Auto Service World
Feature   December 1, 2014   by Tom Venetis, Editor

Continental Tire’s Extreme Winter Contact

Winter is here once more and Continental Tire's winter tire offers excellent control, safety and a quiet ride

People often have a tough time understanding the difference between all-season tires and winter tires. For many, the term all-season suggests just that – all four seasons. Such tires should then be able to offer the same performance and handling in the winter months as they do during the summer months. This is false. While the name might suggest that all-season tires are able to handle the winter months, they are in fact designed for general use in spring, summer and fall months. They are not designed to work during the winter months.

Specifically, they begin to suffer when the temperature drops below 7°C. The reason is that the compounds used in their manufacture don’t work well when the temperature dips below that 7°C mark. What happens is that the material becomes harder in the cold weather and can’t provide the same traction and control on snow- and ice-covered roads as tires that are engineered for the winter season. The analogy to keep in mind is of a hockey puck on ice. A cold hard hockey puck will skate across the surface of the ice; the same goes with all-season tires on cold, ice- and snow-covered roads, impacting adversely vehicle control and braking distance. That is why you will often see vehicles with all-season tires still moving forward on winter roads even when the brakes are applied and the wheels are locked.

It is also important to use four winter tires. A misconception is that winter tires are best used on the front for four-wheel drive vehicles and conversely only on the rear wheels for rear-wheel drive vehicles. Four are required only if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle. The reality is that regardless of whether your vehicle is a front-, rear- or four-wheel drive vehicle, you need four winter tires to get proper control of the vehicle when braking or cornering on wet, snow- and ice-covered roads.

SSGM Magazine was recently given the opportunity to put to the test Continental Tire’s ExtremeWinterContact tires across a range of winter driving conditions in real-world driving conditions. The ExtremeWinterContact tires are made for drivers of sedans, light-duty pickups and passenger vehicles. According to Continental, the tires are made to perform well in snow and on ice, while providing needed traction and handling on slush-covered roads. The compounds used in the tire’s construction allows the tire to remain flexible in cold and sub-zero weather for improved handling on ice and in snow. The tire comes with compact outside treads with elevated lateral grooves for improved handling, inclined longitudinal grooves for better water displacement, a large number of void and grip edges in the centre contact patch and traction ridges in the grooves to reduce braking distances in snow and give drivers better traction on snow- and ice-covered roads.

SSGM Magazine first tested the tires on dry winter roads, when the temperature had dipped below zero degrees Celsius. The tires proved to be surprisingly quiet when driving on urban roads and on the highway. And they provided excellent control without feeling overly ‘grippy’ or making the car seem sluggish when accelerating. In fact, a passenger in the test vehicle thought the tires were all-seasons as they were quieter and more comfortable than other winter tires on the market.

A few days later, Toronto was hit with its first major snowfall. While nowhere near as severe as what struck Buffalo and New York State, some five centimetres falling on the city proved enough to snarl commuters as the snowfall happened just at the beginning of rush hour and before salters and plows could be sent out.

The tires proved to be well suited to these conditions, providing needed traction and control on urban streets where one had to navigate around vehicles and pedestrians at a moment’s notice. At no point did the tires feel as if they were having difficulty in the slippery conditions.

Stopping distance was also tested – not by design, it must be said. During the test, a pedestrian decided to walk out into traffic and vehicles had to stop quickly in order not to hit the person. While several vehicles on the road lost control because of having to suddenly brake, the ExtremeWinterContact tires brought the vehicle to a full stop without causing the vehicle to lose control: no fishtailing or lateral skidding.

This control was proven again when navigating tight turns in the slippery conditions. The tires even helped navigate several hills that proved too difficult for vehicles that still had their all-seasons on.

Overall, Continental Tire’s ExtremeWinterContact proved to be an excellent tire for winter driving at an excellent price point.

Special thanks to Continental Tire and Humberview Volkswagen for assisting in this review.

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