Are Studded Snow Tires Actually Better? Ice Testing!
Studded vs Studless Snow Tires - Do You Really Need Studs For Grip?
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How Much Better Are Studded Winter Tires? Comparing studded vs studless winter tires on a Subaru WRX STI. Two completely stock STIs, with the exception of wheels and tires, will be put head to head to see the differences between studded and studless winter tires in braking, acceleration, and handling on a frozen lake.
Our studded tire is a Lappi Winter Tire, 225 millimeters wide, a 40% aspect ratio sidewall, and mounted on 18” method race wheels. This tire has 414 studs per tire, the studs have a full length of 12.5 millimeters, but the effective length is 4 millimeters, the distance that sticks out past the rubber of the tire. These are extremely aggressive studded tires, on a road car, the studs could protrude from the rubber less than half as much, and road tires might have between 130 to 250 studs per tire, rather than over 400. Having more, longer studs, means even better traction on ice.
Our studless tire is a Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 tires, in the exact same size 225/40R18 as the studded tire. I specifically chose these as they are one of today’s best performing studless tires. The WS90 is the successor to the WS80 tire, one of Tire Rack’s highest rated winter tires, so it should be able to perform even better. I’ve personally ran WS80 tires through many winters, and in my experience it has provided excellent traction, much like Continental’s Viking Contact 7, Michelin’s Ice-X, or Nokian options.
Ultimately, we’ve got a very good studded tire, versus a very good studless tire. The studless tire gets its grip from a clever compound that remains flexible in very cold conditions, has deep tread depth for capturing snow - you might be surprised to learn that snow on snow traction is actually pretty decent, so these treads hold snow to improve traction, and also through the use of sipes, the small slotted zig-zags in the tread block, which create an additional biting edge to help the tire find grip on slippery surfaces. The studded tire will use many similar principles, but add on top of it metal studs to punch into the ice and ideally, provide additional traction.
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