It’s a fact. Most Americans think they can get by with all-season tires. Throw in all-wheel drive since roughly 85% of North American Audis come standard with quattro and the number of owners skipping out on seasonal rubber swaps is likely even higher than one might expect. The uneducated public may tell you it’s a gimmick where manufacturers make extra money by selling you snow tires but most driving aficionados know that’s simply not the case. Snow tires enhance a car’s controllability in the white stuff, regardless of which or how many wheels are doing the work.
We’ve been strong proponents of snow tires, but we aren’t immune to forgetting about the need or putting it off due to the busy nature of our daily routine. A quick dusting on the roads was all it took to remind us that no matter how capable our S5 and its venerable quattro system is, the car’s (any car’s, actually) Achilles heel is the point at which the car connects to the road. The S5 as it rolled was fun for playing drift king around local roads, but we would have been tentative to take the car much further than a few blocks, even in a light snow. Braking distances were seriously lengthened by the weak contact points, so even driving safe wouldn’t help in sudden-stop situations.
We made a quick call to Audi and they recommended a tire fitment appropriate for the S5’s weight and performance levels in the form of the new Dunlop Winter Sport 3D in standard 255/35R19 sizing. We were intrigued as the WS 3D is called a “performance winter” tire and to us, that’s one heck of a paradox.
The Winter Sport 3D represents the latest in snow tire tech from Dunlop. Its compound uses a new reactive silica mixing process that bestows the tire with high elasticity at low temperatures and thus improves grip in colder conditions. The tread is directional, meant to reduce the effects of hydroplaning and improve traction and adhesion through wetness or slush. And unlike many winter tires, the 3D is available in many large, aggressive sizes.
As soon as the tires arrived from Tire Rack, we quickly had them mounted and balanced to our factory 19-inch alloys. Of course, with the appropriate rubber prepped and ready it didn’t snow for weeks.
No matter, — the time on dry roads gave us a great appreciation for the non-snow capabilities of the Winter Sport 3Ds. Where previous winter tire applications we’ve used had coins chattering in the ashtray and rear vision occasionally blurred by a vibrating rear view mirror, the Dunlops were completely composed whether at downtown speeds or speeds beyond the highest posted limits in our region.
Next month we’re planning to drive to the Detroit Auto Show. Even if our East Coast offices in Pennsylvania and Virginia haven’t had much in the way of white stuff since we’ve installed the snow tires, you can guarantee an early January run through Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, the long flats of Ohio or the pothole slaloms of Michigan will bring forth some foul winter weather with which to really gauge the car’s abilities in the snow.
|For more discussion on this story, click on the link to our discussion forums to the left.|