Goodyear Ultra Grip Performance 2
Goodyear Ultra Grip Performance 2. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Haney Louka

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“High-performance winter tires.”

When the marketing material accompanying a set of test tires contains those words, alarm bells start sounding in my head.

The claim behind this type of tire is that it provides superior grip in winter conditions, all the while preserving the sharp handling characteristics on dry pavement that owners of performance cars demand. It’s a bit of an oxymoron, since a good winter tire will rely on the flexibility of its rubber compound to provide grip in cold temperatures; a characteristic that is at odds with the requirements of high-performance handling.

In any event, that’s the claim made by Goodyear about its Ultra Grip Performance 2 winter tire, so let’s take a closer look.

The Ultra Grip Performance 2 (let’s just call it the UGP2) competes against other high-performance winter rubber like the Michelin Pilot Alpin, Bridgestone Blizzak LM-Series, Dunlop SP Winter Sport, and many others. As a group, they all trade in some winter handling ability to provide buyers with an option that preserves most of the car’s dry handling characteristics while providing winter performance that so-called “all-season” tires can only dream of. How well they strike this balance is what separates the class leaders from the also-rans.

Goodyear Ultra Grip Performance 2
Goodyear Ultra Grip Performance 2. Click image to enlarge

Regardless of market niche aspirations, it’s important to know how to separate real winter tires from “all-season” posers. Despite their title, all-seasons are not required to meet any minimum standards for winter performance; they are, at best, three-season tires. Buyers need to look for the trademark snowflake-on-mountain symbol to know that what they’re looking at is a legitimate winter tire.

The snowflake-on-mountain symbol on a tire means that it meets or exceeds industry-established standards for snow traction and performance in cold weather. According to the Rubber Association of Canada and several tire manufacturers, winter tires begin to outperform all-seasons at temperatures below seven degrees Celsius. And I think we’ve seen more than our share of those conditions this season.

Virtually all winter tires on the market have two basic features that earn them the capabilities to wear the winter tire title: first and foremost is the rubber compound, specifically designed to remain flexible at lower temperatures. Next is the tread pattern that makes use of “sipes” or tiny slits in the tread blocks that allow the blocks to flex and provide a higher number of edges with which to grip a slick or snowy road surface. But that’s where the similarities end and where each tire manufacturer develops tires in a different way to make these winter-specific technologies work to their advantage.

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