Bridgestone Blizzak LM-25 Run Flat Winter Tires – Review and Test Drive

By Paul Riegler on 21 February 2014
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There are some conditions that even the best winter tires can’t cope with.  This includes some of the severe weather the U.S. has seen over the past two months.  Once the roads are usable, winter tires are a must, and in many places outside of the U.S. the annual change from summer to winter tires is as important as resetting clocks.

Some of the New York area’s miserably-maintained roads were the reason behind the demise of the winter tires that graced The Diesel Driver’s  long-term BMW 335d for more than a few winters and opened up the opportunity to try something new on our BMW 328i.

After a few light snowfalls and the transformation of my sticky, high performance summer tires into useless, polished curling stones, it was time to mount a new set of Bridgestone Blizzak LM-25 Run Flat tires. These winter tires were fitted onto 17” BMW style 158 rims, which are both smaller and narrower than the summer set and allow for higher sidewalls that prevent the tires from “floating” on top of the snow.

Today’s winter tires are more advanced than ever. Unlike all-season tires, their rubber compound is optimized for frigid weather and driving on ice and snow.

A car with four winter tires, even a rear-wheel drive vehicle, will have far better traction than a four-wheel drive car fitted with all-season tires.  Winter-tire equipped cars stop more quickly and corner faster. Indeed, studies have shown that winter tires can improve braking by 25% and that having winter tires reduces the chances of an accident by as much as 38%.

Tests conducted by Transport Canada and the Rubber Association of Canada, found that winter tires offer 50% more traction than all-season tires.  In addition, the study confirmed that, in temperatures below 45° F (7° C), all-seasons and especially summer tires harden and lose traction.  By contrast, winter tires retain their elasticity and grip at the lower temperatures.

But back to the new Blizzaks.  The tires themselves look different, the treads are much more aggressive, resembling those on an off-roader, and feature a zig-zag pattern, which opens up and helps develop substantial grip, important in starting, stopping, or navigating the vehicle around turns.

Looks aside, they aren’t half bad to drive on. I was pleasantly surprised at how the first corner felt with the new shoes. Taking off from a stoplight, the car behaved almost as well as it did with the summer tires in milder weather, and unlike the winter tires I last experienced while in Germany, the car tracked true and felt remarkably well-composed under hard braking.

The Blizzaks performed well in snow, and to a lesser extent on ice. One of the trade-offs for a “performance” winter tire is that the low-traction handling is reduced from a studded version. On untreated roads, it was necessary on occasion to disable the full traction control to reliable take off from an uphill full stop.

Our experience with the Blizzaks confirms that winter tires make it possible to stick to rear-wheel drive in northern climates. And with this new set of Blizzaks, it may actually be fun as well.

But the Blizzaks are no panacea, this winter has been so brutally cold that even these tires have frozen, spinning away under hard acceleration as if friction were just a dream. Regardless, they have kept me safe inside a warm vehicle and out of a ditch so far for what feels an eternity, although it’s only been three months, and barring the inevitable that comes along with the city’s legendary potholes, they will summer in my garage and be ready for the next round with winter.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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