Which snow tires should I buy?

Car Tips | January 21st, 2009 by 31
winter tire 2

Let me start by saying that I am one of those people that drive year round with performance tires, despite the fact that I live …

Let me start by saying that I am one of those people that drive year round with performance tires, despite the fact that I live in the snowy Chicago. Yes, I know, not very responsible in my part, but the truth is that when it snow heavily, I tend as much as possible, to “hibernate” and not drive much.

But things have changed this winter and it requires that I drive more than usual, including my last trip to Detroit during a huge snowstorm. So now, I am at the point where I need to ask the same very question  myself: “Which snow tires should I buy?”

winter tire 2 498x373

My research started, obviously, with BMW forums, Google searches and other internet resources. But since I know a lot of BMW owners and have tons of friends that drive bimmers, I figured they would be reliable sources as well.

A good start and resource recommended by many people was the “Tire Rack’s Tire Decision Guide: Find the tire performance category that’s best for your vehicle and the roads you drive on.”

I was once again reminded that there are three options when it comes to snow tires: performance, studdable and studless.

Performance Winter Tires

By choosing the performance winter tires, you’re not sacrificing much when it comes to dynamic handling, but you are trading some snow and ice traction. Not the safest bet in winter tires choices and they are geared more an experienced driver or someone that lives in an area with moderated snow.

The low profile performance winter tires are rated H-speed or V-speed and always need to be installed in sets of four.

My research concluded that the following are some of the most respected and high rated tires:

  1. Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3D – several options available
  2. Bridgestone Blizzak LM-22/LM-25
  3. Michelin Pilot Alpin PA2

Studdable Winter and Snow Tires

These type of tires offer the highest safety while driving in heavy snow conditions. The S or T-speed rated studdable tires feature  snow tire tread compounds and studdable tread designs for good snow and ice traction. Studdable tires don’t really work well on ice without studs, and don’t work great on dry or wet surfaces. Once again, these type of tires must be installed in sets of four. Something to keep in mind that I didn’t know myself: studded tires are prohibited in certain states, including some regions in Canada.

The general consensus here is that the Pirelli Winter Carving is the best choice at a reasonable price.

Studdless Ice and Snow Tires

Studdless tires are the most popular choice for most of the BMW owners. These type of tires offer the best in snow traction, but will give up some dry road responsiveness over an H/V rated snow tire to get it and without using winter tire studs. Studdless tires perform much better on ice and much worse on dry or wet surfaces.

Rated Q-speed, these tires must be installed in set of four as well. In this category, the task of choosing three most popular and performant studdless tires, was a little bit more difficult. But based on the number of recommendations that I have received and the research I conducted, here is what I recommend:

  1. Blizzak WS-60
  2. Michelin X-Ice Xi2
  3. Dunlop Graspic DS-2

This concludes my research and recommendation process, but I am sure there are many other tires choices available, so I encourage you to list them below in the comments section and I will edit the article to include them.

31 responses to “Which snow tires should I buy?”

  1. Bike trader says:

    Snow tires should be required for all provinces in Canada. There is no such thing as a safe highway or road. However, govenment and municipalities work to make roads safer I belive that the responsibility of safer road belongs to the drivers. We require that all drivers need a license, why not require that all cars & trucks require snow tires. Its the smart choice :)

    • Jason M says:

      Excellent suggestion Bike trader!! I will be awaiting the arrival of your cheque to cover the cost of the new snow tires. Oh wait! What’s that? You are not going to cover the hundreds of dollars in costs associated with forcing everyone to convert to snow tires? Hmm… that changes everything. I will be sticking with my all seasons then.

  2. L1ndja says:

    Well I had a Polo once for 10 years and i put Kumho tires,they were amazing never expected such quality but i dont know how they handel on a RWD.

  3. I don’t live in US, but from what I’ve tested on my own cars, I dont like Dunlop 3D, but I have good experiences with Pirelli Snow&Ice, Continental and Nokian.

    An ADAC test (Germany) cand be consulted here and here

  4. jkp says:

    I haven’t needed studded tires in my years of driving in both Pennsylvania and Illinois. (Well, maybe once they would’ve been useful….) Don’t know how far north you have to travel. If you regularly head up into Wisconsin, the UP, or Canada, it may be worth it to spring for the studding. Be sure you are aware of laws about when you have to remove studded tires (I think it’s March in Pennsylvania.)

    I can testify that the Blizzaks are good in snow. But having said that, any of this group will be good, I’m sure. I usually make the decision based on what’s available on Tire Rack and what my budget allows.

  5. Mathis says:

    I drive Pirelli Sottozero RFT 17″ on my E90 330d for the third season now. They are great winter tires, I cross the Alps with them without problems :)

  6. Eric says:

    I used to have Nokians on my E39 M5 but switched to Dunlop Winter Sport 3D this year. I am also in the greater Chicago area and I can tell you that these are EXCELLENT. I was leaning originally toward the Blizzak 25s but in a couple of my buddies rides, they get to about 1/2 tread and they lose all kinds of grip which is the point in the first place.

    Good luck! Luke@Tirerack is your man, by the way. Very knowledgeable about BMW shoes.


  7. fuxl says:

    I don’t know if its available in US, but probably the best winter tire available at the moment (for me) is the Goodyear UltraGrip 7+. It’s not in the UHP teritory, but it handles amazingly well in snow, wet and dry alike. There’s no other tire i wolud put on a RWD wehicle.
    And living in a country where M+S are mandatory in winter i hear a lot of oppinions about such tires and most would comment the same way as i do:)

  8. Gragop says:

    I saw go for broke and buy some slicks!

  9. Ignace says:

    My favourites:

    Pirelli SottoZero (E46 coupé)
    Goodyear Ultragrip (E39 touring)
    Vredestein Wintrac 4 Extreme (Range Rover Vogue)

  10. E92-TORONTO says:


  11. Chris says:

    Here is the setup I have: http://e93fanatic.blogspot.com/2007/11/winter-in-michigan-is-not-high.html

    I’d recommend ASA JH3 rims and for the tires non-runflat Dunlop Winter Sport M3 XL.

  12. Horatiu B. says:

    Great suggestions! Any others? I keep reading about Blizzak and how great they are. They might be my choice in the end

  13. Tuesmq says:

    Tirerack now has the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA3, which is supposedly better than the PA2 I guess. I got those. For areas that see only very occasional snow, performance winter is a good option.

  14. Ezh says:


    This is a wheel I never recommend. On my M5 it is useless on show and ice.

  15. BMW sales says:

    I love the Blizzak, but I am also fond of Pirelli Sottozero I ran for 3 winters…great tire!

  16. Horatiu B. says:

    @BMW sales: Are the Pirelli performance winter tires or?

  17. Mathis says:

    @ Horatiu

    I believe the Sottozero are performance winter tires. They are great!

  18. bmw4life says:

    I’ve owned Sottozero in the past and now have PA3 on my car. I found both tires to be great winter performance tires. However i still like Sottozero better. I found they have better handling capabilities on highway

  19. Jeff says:

    I’ve used the sottos and the blizzaks (both ws-60s on my 7 and the new dm-z3 this winter on my x5). the blizzaks arent as great with the dry, but are incomparable when it starts snowing. my traction control doesn’t even turn on. so if u want safe and surefootedness, get the blizzaks. amazing snow tires.

  20. Horatiu B. says:

    @Jeff: Thanks Jeff. I figured that would be my best bet. Funny, I never used Tire Rack but I will get in touch with them, maybe we can get some discounts for our readers.

    What size wheels are you using?

  21. Eki says:

    I have Dunlop Winter Sport M3 and it’s very good winter tire.

  22. Gelu Lapusneanu says:

    I drove my audi car with Michelin pa2 but this winter i switch with pirelli sottozero serie ll…..and the diference is enormous.Pirelli is very good and those tyres is the cherry on the cake.Very good traction on snow and also very good at limit stops.As a negative point i mention the noise on the dry roads and sometimes the comfort..but the last one i am not so sure,maybe the car on snow hills.

  23. Edythe mortelliti says:

    I just put the new BLIZZAKS WS70’S on my 5 series and these snow tires rock!! Came highly recommended by a few friends, and I have the i model which is rear wheel drive and the car went through the snow easily, no slliding, braking was a breeze, I just love,love, love these tires!

  24. Dave says:

    what about the pirelli sotozero tires? I’m thinking of getting these for my 135i.

  25. steamboat x1 says:

    i’m about to take delivery of a 2014 x1 and would like some recommendations for snow tires/wheels. i live in steamboat springs, colorado where excellent snow tires are required: i’ve run blizzaks for years and love them, however…never had a vehicle with run flats and i’m not sure blizzak sells a run flat. and from what i’ve been able to find thus far in my research, the only run flat winter tires out there are in the performance category which sacrifices traction on snow and ice for better performance on dry pavement. we receive well over 200 inches of snow every winter so i’m driving on snow-packed roads from november through mid march. any suggestions?

  26. Tye W says:

    Here is some additional insight on the types of winter tires. At tire-price.com we’re dedicated to empowering shoppers with information. What is the Difference Between Snow Tires Severe Snow Rated Tires and Winter Tires

  27. Tye W says:

    Here is some additional insight on the types of winter tires. At tire-price.com we’re dedicated to empowering shoppers with information. What is the Difference Between Snow Tires Severe Snow Rated Tires and Winter Tires

  28. Adi says:

    From my experience Dunlop Sp Wintersport M3 are best on any car not just rear wheel drive. I do recommend Nokian, Vredestein and Pirelli. Usualy i follow this guys … http://www.tyrereviews.co.uk/Article/2013-Auto-Bild-Sports-Winter-Tyre-Test.htm

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