Grippy When Wet

Innovative winter tires cost less than a body cast

by Nigel Cox; Jason Lee

Nigel Cox; Jason Lee

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Jack of all trades, master of none is not the trait you want in a tire. All-season models are at their worst in the cold: The rubber contracts, becoming hard and smooth, which decreases traction on snowy and icy roads. Good winter tires, however, are engineered to remain more pliable as the mercury drops, and they're incised with sipes--cuts in the tread--that improve grip. As the tire presses against the ground, the slight flattening causes the sipes to shift like escalator stairs, exposing hundreds of biting edges. They keep a tight grip, so you don't have to. If you come from the land of the ice and snow, consider these tires, the three best of the season.

1. The Greenwall: Nokian Hakkapeliitta RSi
To make the Hakkapeliitta RSi environmentally friendly, Finnish tire mogul Nokian experimented with alternatives to the petroleum-based oils in traditional rubber compounds. Turns out that canola oil mixed with silica is a better brew--it improves grip on icy, wet roads and pliability in the cold and, as a bonus, decreases rolling resistance. $75â€$245