For most motorists in North America, winter tires without studs are the right choice 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. $95 and up) draws excellent feedback in this category, just as Michelin X-Ice tires have for the seven years ConsumerSearch has been reviewing snow tires
The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 is the highest rated winter tire in one comparative review. In a four-tire test by TireRack.com, the Michelin is said to provide good performance in ice and snow, but doesn't compromise when it comes to driving on other surfaces, including roads that are wet or dry. It delivers "…great traction on the ice and in the wet while maintaining good road manners," testers say. Drivers in Canada are just as pleased. It's a "top rated" tire according to the Automotive Protective Association (APA). Paul Williams, writing for Autos.ca, has high praise following a multi-tire test. "We found the X-ICE Xi3 was highly capable, often superior, in all of the conditions tested." he says.
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. 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.
At TireRack.com, the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 finishes in second place in an online user survey, just two percentage points behind the Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT (Est. $85 and up). However, while TireRack.com's expert testing reveals the Goodyear tire to be an able performer on snow, it falls short in its performance on smooth glassy ice, also known as "glare" ice. An independent test also scores the Goodyear tire lower, with disappointing breaking on all services, and just average grip on ice.
The Toyo Observe GSi-5 (Est. $80 and up) gets some consideration for situations where snow traction is the most important factor. "One of the best choices at any price even though it is not the best performer on cleared or wet roads and can be noisier than average in some applications," says the APA.
Motor Trend takes the Toyo's on a drive through the Rockies in the winter. "As a winter tire, it's hard to find faults," says Benson Kong. "In the worst low-visibility conditions, I was more concerned with finding road markers in the white haze and making sure the cars following weren't going to end up in my rear bumper than hunting for traction."
The Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 (Est. $75 and up) is a former top performer that has been replaced by the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 (Est. $85 and up). The WS80 was actually released in the summer of 2014, so it's not been through a winter driving season, though automotive journalists had a chance to check it out in the snow, courtesy of Bridgestone. First impressions are favorable, TireRack.com reports. "The demonstrations Bridgestone put together showcased the Blizzak WS80's impressive snow and ice traction, which seems like a nice evolutionary step beyond the already respected capability of its predecessor, the Blizzak WS70. TireRack.com plans to include the tire during its testing rounds for winter 2014-2015, and we expect that other reviewers will follow suit.
For now, the Blizzak WS70 remains available at retail, but mostly at closeout status. It has earned positive reviews, particularly from owners who leave feedback at retail sites. "I will drive NOTHING ELSE," writes one owner at TireRack.com, where more than 600 owners rate the Blizzak right behind the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 on snow and ice.
Overall, 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.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Snow Tires: Whether you live where the snow piles as high as the Rockies or in milder climes that see a few inches a year, these Best Reviewed snow tires will see you safely through.
Studded Snow Tires: Studded snow tires are not the right choice for most drivers, but if you drive where snow depths are measured in feet rather than inches all season long, they can be a life saver.
Winter Performance Tires: Performance cars need winter tires, too. These top choices keep your wheels firmly on the road through snow and ice, and without robbing your ride of all its panache
Snow Tires for SUVs and Trucks: Tough tires for tough rides. Some are good choices for passenger cars as well.
Buying Guide: Need more info to help you make an informed choice about snow tires? Our Buyers' Guide lays out important considerations to help make your decisions easier.
Our Sources: Expert reviews and user feedback help us find the best winter tires. These are the sources we relied on, ranked in order of helpfulness, that we used in compiling this report.