Snow Tires and Chains

How do the OEM tires perform in cold weather?

[SA – 98/11/26] I’ve driven the stock Yokohamas on cold roads (air temp around 25F) and they are very slippery at first. After you drive them for a few miles they seem to pickup friction heat and drive fine.

[RKB – 98/11/26] I’ve always tried to drive my NSX on dry winter days… I notice a sharp falloff in tire performance at anything under 50F.

[FG – 98/11/26] The OEM tires seem to be quite linear in their operating performance relative to tire temperature. On the track when hot, they seem to grip better than normal driving. On the other hand, as the temperature falls, they tend to have a lower limit. What I have found is that even with the temps in the 40’s, the tires can be warmed up with about 10 mins of driving such that it is still quite good. However, under 40 degrees or so (not exact), it is difficult to generate enough heat in them to get them sticky enough for even normal driving (i.e. normal meaning being able to redline 1st and second gear without breaking loose higher up in the rev range).

That’s why for the northeast winters, I go with winter/snow tires – not for actually driving in the snow but for the good winter days where it is sunny and 20 degrees out. Also need a bra to prevent sandblasting the lower bumper fascia.

What Tires Have People Used For Winter Weather?

Pirelli 210P

[FG] I have Pirelli 210P snow tires on my 95T with 92 wheels and I get more traction then in my Prelude VTEC with all season XGTV4’s. Most all season tires do well in packed snow when it stays below freezing. Most snow tires do even better and will do well even in a bit of melted snow/slush but not great on ice. The new generation of "ice" tires with better compounds will actually do quite nicely on ice, though I have not found a suitable size in any brand for the NSX. The high performance OEM tires on the NSX are good down to maybe the mid-30’s on dry roads and can handle the wet quite well above the 40’s. The Bridgestone RE010’s are quite good in the rain compared to the Yokos.

[BC] If you want to drive any sports car in the winter get Pirelli 210P snow tires. They are very quiet, and they are the only snow tires with a speed rating of 130mph that actually give good snow and slush traction. Also, they retain their stickiness at subfreezing temperatures and will give better grip than high performance Z tires even on dry roads in the winter (a somewhat surprising discovery). The general winter scenario is snow packed or slushy backroads, but the highways dry out within a day of a storm, so there is no point being hobbled by slow tires like Blizzaks even if their grip is marginally better in the worst conditions.

If you have a 94+ NSX get a used set of 91 style wheels for it. The Pirellis come in the 91 stock sizes for all four wheels. Just putting snows on the rear isn’t adequate, you need grip for steering as well as thrust.

With cold, wet, weather forecasted, I put the stock 91 wheels back on with fresh 210s last weekend, stacking the forgelines with 225f 255r SP8000s in the garage. Scrubbing in the 210s in 40 degree weather I noticed they were pretty squirmy under hard acceleration and lane changing (don’t attempt to do both at the same time) – the squirm generally disappears when it is sub-freezing. Cornering felt squishy and uncrisp, but not disquietingly so. High speed stability and tire noise was equal to the SP8000s, in a straight line you can’t tell the difference.

Subsequent use of the tires in the intended environment (34 degrees – wet, 20 degrees – icy), showed the usual great traction and solidity which has kept me buying these tires for the last four years. Though even with 210 snow tires you shouldn’t drive an NSX in the following winter conditions:

       During an ice storm. Don't drive anything without AWD in an ice storm. 
  • During a snow storm. The wiper fluid reservoir is too small for long trips the car is too low to clear tire ruts and the big icy truck turds that sit in the road. you will end up stuck behind a sand truck listening to your paint chip away.
  • If the roads have "wash-boarding." The stiffness of the NSX transmits the vibrations all too well.
  • When the snow banks are higher than driver's eye level .You can't see what's coming when pulling out of side streets.
  • When you can't wash your car at least twice a week. Who can bear to see a salt encrusted NSX?

The point is to drive the NSX only when the hazards are no greater than summer driving and you can have fun doing it. I use the 210s to take tire temperature out of the equation and extend the driving season, not to intentionally drive in bad conditions, unless they arise unexpectedly.

[SB] Just returned from dinner where we went after visiting the tire store. Had 205/50-16 and 235/45-17 Pirelli Winter 210 Asimmetrico’s installed on spare OEM rims. Temperature was in the teens (F) and my initial impression was a MUCH quieter, better ride (high approval rating from Mrs. Bullet), with noticeable but very acceptable decrease in responsiveness and cornering.

Short of track use or very aggressive street driving (neither appropriate for winter), this will serve me very well in daily driving. And the extra sidewall will help on potholes. Only shortcoming is that they’re a bit narrow for the rims. Noticeable but not bad. When we left the restaurant, there was light snow falling such that the streets glistened and although I didn’t push hard they stuck.

[PM – 2000/1/22] Buy Pirelli’s in the oem 15/16 configuration……. the only thing wrong with the NSX in snow is the tires…… you have to remember that the OEM tires are performance tires and if for no other reason, the rubber compound does not work in cold ambient temperatures. Hey the NSX is no different then any other car regarding it’s ability to travel in the winter. I had the NSX out on thursday in the snow storm just to play and to stay keep in shape regarding car control …….. winter tires……….. passed a lot of stuff that should have thrived in the snow . thanks "PIRELLI WINTER 210 ASIMETRICO"

Bridgestone WT-05

[FG] Just went for an extended drive in the NSX-T with newly mounted Bridgestone WT-05 (215/45R16 in front, 255/40R17 in rear (245’s were backordered for a week and I could not wait). About 25 degrees outside and dry. (though some sand and leftover ice). Any comparisons with the Pirelli P210’s (OEM sizes on OEM 15 and 16 wheels) that I had on my 95 are from memory.

The WT05’s seem to provide better feedback than the P210’s. Some of this could be due to the shorter sidewall and some of it could be due to the fact that the 95T provided me less feedback and feel even with my summer tires anyway. I was able to feather the limit with throttle and by lifting much easier than I previously could – in fact, even slightly better than with the RE010 or A022’s. This may be because of the lower limit of adhesion magnifying the breakaway point.

In straight line acceleration, even on dry ground and clutch fully engaged, I could break the tires loose around 5000 rpm. The car also did not feel as stable during acceleration even through second gear compared to the summer tires. Compared to the P210’s I would say that straight line performance is about the same. But considering the shorter gearing and higher torque in the 98, the WT05’s may be better.

In summary, I think the P210 and the WT05 would be quite comparable if I had the same size of tires on the same car. Anyone want to lend me a set of P210’s on a set of 16/17? However, I feel that the 95 was a better winter car because of the taller gearing and less torque (good thing no turbo here! <G>). Personally, I would recommend the winter tires mainly in case you get caught in an unexpected snow storm or rain during the winter. I would not suggest the NSX be your main winter car if there is a good chance of snow in your area. I have my WT05’s to take advantage of the sunny winter days even if it is only 10 degrees out.

What About Snow Chains?

Z-chains are easily installed. They are better than cables and conventional chains yet easier to install. They cost about $50++ and they have sizes up to 245/40 ZR 18 or 245/45 ZR17 equivalent.

The part number for 245/45 ZR 17 is #1353. If you have a Les Schwab tire store there, they will have it. Or else, try the bigger tire shops. They grip really good in snow but do not go above 30 mph. If the chain snaps, it could damage your bodywork, not to mention ugly things like getting tangled with your suspension.

Tires and Wheels