When winter approaches, you might want to start planning ways to stay safe on the road. For most SUV drivers, this means finding quality snow tires that won’t sacrifice performance and handling. Because there are so many options out there, it can be tough to find the ones that will be best suited to your winter driving. Luckily, we have put together a shortlist of the best snow tires for an SUV to help with the hunt.
To get the most out of your SUV’s traction and braking in winter conditions, you are going to need to find a set of snow tires that takes advantage of innovation. There are many different technologies and safety features available today. This makes finding the best snow tires for an SUV dependent on your individual needs.
Since there are so many determining factors, it can be difficult to sort through the market and narrow it down. By knowing how you drive and what kind of winter weather you usually get, you can find the set that will give you the safe driving and braking you need no matter the conditions. That’s what today’s post is all about.
What Makes a Great Snow Tire for an SUV?
Even though many SUVs come with things like 4-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes, winter weather can still be a challenge. Snowy roads will always require more traction and water-wicking capabilities than dry roads. This means any tires you choose will have to have specialized grooves and tread patterns that are meant to grip the road underneath the snow.
The best snow tires for an SUV will usually have biting edges that are meant to grab on to any bit of available asphalt. These biting edges are in contrast to the smoother design of summer tires that are meant to give you a quicker, more responsive feel.
Snow tires, on the other hand, will have a series of nubs and grooves that are usually asymmetrical and designed to fall below the snow line and grip the road. This allows them to hold on to any of the exposed dry surface and use that to push your SUV instead of the snow or slush.
The composition will also be very important in the best snow tires for an SUV. While rubber is the main ingredient in any tire’s composition, snow tires will have supplemental additives that help grip slippery roads. Things like silica will be added to react to the colder climate and keep the tire from hardening in the cold.
When tires get harder from freezing temperatures, they can begin to lose traction and even start to wear unevenly. Additives help prevent this and help keep tire compounds soft even in snowy and icy conditions. The best snow tires for an SUV will have a chemical makeup that reacts to the road conditions in real time. This is one of the best ways to ensure your safety on snowy and icy roads.
How Did We Pick the Best Snow Tire for an SUV?
All of the tires on our shortlist check the boxes for the best snow tires for an SUV. While there are features that will work best for different conditions, safety, ride quality and even tread wear will always be good qualities to look for.
We spoke to a tire specialist at Les Schwab tire center who told us “snow tires are pretty easy to pick out because you’re just looking for the best grip. As long as they’re rated for your level of snow, you should be fine. It’s nice to have them on their own set of wheels too, so you can just change them out when the winter comes instead of taking them into the tire shop.”
Figure 3: A tire that can give you great traction in all kinds of winter conditions is essential. Source: ChicagoTribune.com.
Our shortlist is made up of tires that are rated for snow, ice and mud. These conditions are all common in winter months, so it is important that your snow tires are effective in all of them. By making sure you get tires that include all-around safety features for all kinds of winter conditions, you can rest easy whether the roads are iced over or just covered in a thin layer of snow.
One of the other things that all the tires on our shortlist have in common is the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol. This symbol means that all the tires have been tested and rated to the highest possible industry standard for winter use. They have been tested in severe snow and can be expected to maintain good acceleration traction on medium packed snow. If a tire has this symbol, you can be certain that it is one of the best snow tires for an SUV and will not leave you slipping and sliding in poor winter weather conditions.
The Blizzak WS80 tires by Bridgestone are at the top of our list due to their advanced engineering and design. They are specifically designed to give you the best possible contact with the road in extreme snow and ice conditions. This is done through a hydrophilic coating and a unique tread design.
The coating on the Blizzak WS80s is meant to adhere to wet roads instead of pushing the water away. Combined with miniscule studs, these tires stick to slick surfaces and help keep your SUV’s steering and stopping capabilities up to par, even when there is significant snow pack on the roads.
They are also made up of a multicell compound that is formulated to keep the tires soft, even in conditions that are below freezing. This allows the unique tread design to work to the best of its ability and keep them from slipping on ice and water. It is molded into a tread design that uses a combination of circumferential grooves and lateral grooves that keep slush and ice away from the contact patch. This gives them an increased amount of biting edges that are perfect for increased traction on the snow.
Figure 5: The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 uses a specially developed compound to increase traction and performance in snow. Source: TireRack.com.
The silica-based rubber that is used in the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is perfect for enhanced traction in packed snow. It was developed to react in real time to freezing conditions, while still maintaining a low rolling resistance. This low resistance is unique to snow tires and can help keep gas mileage down, which is a challenge with snow tires in general. This enhanced grip along with the reduced rolling resistance is what makes them one of the best snow tires for an SUV, where mileage is at a premium.
The tread design of the X-Ice Xi3 is another innovative design element. It utilizes independent tread blocks to keep the contact patch of the tire wide and stable. The tread design is directional and helps move snow, slush and water out from under the SUV itself. It also keeps the treadwear even, which keeps the tires safer for more winter seasons.
This tread design also improves your SUV’s handling in snowy conditions. Many snow tires will sacrifice driving precision in order to increase grip on the road, but the X-Ice Xi3 is still a comfortable and smooth ride even with the advanced safety features. If you are looking for a snow tire that will keep you safe without sacrificing handling or mileage, they could be a great option.
Figure 6: The Winterforce 2 UV by Firestone has a unique tread pattern that gives it the edge on ice and snow. Source: TireRack.com.
The Winterforce 2 UV by Firestone uses a rubber compound developed for cold weather in order to keep them soft on snow and ice. The tread pattern utilizes deep grooves that channel water away from the contact patch and can help with resisting hydroplaning and other hazardous winter road conditions.
The tread has a high density of sipes along the blocks for increased grip and a multitude of biting edges all around the tire. Snow tires should not have as many smooth sections as an all-season tire or summer tire and these sipes are what sets them apart. This, combined with the cold weather compound, is what makes them one of the best snow tires for an SUV.
The lateral notches in the tread pattern are another safety feature that helps increase cold weather traction. They allow the edge of the tire to grip the upper portion of packed snow and push it down and away from the contact patch on the ground. This keeps as much of the tire on the asphalt as possible and offers a safer ride on medium packed snow.