Dedicated winter tires will help your truck or SUV get a better grip on snow and ice. Some are designed specifically for light trucks, SUVs, and other heavier vehicles, but most come in a wide selection of sizes and are also suitable for passenger tires.
The top pick for this edition of our snow tires report is the Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2 (Est. $125 and up). It's the predecessor to what experts consider to be the best all-around snow tire, the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (Est. $85 and up), which is profiled in our section on the best winter tires. Today, the X-Ice Xi2 is primarily offered as a winter tire for those who drive heavier vehicles, such as vans and light-duty pickups. It's top rated in this category by one expert reviewer. Wheels.ca interviews a Canadian tire dealer who also names that tire as one of the top performers in this class. About.com includes it among the top tires to consider for SUVs and similar vehicles.
If there's a red flag, it's a small one. Though there's no current testing of the Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2 at TireRack.com, it comes out fourth out of the four light truck/SUV studless ice & snow tires rated by users there. However, a closer look reveals that most drivers are actually quite pleased. It earns a 4-star rating, with 95 percent saying that the tire is the best one in the category.
Some of the impressions shared by experts and users are a little contradictory, but overall the picture that emerges is one of a competent performer in most regards. Its major weakness is traction in deep snow, but dry and light snow traction are top notch -- "Steering is precise and responsive and the tires handle extremely well overall, considering that they are still snow tires, says About.com's Sean Phillips.
Experts also applaud the ride that these Michelin snow tires deliver -- "Quiet, with a comfortable ride," says the APA. The low rolling resistance as reported in one review is also a plus when it comes to fuel economy. The Latitude X-Ice Xi2 is covered by one of the better warranties for snow tires, the same as Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi3, including a six-year, 40,000 mile treadwear warranty and six years for workmanship or materials, with a free replacement for the first year.
The Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1 (Est. $110 and up) is another tire to consider. Designed and sized specifically for light trucks and SUVs, this tire is an owner favorite according to surveys at TireRack.com. It also does well in independent testing, though it's eclipsed slightly by other tires for truck owners, including the Latitude X-Ice Xi2. The Bridgestone is a top performer in snow and, especially on ice, but braking on wet surfaces and overall handling are poorly rated.
Still, owners absolutely rave about the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1's real-world grip. Customers at TireRack.com award the DM-V1 top scores on wet, snowy and icy roads and slightly lower (but still excellent) scores for dry-cornering stability and steering response. One concern is availability; we noted some closeout pricing at some retailers -- so shop carefully for the best buy if the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1 is the tire you want for your light truck, van or SUV.
The Automotive Protection Association (APA) points out that consumers can sometimes save money by minus-sizing -- buying a smaller wheel and a narrower tire for snow use. While this applies to any type of vehicle, it is an especially helpful technique for light truck and SUV owners; smaller winter tires are easier to find, which can expand your range of choices. In addition, it can be cheaper than having a garage swap your tires on the existing rims -- even considering the expense of buying the second set of wheels. "Savings of $80 to $300 per set of four are possible by downsizing the wheel and tire combination, depending on the vehicle," the APA says. However, if your vehicle is equipped with a wheel-mounted tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS), you'll may have to buy sensors for your snow tires' wheels, too (see the Buying Guide for more information). Your tire retailer should be able to provide more information, and have guides that list appropriate substitute sizes for your vehicle.
Elsewhere in this report: