March 28, 2006
Bridgestone Blizzak Revo 1. Photo: Michael Clark. Click image to enlarge
By Michael Clark
The end of March, and we’re still talking about winter tires? While this latest winter tire review may not play well in B.C. or the self-appointed Centre of the Universe, us prairie chickens know that “Snow in June” isn’t just another Northern Pikes album title. And while most side streets are shedding their wintry coats, this is an excellent time to test a winter tire on a surface that can be new and strange to them; you know it as “pavement”. Our last gasp for winter testing is the Bridgestone Blizzak Revo 1, with mounting and balancing courtesy of Midwest Tire in Winnipeg.
The industry buzz is that the Revo 1 is the proverbial bag of chips when it comes to winter anything. That’s a bold statement, and one that really hasn’t come to fruition in recent years. I still cringe at the memory of my first Blizzaks in 1996 on my ’85 XR7. (OK, I went through a landau roof phase.) Water and pavement encounters were akin to banana peels and cartoon villains. Even when I tested my last Blizzies, (WS-50s) the folks at Midwest were basically saying “wait till you try the Revos”. My curiosity was piqued.
As per usual, my test bed is my 1981 Toyota Celica Supra, equipped with such technological innovations as fuel injection and the FM radio band. The smallest size available was the 185/65R15 skin, which required the fitment of 15-inch rims from a mid-Eighties Toyota Cressida. Team Auto Parts of Winnipeg was able to scrounge a set from their inventory. A non-directional tread design eliminates confusion for proper mounting. (I must have searched for those sidewall arrows for half an hour.)
Everything that made the WS-50 a most serviceable winter skin has been enhanced on the Revo 1. The heart of the Blizzak is its Multicell Compound, which exposes tiny pores as the tire wears to wick away moisture. Most winter tires require a certain amount of break-in to expose these properties. Bridgestone has added a special cross riblet surface to aid traction when the tire is new. There are zig-zag tire sipes to assist with ice grip, and 3D sipes to improve dry pavement attributes. And something called “bite particles” in the tire compound, which must be a microscopic version of those gag store chattering teeth.
If we talk anymore about particles, this is going to sound like Quirks and Quarks; lets hit the road. Over a three-week period, the Revos were subjected to a wide band of temperature extremes and traction conditions on both city and rural byways. I’m used to a smidge of oversteer with most snows, usually chalking it up to my love of 25 year old technology. That playful kick, which was regular and predictable with the WS-50s, was strangely absent with the Revos, especially in snowy corners. Even enthusiastic take-offs were straight and true. Panic lane changes required minimal input for recovery, while braking exercises were well within expectations. (Remember, they still don’t turn winter into summer, leadfoot.) Of particular note is the interior decibel level. The Revos have a noise level that some all-seasons would have trouble matching at 100 km/h.
The only time, and I mean the only time the Revos were caught unawares was at my unofficial test road that services the gravel pits north of Winnipeg. When the gravel trucks aren’t around, this stretch is hockey rink slick. Warmer temperatures contributed to a watery coating, which also contributed to the expected 180 I experienced. With nothing but my pride bruised, I discovered that further manoeuvres actually improved, a combination of the tire tech and taking the time to learn its limitations. I highly advise the same for new snow tire users, with skilled instruction. Check your Yellow Pages under driver instruction for available courses in your area.
Recommendations: The Revo 1s are the next big thing in snow-go. And just think, it’s end-of-season bargain time!