Well, I finally broke down and bought myself a Christmas present - new true
winter tires for my Focus ZX5. Actually, they are on order and will take a
couple of days to get here. Last year, I made do with the stock all season
P6 but I noticed the traction control coming on all the time, especially
when trying to get moving from an intersection. The traction control
actually moderates the speed with the ABS brakes so it really wasn't any
faster, just easier to get moving. And on ice or light snow the Pirellis
were just plain tricky to handle with the occasional fishtailing. We only
had one heavy snowfall last year (300mm +) and a number of 50-75mm
snowfalls but getting stuck just once during that heavy snowfall was once
too many for my pride!
The tires I settled on were Michelin X-Ice studless in an oddball size
195/55-16. I could get the 205/50-16 size (same loading) but I figure the
slimmer tire will track through snow a tad bit easier and better still they
are about $13 CDN cheaper than the wider tire! The Michelin's are
supposedly better than the Blizzak's for snow and better in handling but
not quite as good on the ice. The Michelin's also are supposed to wear
easier and longer.
The oddball size is about 1.6% larger in circumference than the stock tires
but then again the stock tires are undersized/overspeed for the car.
(Driving 112 kph on the speedo = driving 110 in the real world according to
a radar.) So the new size will be just about perfect. The handling
shouldn't change all that much - but then again I won't be "throwing the
car" into corners like I do in the summer on dry pavement. A handy website
for determining size equivalent is:
The X-Ice is Q speed rated vs. the H rating of the existing Pirellis but
then again where I am (-30*C Canadian prairies) the tire won't be
generating enough heat to worry about even on long trips! More of my
winter driving is around town than highway.
I considered going to a premium All-Season tire like the BFG Traction T/A
or Yokohama AVID V4S for the same price but then what do I do with my
existing Pirellis which still have a decent amount of tread left (27000
km)? The BFG's would be better but not significantly better in the snow
like a true winter tire would be.
I also considered buying a set of 15" steel rims and downsizing with 195/60
series tires (slightly higher loading - 88 vs the 87) - still with the
Michelin X-Ice. That size of tire would be cheaper but then I have to buy
another set of rims so the cost would be offsetting and there would be a
greater difference in handling but still within the range of the Focus. The
third option would be to use even cheaper generic winter tires and add
studs to them but I figured that would be even noisier and some
jurisdictions don't permit them. They aren't designed for prolonged use at
highway speeds either.