviews that can often be contradictory.
As a result, many winter tires sell either on price or strength of brand image. And, fortunately for Bridgestone, the name Blizzak is synonymous with winter tires in Canada.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS70. Click image to enlarge
The trouble I’ve historically had with Blizzaks is that the product never really lived up to the expectations brought on by its brand image. I’m fortunate enough to be able to sample a different set of winter tires every year, and the tires manufactured by the big guys (Michelin and Bridgestone) have been decidedly average. In deep snow, Blizzaks have always performed as expected. But they used to fall apart on the really slick surfaces where a little bit of added traction is most appreciated.
Well, that was before the Blizzak WS70 entered the market. My last Blizzak experience was in 2008 with the predecessor WS60s, and in fact the 70s have been around for more than two years now. I distinctly remember being disappointed with the 60s on ice and loose snow, and it seems those issues have been remedied in the new tire.
I had a set of WS70s installed on my 2007 VW GTI in late December, and I wanted to get them exposed to a wide range of winter conditions before reporting on them, which is why you’re reading this report at the end of the winter season. The first thing I noticed was that they didn’t mess up my GTI’s steering response on dry pavement as much as I expected. This is a pleasant surprise, and an area where winter tire technology in general is improving across the board.
Like all dedicated winter rubber, the Blizzaks bear the snowflake-on-mountain symbol that meets snow and ice traction standards set by ASTM (the American Society for Testing and Materials). This is achieved through three main characteristics common to all winter tires. First and foremost is the rubber compound, which allows the material in contact with the road to remain flexible even at temperatures far below freezing. For comparison, a typical all-season compound gets notably harder as the temperature drops below seven (+7) degrees Celsius.