Cold weather rubber technology has come a long way in the past decade.
The amount of performance available in a modern winter tire is phenomenal. All the big players in the tire industry offer wholly capable solutions for virtually any vehicle when it comes to cold weather performance. Yokohama is one of those manufacturers.
If you own a car, crossover, minivan or SUV, there is an iceGUARD tire for you. Split into two categories, the iceGUARD comes as a iG51v for crossovers and SUVs, while cars and minivans can be equipped with the iG52c
The iceGUARD iG52c receives Yokohama’s BluEarth designation, which means it meets the criteria to be designated an ecologically friendly winter tire. Without getting into too much tech talk, the iG52c tires feature a triple-action, high-density tread compound made out of a combination of silica, resin coated microbubbles and multi-layered carbon. The first two compounds are included for snow and wet weather performance, while the latter helps the tire adapt to a variety of temperature and weather conditions.
When people think of winter tires, most immediately think of snow and ice performance. Although this is an important aspect to winter tires, they are more than just tires for the snow – but more on that later.
The iceGUARD iG52c features outer sipes that Yokohama calls triple 3D sipes. They can lock together to enhance tread-block rigidity for better cornering stability on both dry and wet roads. But thanks to their design, they also feature biting edges on either side that said to maintain traction in the snow even when the tire wears.
Regardless of all the fancy names and technology, the most important question is if these tires work in the snow. The short answer is, yes they do. Driving in a few inches of snow, the tires were able to pull the car up a moderate incline with gentle use of the accelerator. They provide good bite in the snow, whether it’s during acceleration, braking or cornering. In slightly deeper snow, some acceleration slip does occur, but braking remains quite good. It’s cornering grip where the tires really excel, though. They only lose grip if really pushed beyond their limits; otherwise, they provide good lateral stability even as the snow piles up.
And the deeper the snow got, the tires continued to retain grip. Like any good winter tire, the iceGUARDs are designed to pack snow into their treads, as snow sticks to snow, thus providing optimal traction. It ended up being the limits of my car’s ground clearance that would hamper forward progression, which still required a few inches of snow higher than my front bumper before all forward momentum was halted.
Slush and Muck
Changing lanes on the freeway during a snowstorm through built-up ruts of slush and ice requires concentration in such a small car as my test vehicle, a 2014 Mazda2. But the iceGUARD iG52c tiresnever lost grip or got pulled from side to side. They just plowed through it predictably. Stability control would engage at times, but the car just softly shuffled over to the next lane.
The iG52c incorporates circumferential power grooves and lateral slush grooves designed to drain slushy muck from the tire’s tread on slick roads. When it first starts to snow and the roads become a slick, greasy mix of ice and slush, it works well, as the tire’s braking grip is quite good, as is cornering grip. Acceleration suffers a bit, but still offers enough grip to drive away from a complete stop.
The area where the tires struggle is when the slush continues to build up and overcomes the tire’s tread depth. This is where most winter tires suffer, as the grooves and sipes can’t keep up with the amount of gooey slush on the road and the iceGUARDs are no different. Acceleration is most affected followed by braking, which both require concentration as the tires are prone to slip. Cornering grip is still surprisingly good even in these conditions.
But Winter is More Than Just Snow and Ice
As mentioned earlier, winter tires are for more than just snow and ice. As soon as temperatures dip below 45F, all-season and summer tires begin to lose their traction capabilities. This is especially true when road surfaces are wet.
To maintain traction in such conditions, the iceGUARD iG52c tires come with generous amounts of silica to stick to the road. During a rainy day with temperatures hovering around 35F, the tires lived up to their billing and provided ample acceleration and braking grip. They behave a lot like an all-seasontire does on a warm, rainy day.
And it’s not just wet weather where the iceGUARDs excel in the cold. Even dry pavement can be slick for all-season tires when the temperatures dip since their rubber compound begins to freeze. The iG52c’s compound is designed specifically for low temperatures and flexibility in these conditions.
The Verdict: Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c Winter Tire Review
The iceGUARD iG52c excels in most winter conditions. So do a lot of winter tires. What separates the Yokohama from the pack? Mainly, it’s ride comfort and lack of road noise. A lot of winter tires suffer from excessive road noise do to their blocky tread designs that can also create vibrations and affect ride comfort. The iG52c does not suffer from this and provides a very pleasant ride.
Those looking to buy a set of iceGUARD iG52c tires should be in luck, as it comes in no fewer than 59 sizes for wheels ranging from 13 to 19 inches in diameter. Like most winter tires, there is no treadwear warranty, but they do feature a 60 month warranty on quality and defects.
For a 185/60R15 tire like I had outfitted to my Mazda2, expect to pay around $71.10 a tire as listed on major online tire sites. For a high quality, all-around good winter tire that’s also comfortable and quiet, that’s not a bad deal at all.