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2014 Forester Touring xt cvt
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It is that time of year in Wyoming and I am getting ready to put snow tires on my 2.0xt forester. Called the dealer and no real suggestions from Subaru. So back to what has worked. Looking at Bridgestone WS70 Blizzaks. Either original equipment size, 225/55/18 or maybe 215/55/18. Tire rack suggests you go with a narrower tread.
Any suggestions on brand and the size issue would be welcomed. Not a lot of choice in either of these sizes and I do plan to use my current rims.
 

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'19 Forester LTD CVT
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Looks at the General Tire Altimax Artics. Way cheaper and almost ranked better (according to Tire Rack) than Blizzaks!
 

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2016 Outback and WRX CVT
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^ Tires of two different sub-genres best suited to two different sets of tasks.

Although the Tire Rack surveys are a resource I do use in my shopping, I use it very, very selectively. I've written about my reasons for this in the past:

Finally, a word on consumer level "surveys" and the like. Yes, they're of-value, but take a closer look. Look at the entries for the Michelin X-Ice Xi2. This tire was a top-ranked tire, at times, over the course of the last cycle (as, currently, it's all about the Xi3 ). Most people rank it very highly, right? Now start looking at the dates of the written reviews by these same consumers. Start rolling back the date, towards 2008, when the tires first came to-market. What do you notice? Strange, right? that the consumers who wrote about the tires then seem to be split between those who rave about the tire and just as much who rant that the Xi2s were "the worst tires they've ever had," right? Now fast-forward a little, one winter's worth, when the various known testing authorities have tested the then-new Xi2 and have put out their findings: that this tire was now the tire to beat in that category. What do you notice, now? That magically, virtually *ALL* the reviews are positive, no? Why did this phenomenon occur? it's because you can't tell what the experiences of the masses happens to be: how do you know that the results you're relying on are true? how many sets of winter tires has that person had experience with? how experienced winter drivers are they? etc. and so on. Yes, such a survey is a good resource - but use it for what it is.
To me, the the Altimax Arctics are not in the same performance category (in that it is a "studdable winter") as any of the Bridgestone Blizzak line tires ("Studless Ice & Snow" and "Performance Winter" categories) available here in North America, and thus should not be cross-compared. The Altimax Arctics are a good winter tire choice in their own right, and offer extremely good performance-for-the-buck, but this is a comparison that would raise more questions than supply answers, and the end result would depend more on the usage the tire sees rather than its own performance merits or shortcomings.


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Between 215 and 225, you're not going to really be able to tell that much difference in terms of performance when it comes to being in the wintry stuff. As a Tire Rack representative once expressed on NASIOC, unless your last name is Andretti, Schumacher or Rahal, it's an academic difference you're not likely going to feel. A "two-width" jump, going from 225 to 205, for example, is something that most drivers can feel, however. But as for the 225 -vs- 215 debate? simply being at non-optimal tire pressures will have you off just as much - if not more - so it's really not worth worrying that much about.

As I've written before, "too skinny" does have its limits - remember that while we are talking about winter tires, we are still talking about tires that are being driven in the real world: that roadway may not always be buried under 16 inches of fresh powder that's sitting on top of hardpack - clear and dry roadways are a consideration that's very real in most cities, and for most drivers, the winter set must also bridge into the warmer transitional seasons. How many enthusiasts in this community - or any other - do you know of that runs or have run three sets of tires: one for the warmer months, one for the transitional seasons, and another for the deep winter months?. Not all conditions can be met with the ice-racing/rally ideal of specified "thin," spiked tire.

However, why the same aspect-ratio? you're losing about 2-tenths of an inch on the sidewall...there's a bit of play with the speedo - not that bad - but you'll lose that bit in ground clearance, too, and while the Forester isn't hurting in that respect, it's still a "?"

The WS70 is really putting up some impressive performance this year, and definitely would be in my list of contenders if I were shopping for "Studless Ice & Snow" tires for this season.

Your mileage needs to come into the equation, though, when talking about the Bridgestone "Studless Ice & Snow" tires, as their proprietary ultra-traction-in-the-wintry-stuff outer layer only goes down to about half tread-depth. If you're a high-mileage user, this may prove to be less than idea, as by the mid-way point, you'd be suffering the double-whammy of losing both tread depth as well as that wonder-compound.

That all said, what's more/most important is how you plan to use your tires. That's what will lead you through the very first decision that you must make: what sub-genre of "winter tire" (it's no longer called "snow tires," as there are sub-genre tires that perform better/best under specific conditions). Ice as well as roadway use legality comprise the first big split point in the decision tree, and will govern whether you want studded winter tires or "Studless Ice & Snow" tires. From there, you need to rank what your desires and needs are -

Do you need traction through deep powder because you live in a more remote area? Or do you value more a tire's resistance to "slush planing" because your roadways are almost always treated, but not necessarily plowed in a timely manner? Or do you desire better resistance to hydroplaning because your winter is just as wet as it is cold, or your area is both well-plowed and well-treated...but that snow just sits off to the side of the road and make rather large puddles that doesn't go away for days because the storm drain is frozen over by those same piles? Or do you need better clear-roads performance, because most of the time, your winters are just dry and cold?

Winter tires, in their current form, are always a compromise - there's no one magical do-it-all, no matter what less-well-executed testing/comparisons, or marketing, would have you believe. :wink: Look at some of our more recent threads : http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f72/winter-tire-recomendation-2-5x-touring-209290/ , http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f72/best-tires-rain-some-snow-220210/ , http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f72/winter-tires-extreme-cold-225802/ , http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f72/moving-alaska-snow-tire-227762/ . :smile:
 

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2014 Forester Touring xt cvt
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks Loscal and TSi. I guess like many my driving covers the waterfront. Mostly dry roads, then plowed snow and some ice in town at the stop signs, and a few times of deep snow getting out of our house which is in the country. The big issue for me is the drive from Lander WY to Denver or Steamboat Springs CO on I-80 and/or long stretches of narrow two lanes with the same but not so many trucks. Either of those drives can be fine or a real challenge in the winter because it can change very quickly and then you are facing the 18 wheelers, slush, ice, snow pack, blowing snow, etc. That is where I am most concerned with traction. So I guess I plan for the 15% time but the most critical time for me. We can make anywhere from 3 to 6 trips down that way in the winter to see family and grand kids.
I did look at the other forum posts you suggested Tsi and it looks like the answer is about the same. Guess I am looking for the best compromise but with the focus on snow, ice and slush.
thanks again for your time and input.
 

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Not a problem at all. :smile:

If ice and hardpack is the real worry and your temperatures don't dip too far south of freezing, studded tires really are your best bet. However, road-legality (don't forget that it's both where you live as well as where you plan to go!) and NOISE issues will really need to be considered in a "sit down and think about it" kind of way, before you commit.

A good snow-moving tread pattern - like the Altimax Arctic's - will help tremendously in deep-pile conditions, but without studs, "old-technology" tires like these will give up a lot of hardpack and ice traction compared to their newer "Studless Ice & Snow" competitors, mainly as they are not able to evacuate water film from the ice surface nearly as well.

There are some "Performance Winter" tires that are good in the slush, such as the Bridgestone Blizzak LM32 or the Dunlop WinterSport 4D, but those tend to not do as well when faced with deep powder, or on slipperier hardpack or ice. That said, their clear roadway manners are nearly impeccable, and most feel that they are comparable to a set of good high-performance all-seasons, when it comes to those traits.

To balance that side of the equation, you've mentioned that it's the worst 15% of the time that worries you most. If you can't or do not want to go the route of studs, then the compromise that best covers your risk under such conditions would most likely be the "Studless Ice & Snows." Based on the most recent overseas tests, it looks like the Michelin X-Ice Xi3, Nokian Hakkapeliita R2 or the Bridgestone Blizzak WS70s would be your true top contenders, but even then, there's some hairs to be split. On clear roads, the Xi3 will likely give you the best handling traits, but that tire will give up some traction in slush, snow, and on ice, as compared to either the R2 or WS70. If it's the worst that you worry about, though, obviously the latter two would be the strongest choices - and given your mileage, I'd likely side with the R2.

Once you lock yourself into a sub-genre, the decision becomes somewhat easier, as it's between the sub-genres that performance characteristics really jump the most. Once inside a specific sub-genre, if you pick from any of the top third of the ranked tires, you're going to have pretty much similar real-world performances - look at the quantified raw data, and you'll see that it's often a split of only a few yards/meters (look at this year's Finnish Test World results, for-example), and that the actual conditions at the time of the testing can contribute to such variability.
 

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I'd say it depends on budget too. Of all the snow tires I have ever run (maybe like 5 different kinds among 5 different brands) I certainly liked my Michelin Xi2's the most. They were in a 195/55/16 size on my Forester. I now run an outdated Yokohama Ice Guard 215/45/17 size.

Now living in Durango and anticipating a heavy winter, I sure wish I was back on my Michelins, the new Xi3's to be exact. I would just as readily jump on a set of WS60's, WS70's, nearly any Hakkapeliitta (these are like the gold standard of snow tires), or the Continental extreme winter contact. It's really tough to go wrong in the category of "studless ice and snow". I had some "performance" winter hankook ice bears that were terrifying in the snow, but held their own really nicely on dry conditions. But let's be real, I have two sets of wheels and tires for this exact reason- I'm not looking for a "best of both worlds" candidate or I would be running Continental DWS. Duh.

If budget isn't really an issue, set yourself up with the 215 width Xi3's WS70's, or the Hakka's. If it is, certainly look at the Generals. But consider your driving habits and conditions and whether a couple hundred bucks now would be worth saving or wrecking your new Forester this winter.
 

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I'd say it depends on budget too.
Definitely. Hey, after all, most of us exist in the real world! There's not too many who can just go and spend without a second thought!

Now, that said -

Odd sizing and closeouts need to be carefully reviewed.

A great deal now may mean that the tire becomes difficult to source as replacement.

Similarly, a little whole-in-the-wall tire-shop may not have a tire that's of recent manufacture. No, I'm not that worried about tire-rot, and there's been absolutely no evidence that a winter tire loses its performance edge simply from storage. :icon_razz: Rather, if you're going to spend big bucks for a top-ranked tire, remember that each season, these tires are often reformulated and re-compounded in an effort to gain an edge over their competitors. If you're looking at a tire with a birth-date that's two season's ago, you'll need to find that season's test results to cross-verify. [ Note: Again, this is more for bragging rights than anything else - virtually any of the top-tier finishers will perform exceptionally well, as the quantitative raw data typically shows only meters/yards separating the top finishers, which can be attributed to a host of variables. ]


Now living in Durango and anticipating a heavy winter, I sure wish I was back on my Michelins, the new Xi3's to be exact. I would just as readily jump on a set of WS60's, WS70's, nearly any Hakkapeliitta (these are like the gold standard of snow tires), or the Continental extreme winter contact. It's really tough to go wrong in the category of "studless ice and snow".
Yup, they're essentially all top-tier finishers.

The good thing about the "Studless Ice & Snow" market in the US is also the bad thing - our choices are really limited, as compared to the rest of the winter-weather experiencing world.

But let's be real, I have two sets of wheels and tires for this exact reason- I'm not looking for a "best of both worlds" candidate or I would be running Continental DWS. Duh.
Or just run three sets of tires/rims. :icon_razz:

...But consider your driving habits and conditions and whether a couple hundred bucks now would be worth saving or wrecking your new Forester this winter.
^ This is a much harder analysis than it looks on the surface.

Why?

Because tires are a compromise.

In thinking in such an absolute manner - that winter tires somehow translate to an amulet of protection for the winter months - the danger is that the logic of having the winter tires so that we increase our safety envelope fails when we examine how the those same tires perform under milder conditions.

Given that the vast majority of us do not run any more than two sets of tires for any given roadgoing everyday-driven vehicle, the danger in this thinking becomes quite apparent - how do those winter tires perform when there's simply rain on the road? or when the roads are clear and dry?

The answer?

Typically, even the most clear-roads capable "winter tire" pales in performance when compared to simply "high-performance all-season" tires, under such conditions. How badly? Look at the 2009 Car & Driver comparison of four cross-genre/sub-genre Michelin tires: 2009 Winter Tire Test - Comparison Tests

Ostensibly, if what we're looking for is "safety," we need to first define the sector of our driving habits for which that enlarged envelope is most desired or necessary.

For some, that may be driving in wintry conditions - and they will then need to adjust their driving in more mild or clear conditions in order to comply with the performance/safety compromises they have made in such conditions by selecting a more winter-prepared tire.

For others, that same compromise may have them on tires that are not so great in wintry conditions: but they'll have a larger safety envelope during the (for them) majority of time when they're not in such conditions.

Neither is definitively right or wrong - but one or the other will certainly suit each of us as unique drivers, better.

It's a compromise.
 

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^ ROFL. You obviously have not spoken with my wife. She'll tell you that I don't know jack!!!! :lol:
 

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^ Because we can't live without them (and can't live with them, either, of-course!). :wink:

I believe that spans all cultures. :lol:
 

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2014 2.0XT Limited CVT
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I'm getting 17 inch steel rims and Toyo Observe GSi-5's in a 225/60R17 for my '14XT. The GSi-5 is specifically designed for Canadian winters and has been receiving excellent reviews. I might throw on a cheap set of wheel covers to pretty it up a bit. I prefer this approach to riding through the winter on my original rims. Their styling looks conducive to collecting snow and ice and throwing off the tire balance.
 

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Are steel rims + hubcaps+ 16 inch snow tires less expensive than 18 inch odd size snow tires for an even comparison?
 

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I'm getting 17 inch steel rims and Toyo Observe GSi-5's in a 225/60R17 for my '14XT. The GSi-5 is specifically designed for Canadian winters and has been receiving excellent reviews. I might throw on a cheap set of wheel covers to pretty it up a bit. I prefer this approach to riding through the winter on my original rims. Their styling looks conducive to collecting snow and ice and throwing off the tire balance.
Have you had the GSI 5's before? This is what one of the local tire shops suggested.
225/60/17, studless, TPMS, mount and balance comes to $964 here in Washinginton state out the door.
 

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Are steel rims + hubcaps+ 16 inch snow tires less expensive than 18 inch odd size snow tires for an even comparison?
Hard to say. A really odd sizing might be something that an independent vendor could be really pushing to get rid of.

That said, you'll also want to look into your side of things, too. Before tire-wear takes too much from the equation, what if you had to replace just one tire? will you be able to source that odd size, or would that in and of itself necessitate an all-four change? :wink:
 

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Never tried the GSi-5 before but a couple of customers in the store gave me very positive feedback. So did the reviewers at Toyo Observe GSi-5 Tire Reviews (33 Reviews). Steel rims and GSi-5's mounted and balanced will cost me $1303. That includes 13% HST and environmental fees. This may cost a bit more than simply replacing the 18 inch tires on my existing rims however I avoid the wear and tear and corrosion of winter driving and salt on my expensive 18 inch rims. I did this on my Outback too and the original 13yr old gold rims still look great. It also makes it easier to do the tire change myself should I get snowed in before having the chance to make it to a garage for the seasonal change.
 

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Forester 2014 XT with Eyesight - Subaru recommends 18" rims for winter tires

I talked to a Subaru dealer and he said 2014 XT with eyesight need to stay with 18" rims for winter tires. Said that eyesight might have issues if you went to a small rim. Anyone else run into this? Problem is can't get steel rims that size (so he tells me) so would have to get aluminum and that's a higher price point - about $400 per wheel. Seems pricey.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thank you all for your input on the question of which snows to consider. I appreciate the time and the detail info provided. I have ended up with the Blizzak WS70's and went ahead and put them on my factory rims and stayed with the current tire size. Might not be the best rim choice but cost wise it was the one I chose.
I am pleased. Road noise is low, handling is ok in normal driving on dry roads and have already had need for snow traction and it has been fine.
So again thanks. If I find any significant differences or problems I will post.
 
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