For most motorists in North America, winter tires without studs are all they need for cold-weather driving. The best snow tires power through snow and ice, improve stopping distances and handling, and ride smoothly and quietly on roads. The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (Est. $105) dominates this category for the second straight year.
"Handles easily on all road surfaces," say tough testers at the Swedish auto magazine Aftonbladet, where it beats all other studless tires. Not only does it grip better on snow and ice in tests, but the Xi3 also proves quieter, more comfortable and more durable than other snow tires -- just like the Michelin X-Ice Xi2 before it, which held the ConsumerSearch Best Reviewed title for four years straight. Moreover, Michelin backs the Xi3 with a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty. That's rare among snow tires, which usually carry no tread warranty at all.
Michelin tires also get great feedback from owners for their durability and their quiet, comfortable ride -- winter tires are often noisy and bumpier than all-season tires. In fact, at least one owner says they're quieter than his regular tires.
The more expensive Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 (Est. $160) winter tire runs neck-and-neck with the Michelin in Scandinavian reviews and one top U.S. test on ice and snow. The Nokian doesn't grip as well on wet and dry roads, though. It's pricey and hard to find in the U.S., too.
The Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 (Est. $90) also earns positive reviews, particularly from owners who leave feedback at retail sites. "I will drive NOTHING ELSE," writes one owner at TireRack.com, where nearly 500 owners rate the Blizzak just as highly as the Michelin on snow and ice.
Experts agree that the Blizzak feels perfectly confident in blizzards -- but when the roads clear, the Blizzak flounders. It's so soft that it proves difficult to control in some Scandinavian tests, and it takes a long time to brake on wet pavement. It's comfortable, but louder than the Michelin and Nokian.
For performance in tough snow and icy conditions, as well as those times when the road has been cleared of snow, but it's not yet time to change out your winter tires, the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is the top choice.