Snow tire advice - TCL hive knowledge requested
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    1. #1
      Member DerSpiegel's Avatar
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      Snow tire advice - TCL hive knowledge requested

      I'll be doing increased winter driving in the Sierras this year, and I'm looking at a dedicated winter/snow tire set for my Golf Sportwagen 4Motion. Currently I have fat 235/45/17 Pirelli Grand Touring tires on it, and I'm not getting within 10 country miles of anything frozen on those pillowy things. For dedicated winter/snows I'm probably looking at Blizzaks or Continental Vikings or something.

      The question is size. Standard on GSW 4Motions is 205/55/16s on 6.5 in. wide rims. I could naturally get that same size for the winter tires, as I still have the OEM rims. However, I'm wondering if I should do the old-schoolish thing of one size narrower with a taller sidewall - i.e. 195/60/16. Smaller contact patch but more bite in the soft stuff is the desire, and a little taller for a minute increase in ride height.

      What would TCL do? OEM size or optimize a bit for the inclement conditions?
      Last edited by DerSpiegel; 09-14-2020 at 01:07 PM.

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    3. #2
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      Quote Originally Posted by DerSpiegel View Post
      I'll be doing increased winter driving in the Sierras this year, and I'm looking at a dedicated winter/snow tire set for my Golf Sportwagen 4Motion. Currently I have fat 235/45/17 Pirelli Grand Touring tires on it, and I'm not getting within 10 country miles of anything frozen on those pillowy things. For dedicated winter/snows I'm probably looking at Blizzaks or Continental Vikings or something.

      The question is size. Standard on GSW 4Motions is 205/55/16s on 6.5 in. wide rims. I could naturally get that same size for the winter tires, as I still have the OEM rims. However, I'm wondering if I should do the old-schoolish thing of one size narrower with a taller sidewall - i.e. 195/60/16. Smaller contact patch but more bite in the soft stuff is the desire, and a little taller for a minute increase in ride height.

      What would TCL do? OEM size or optimize a bit for the inclement conditions?
      I've run 205/55/16 and 205/50/17 Blizzaks on Golf-platform vehicles for years, way back to WS50 at least. Should be plenty narrow, especially with the weight of the wagon body and the 4motion. Even on FWD, taken my GTIs through Adirondack blizzards no problem [carefully of course].

      205/55-16 WS90s on whatever cheap 16" wheel design you like from TireRack and you'll be grand.

    4. #3
      Member Tarik's Avatar
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      I went with 205/50R-17 Michelin X-Ice Xi3 SL (from original 225 on 18") for winter driving on my GTI. Motivation was keeping circumference the same. I have no experience for other winter tires (Beside old Blizzak Revo). Have been happy with Michlins in North East.
      Last edited by Tarik; 09-14-2020 at 01:19 PM.
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    5. #4
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      I think the whole thing about changing the size is a myth, or an imperceptible amount of difference. I run OE size 255 Hakka R2s on my 4Mo Tig and they are ****ing outstanding on pretty much everything. They bite so hard it's almost comical. I also ran the same exact set of tires on my Coyote (also used exact same OE 255/40/19 size) which was RWD and even with RWD - zero problems.

      I think it just gets parroted by people who have never done anything but run smaller tires. I have NOT run smaller tires and I've never felt like I could've had or needed more control; 100% control in all conditions. They also make like 285 snow tires or larger, if they didn't work, they wouldn't make them.

      I also don't see the point of taller sidewalls, for what, potholes? Pothole season starts in February here and lasts all summer before they are filled, so tall sidewall snows aren't going to provide some magical benefit for that either. Roads here are equally garbage all year for the most part.

      Other thing to think of, sizing down with respect to what? With respect to what the factory put as OE tires? Well, ok, so then if the factory puts 255s on my car and I run a 255 and get called out for not running a 245, it would be ok if VW decided to put a 265 on instead of a 255 and I sized down to 255? Ok. It's like sizing down for the sake of sizing down, not because that size down has any real logic or merit against the equally arbitrary factory size.
      Last edited by puma1552; 09-14-2020 at 01:20 PM.

    6. #5
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      IMO, unless the 195 is significantly cheaper, any perceived benefits will be negligible. Tire tech has come so far with compounds and tread design, that any small changes in size arent worth it. Stick with the OEM 205's for simplicity.

    7. #6
      Member DerSpiegel's Avatar
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      OK thanks for the replies folks, it clarifies my path. As far as the tire narrowing, that does go back to ye olde days when there really weren't dedicated snow tires and you had to make due with whatever off-road tires were available. Having a narrow width and tall sidewall helped with bite, and with the big diving, floaty suspensions of 70s-80s passenger cars you wanted to maintain ride height in snow drifts as much as possible.

      That shows you how far my winter tire knowledge is based. In all time since I've just ran all-seasons in snow and gotten around well enough. Not an option with the current big setup though.

      Will proceed happily with OEM 205/55/16 size.

    8. #7
      Senior Member Sporin's Avatar
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      I don't think the narrower thing is a "myth", but it is probably an imperceptible difference.

      Often times people do a minus rim size, or narrower wheel and tire, to get into a cheaper set overall, and that gets magnified the bigger your wheels are.

      I will for sure be doing my winter Civic Si set with a -1, 17" wheel, just like I did for my RAV4 (both run 18s stock). I prefer more sidewall year-round frankly, but especially in the winter and early spring when roads are at their worst in my area.

      As for brands, I bet I've run 6 or 7 different brands/models of snow tires over the years, and honestly, the differences are minor. Some are quieter/louder. Some are better in deep snow than others. But overall, the differences aren't majestic. I think I"m going to try out the Continental Vikings this winter myself.

    9. #8
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      Quote Originally Posted by Sporin View Post
      I don't think the narrower thing is a "myth", but it is probably an imperceptible difference.

      Often times people do a minus rim size, or narrower wheel and tire, to get into a cheaper set overall, and that gets magnified the bigger your wheels are.

      I will for sure be doing my winter Civic Si set with a -1, 17" wheel, just like I did for my RAV4 (both run 18s stock). I prefer more sidewall year-round frankly, but especially in the winter and early spring when roads are at their worst in my area.

      As for brands, I bet I've run 6 or 7 different brands/models of snow tires over the years, and honestly, the differences are minor. Some are quieter/louder. Some are better in deep snow than others. But overall, the differences aren't majestic. I think I"m going to try out the Continental Vikings this winter myself.
      Oh, another reason for a minus set is to minimize snow in the barrels. Same with big/many spoked wheels. Otherwise in accumulation you can end up with vibration as the snow build-up throws the wheel out of balance.

    10. #9
      Member Karl_1340's Avatar
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      I run the stock width tires(225/45/17s) on my RWD Cadillac and have no issues, and we do get a metric **** tonne of snow.

      You will be fine with 205-235s.

    11. #10
      Senior Member chucchinchilla's Avatar
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      Can't remember exact tire size but here's a pic of my A4 from 2009 when I was living in Pittsburgh (hopefully it works since it's on my old Photobucket account). Car came w/17" wheels and I bought a set of 16" wheels for $100 then mounted some Yokohama winter tires on there. Looking at the tires I might have gone slightly more narrow than the regular A4 Sport Package tires that were on there. I'd say the benefit of a smaller wheel was not having to worry about potholes, as for width I'd say go slightly more narrow but don't over think it. Remember you still have to drive on dry asphalt/rain with those tires as well.

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    12. #11
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      I loved the Conti viking 7's on my rav4 so much, I sold the Xi3's on my Prius Prime and switched to Contis as well.

      225/45/17 mounted on 17x7.

      They seem to wear about as well as the Michelins but they grip much better in all weather conditions, are quieter than the already very quiet Xi3, and the handling is firmer.

      Last edited by Dubveiser; 09-14-2020 at 08:45 PM.

    13. #12
      Member DerSpiegel's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Dubveiser View Post
      I loved the Conti viking 7's on my rav4 so much, I sold the Xi3's on my Prius Prime and switched to Contis as well.

      225/45/17 mounted on 17x7.

      They seem to wear about as well as the Michelins but they grip much better in all weather conditions, are quieter than the already very quiet Xi3, and the handling is firmer.

      Excellent endorsement, thanks for that. Was leaning towards the Contis.

    14. #13
      Senior Member Cousin Eddie's Avatar
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      205's work well for winter tires on most cars, depends on the car's weight really.

      A heavier mid-size sedan can run a slightly wider winter tire. If you have a smaller lighter car, a narrower tire will help.

      Will you notice the difference between a 205 and a 225? Probably not. Will you notice the different between a 205 winter tire and a 285 winter tire? In my experience, yes.

      My vote goes to Nokian Hakka R's. Have had several sets on several cars and all have performed and worn well.
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    15. #14
      Member Jimmy Russells's Avatar
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      Does 195/60R16 even exist? 205/55 is about the most common tire size in the world though (or at least it was 6-8 years ago) so you will have a lot more choices in that size

    16. #15
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      Quote Originally Posted by DerSpiegel View Post
      Excellent endorsement, thanks for that. Was leaning towards the Contis.
      Consider the General Altimax Arctics instead. They come with 2/32 more tread depth than the Vikings, have a better tread pattern, are cheaper, and General/Conti is the same company. I'm a mechanic at a tire shop so I've seen both tires in person and the General is IMO the better choice. I have them on my MK4 wagon and never once did I spin the tires and that thing doesn't even have traction control. One thing to note is the Generals are directional while the Contis are asymmetrical. I know some people are very strict about cross rotating tires and you can't do that with the Generals obviously.

    17. #16
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      without getting too over the top about it, I'd just do OEM size unless you're talking about a sports model with super wide tires. it's what the rest of the chassis is designed for anyway and your speedometer won't change.

      For dedicated snows (forever ago) I had General Altimax Arctics and I found them to be very good.
      "If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you're no longer a racing driver."

    18. #17
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      I went with a narrower and taller tire than stock on my 86 and am happy about it, but my car is a lot lighter and lower than a GSW. 205/50 vs 215/45 on a 17x7 in the Conti vikingcontact 7 was great in the little driving that I did last winter. I'm not sure whether they're better than the Xi3's on my wife's car, but my neighborhood is full of 10% grades and I purposely drove around in the snow for fun with no issues. I would buy them again for sure.

      The GSW should be fine on a 195 or 205, get whichever is available/cheaper in the tire you want IMO. Check the load ratings too.

      Last edited by troyguitar; 09-14-2020 at 09:12 PM.

    19. #18
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      Quote Originally Posted by mooseinabox View Post
      Consider the General Altimax Arctics instead. They come with 2/32 more tread depth than the Vikings, have a better tread pattern, are cheaper, and General/Conti is the same company. I'm a mechanic at a tire shop so I've seen both tires in person and the General is IMO the better choice. I have them on my MK4 wagon and never once did I spin the tires and that thing doesn't even have traction control. One thing to note is the Generals are directional while the Contis are asymmetrical. I know some people are very strict about cross rotating tires and you can't do that with the Generals obviously.
      The Altimax artic 12 (nordfrost 100) was a horrible tire and the original Altimax artic (the nordfrost 3) is a billion years old now.

      Don't get me wrong, the original Altimax arctics were exceptional tires back in the day and I sold a ton of them in the late 00's. While they're still pretty decent on snow and ice, they show their age when it comes to on-road performance. Modern tires like the viking 7 will not only outperform the generals in winter conditions, but the biggest difference, they are so much more refined on bare pavement. They track nicely, they are quiet, stable, the tread blocks are interlocked and the sipes as well, so there's actual steering response, and there's less tread depth but they last just as long and there's more consistent performance throughout the tread life. They don't feel like marshmallows like winter tires from 3-4 generations ago.

      Basically I totally disagree with you.

      Ps, after 4300 miles, the viking contact 7's on my rav4 hybrid are at 9/32(front) and 10/32(rear). New they're at 10/32. At that rate I should get 35000 miles out of them before they're down to 6/32. I doubt you'll be able to get anywhere near that many miles out of generals.
      Last edited by Dubveiser; 09-14-2020 at 09:37 PM.

    20. #19
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      As for the wide vs narrow debate, Conti actually endorses wide tires for winter.

      https://www.continental-tires.com/ca...ics/wide-tires

      Personally I hate going narrow for winter. Sure it's marginally better 4-5 days per year when there's deep/heavy snow, but most of the time, in light snow, glare ice, bare pavement and wet roads, wide tires are way, way better.

      I'd rather slow down 5 days per year, not 6 months per year.

    21. #20
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      Quote Originally Posted by Sporin View Post
      I don't think the narrower thing is a "myth", but it is probably an imperceptible difference.
      Probably. On my first Mazda3 ('10 sedan) I put 205/55-16 (stock size) Continental winters on it. It sucked in the snow, so bad in fact that when I took my dad to take delivery of his A6 Avant during the October '11 snowstorm, my car got stuck trying to make it up the hill, and his Audi on not-new low profile all-seasons (car had 50k miles on it) made it just fine. The Mazda is just too light and the traction control just drops down the hammer on any sort of wheelspin. Turning TC off just blazes the one tire that doesn't have traction.

      On the second Mazda3 ('13 hatchback) I did the -1 thing and put 195/65-15's on with Altimax Arctics. The car still sucked in the snow on any sort of incline. Again same thing, Mazda's traction control was terrible, and the snows, even with their narrower contact patch, did little to pull it through.

      A note about the Continentals - I first thought it was the tires that made the Mazda horrible in the snow. But then I put these babies on my Jetta Sportwagen that had the 2.5 lump up front and VW's traction control, which is arguably superior because it allows a certain degree of wheelspin, but then actually brakes the spinning wheel to transfer enough traction over to the other side. Launching it in the snow was basically having launch control because you could mat it and the car would pull itself out. That car restored my faith in those tires, which went on to serve that car and another VW through to the end of their life (something like 7 years)

      Tl;dr, it's all about the chassis, and while snow tires can make up considerable ground versus the wrong kind of all-season* in the end, it's dependent on a multitude of factors.

      *Case in point, our current '08 Outback came with a set of older Michelin snows that were about near the end of their life, and I got one more season out of them. They too are -1 configuration. Coincidentally, the OEM 17" wheels had worn tires, so instead of replacing both sets, I got a set of Firestone Weathergrips, which are heavily-siped all season tires. Very aggressive tread for an all-season. Lets see how they get the car through the snow - between the combination of Subaru's AWD system (I have more confidence in it than most reactive FWD-based AWD systems) and the rear LSD it should do fine. A fresh set of snows might have been incrementally better, but I'd have paid twice the price for the second set.

    22. #21
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      Go with 205/55r16 winter tires and make finding tires easy.

      Also, you're going to need to carry snow chains, in case of Caltrans R3 conditions, where chains are mandatory regardless.

      Make sure you practice installing them before heading to CA snow country

      Peerless Auto-trac snow chain practise fitting by thisistan, on Flickr
      Last edited by BsickPassat; 09-15-2020 at 12:28 AM.
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    23. #22
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      I bought Nokian Hakkapelitta R3s for my MKVI Golf R before last season. These replaced Nokian WRG3s. R3s are probably overkill for general winter suburban driving. That said, our driveway in NH is kind of like climbing the Matterhorn.......very steep, over 1,000 feet long and dirt. The WRGs got me stuck only once over the first 2 winters of owning this house....and stuck meaning couldn't get up the hill....was still able to extricate myself reversing downhill (and then of course walking up the Matterhorn in the dark). The R3s were a noticeable step up in grip in snowy conditions last winter on the Matterhorn

      225/45/R17
      Last edited by Lujess; 09-15-2020 at 07:38 AM.
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    24. #23
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      Stepping down below 205 is going to eliminate any semblance of good driving experience that remains after swapping to winter tires.

      I would like to state for the record that I regret buying Blizzaks for my GTI. I sized down to 205/55/16 WS80s and hate them. They're exceptional at nothing and they are so unenjoyable to drive on. Which means they will probably be GREAT for your intended purpose of mountain driving, but I would definitely take into consideration just how much you will actually plan to be driving in those areas
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    25. #24
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      Blizzaks all day. I run a set of 245/60/18s on our Highlander and they're great. I like the more horizontal tread pattern as compared to the Conti. They have a better initial bite, and as an old rally driver I knew always told me, tread blocks perpendicular to the direction of travel are your friend on snow and ice. The Blizzak is kind of the benchmark winter tire in my opinion. I've had a bunch of different winter tires and I've been converted fully to the Bridgestones.


      vs.

    26. #25
      Member D_B_Jetta's Avatar
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      We run Dunlop WinterMaxx in 225/45-17 on the wifes GSW 4Mo.
      They are mounted on Audi 17x8 wheels.
      We have no complaints, however we do not live or drive in the mountains.

      My advice; If you have the stock rims, use the stock size.


      G

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