Over the past 24 hours of some intense winter travel, our Bridgestone Blizzak equipped JCW Clubman has been completely unstoppable. There are few things more impressive than a fresh set of snow tires tracking through a fresh layer of snow. Add in all wheel drive, a low center of gravity and high-level of performance and you the makings of an excellent winter vehicle.
Unfortunately our Bridgestone Blizzak tires came a few weeks late this year and we had to soldier through the first part of December on the JCW’s factory summer tires. In light snow the summers proved to be adequate thanks to the quick responding all wheel drive system standard on the JCW. But things quickly became less than ideal with anything more than a dusting of snow. Standing starts and even driving up moderate hills exposed the inherent traction problems with a tire compound not designed for temperatures under 40F.
Enter the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80. Making use of Bridgestone’s adaptive NanoPro-Tech Multicell compound, the tire features a hydrophilic coating and microscopic bite particles that are meant to absorb water. This combination allows the Multicell compound to remain flexible and maintain grip in temperatures well below-freezing. We can’t speak to below zero temps (yet) but with highs hovering around 10F lately the WS80s have been in their element.
The so called NanoPro-Tech Multicell compound and the hydrophilic coating is intended to wick water off the road to combat slipping on packed snow and ice while the bite particles act as tiny studs that deliver grip and improve braking on glare ice. Marketing terms aside the grip is surprising – even shocking at times while traveling over deep snow. The braking performance in particular is impressive. Over several aggressive brake tests (from 40 – 0) the ABS only came on once and then only very briefly. Grip on snow covered highways was also impressive with great side to side stability while moving across various levels of snow.
The latter is partly due to the directional tread design which has 20% more block edges than the previous WS70. Where circumferential and lateral grooves help channel water, slush and snow away from the contact area, 3-D Zig-Zag Sipes increase the number of snow biting edges which literally seemed to bite through the snow.
The result is a combination that feels almost invincible in even virgin snow up to a foot deep.
The JCW’s all wheel drive system plays along nicely with near seamless torque transitions from front to back and side to side. The best part however is the fact that up to 80% of torque can be routed to the rear wheels giving the JCW Clubman the ability to quickly pivot from understeer to oversteer if provoked. Not a bad trick for empty snow-covered country roads.
We’ve said all year long that the JCW Clubman just might be the perfect all-around MINI. It has almost all the space a Countryman has with less weight and more performance. Now shod with Blizzaks you can now add nearly unstoppable winter performance to the list.
While the Blizzak WS80s have proven to be excellent there are several other winter tires out there that are worthy of consideration. Whatever you end up with, the key thing is that you’re equipped with the right tire for the conditions. In other words don’t drive summer tires in the winter and (if you live in a particularly snow area) invest in snow tires. They will give you incredible peace of mind and turn your MINI into formadible winter transportation.