Specs & Details: Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT
Tread depth: 12/32nds
- Specialized ice tread compound offers enhanced traction on ice and snow-covered roads
- Two-dimensional blades in the center zone offer enhanced stopping and starting power on snow and ice
- 3D TredLock® technology blades in the shoulder zone offer enhanced wet and winter traction, locking together for confident grip in turns
- Directional tread pattern helps channel water and slush away from the tire for enhanced winter traction and handling
Test Mule: Project RX-8 (2005 Mazda RX-8 Sport)
Test Driver: David Pratte
Test Track: public roads and highways
Test Conditions: wet, slush, snow, ice and subzero temperatures
If you live in the Great Lakes region or along the northeastern seaboard, you've had to endure a couple of monster snow storms this winter that have closed schools, public transit and just about everything else. "Snow days" like this can be good fun if you approach them with the right attitude, and the right set of tires.
During the latest Snowmageddon to hit the northeast this year, my Facebook News Feed was lit up by smug Subaru owners sharing stories of how they owned the roads thanks to the magic of all-wheel drive. Sure, AWD provides added grip when traction is limited, but it doesn't matter how many wheels your car sends power to if the one part that makes contact with the road - its tires - are poorly suited to the conditions.
Oh, and when you're braking on slick, snowy or icy roads (you know, to avoid sliding into the back of a bus), AWD isn't going to save you, your tires are.
Case in point is our '05 Mazda RX-8, a rear-wheel drive machine with no traction control or stability control systems to speak of (it's the Sport model, which does away with these luxury items in the name of pure performance). It's also lowered on Moton dampers and seriously stiff race springs, which is the opposite of what you want in cold and slippery conditions.
A lot people would, therefore, assume our Mazda is a death trap in the winter, especially during a big snowstorm or on icy roads. So what better vehicle to evaluate Goodyear's Ultra Grip Ice WRT tires on - if they keep our track-prepped RX-8 out of the ditch, then you can be doubly certain they'll do the same for your car.
If you haven't experienced the grip level a top quality winter tire generates, you're going to find this hard to believe, but the RX-8 has been absolutely unstoppable on wet, slushy, snow-covered, and even icy roads, thanks to its Ultra Grip Ice WRT. I live in a very hilly neighborhood, and more than a few of my neighbors were stuck at home during the last big dump of snow because their AWD SUVs are equipped with all-season tires. Meanwhile, I was out doing my best Mr. Plow imitation in the RX-8, when I was able to control my enthusiasm and resist drifting it like a Formula D wannabe.
That's really the beauty of Goodyear's very impressive Ultra Grip Ice WRTs - driven at speeds and in a style suitable to the road conditions, the RX-8 could stop shorter, accelerate faster, and corner more confidently than I would have imagined possible in a Subaru let alone a lowered and stiffly sprung sports car. And when I was lucky enough to find myself on a quiet country road or an empty parking lot, I could hang the tail end out with amazing precision, because the breakaway characteristics of these snow-conquering Goodyears is very progressive and predictable, making controlled drifts an absolute cakewalk. I was also extremely impressed by how well the Ultra Grip Ice WRT evacuated water, slush and snow. Not once did I experience anything resembling hydroplaning, and unlike most winter tires, which tend to howl like a pack of hungry wolves when you're cruising on a dry highway, these Goodyears produced remarkably little road noise.
Most winter tires also have very soft sidewalls, which means you lose quite a bit of steering feel, but again the Ultra Grip WRT impressed with surprisingly good turn-in response. Of course they don't feel as responsive as a low profile summer tire, but for a winter tire with more sidewall height and tread depth than I'm accustomed to, their overall dry performance really took very little fun out of the driving experience.
All in all, Goodyear's Ultra Grip Ice WRT have proven their worth in every conceivable winter driving scenario, giving our e-nanny-less rear-wheel drive RX-8 the kind of grip required to allow it to be a true year-round vehicle. Sure, we got a few disapproving glares from silver-haired motorists in Buicks when we blew past them on a snow-covered road, but that's half the fun of equipping your ride with a world-class set of winter tire like these.