Mikey - That's a ridiculous sentiment shared by many but thats hard to hold in my type of climate. I spend 5 months on very cold roads with either dry or damp conditions, of which a few days have snow on them. As far as I know, a good all-season still outperforms a performance snow tire on dry or damp roads in 25-30 degree weather (which is what i have). So the bulk of my driving, and my driving time, might be safest with an all-season in the winter.
Might be what you believe but it is not true. The equal performance level is about 5 c anything lower than that and a winter has the advantage. If you google you will get web site after web site explaining. The educational tools are out there.
Hear is one quote It's winter, but I don't see snow on the ground yet. Is there still a benefit to using winter tires when there is no snow?
On dry pavement, the overall performance of an all-season tire steadily declines as the temperature gets colder. The crossover point is about 5 degrees Celsius. Colder than that, a winter tire outperforms an all-season tire. Winter tire performance sharply improves as temperatures fall from 5 degrees to -30 degrees Celsius, while the all-season tire approaches the "not recommended" status.
What is the difference between all-season tires and winter tires?
All-season tires continue to provide safe all-weather performance, but may not always be suitable for severe snow conditions. All-season tires do not have cold weather rubber compounds, channelling tread patterns, the large number of tread sipes (tiny ****s in the tread blocks) for wet surface control, and the open tread block pattern for deep snow traction that winter tires feature. The lack of a formal "snow" designation on the tire has further fuelled the misconception that "all-season" tires also mean "winter" tires.
Another quote, clearly dispels your myth and support what Mikey offered How does the tread design of winter tires affect their performance over all-season tires?
Winter tires typically feature a unidirectional tread design. The unidirectional, V-groove tires move slush and water out of the way better than any other tread design. The more open the tread design, the better the tire will perform against accumulated snow. The larger the tread blocks, the better the handling, steering response, and transient response. The more sipes (tiny ****s in the tread blocks), the better the tire will work on wet pavement, which is different than anti-hydroplaning. New advances, such as Goodyear's patented 3D-BIS - which stands for three dimensional block interlocking system - causes tread blocks to actually interlock during cornering, stopping, and at increased speeds.
If you are still doubting try this
Transport Canada, the Automobile Protection Agency and the Rubber Association of Canada have produced a series of videos that demonstrate the benefits of winter tires for winter driving. Click here to see the videos.
Before you say this is Canada yes it is, but these differences start at 5 Celsius so at the -1 Celsius you are speaking of there is still a significant advantage taken by the winter tire.
OP based on the conditions you said you would be driving in you can probably get away with good all season tires. They may not perform as well as true snow tires in cold temps, but they will probably fulfill your need. It might be worth it to try Nokian WRG2 tires. Based on Nokian's reputation and my experience with their winter tires I would trust the WRG2 as a true all season tire. If you are not familiar with them Nokian is a Finnish company that makes great snow tires a lot of the BMW community (think MB too) swears by them for winter tires. My guess is the WRG2s are going to outperform other "all season" tires in winter conditions and temps. But I do not know if they are going to feel too soft for your liking.
Also Continental DWS (not the DW which is the summer version) tires get really good reviews from e39 folks (mostly non M5guys) on other boards as a good performing all season tire that can hold up to some winter use. I have no experience with them myself though.
I love my Michelin pilot sport A/S plus tires, but I chose them hoping to try and get most of the performance of a max performance summer tire, but with longer tread life. I don't run the car (e39 530) in the winter so I can't speak to their winter performance. The Conti's are cheaper and people seem to like em that is why I mentioned them.
As far as wheel and tire size I am not sure it is necessary to go down to 17" wheels for the conditions you will be in. To my knowledge the skinner tire advantage is it cuts through deep snow much better than a wider tire. Others can chime in if there are other winter performance benefits to a skinny winter tire. Also not all 17" wheel will clear M5 breaks, although tire rack has a pretty good rep so they may have picked one that does. Of course a non performance advantage to 17's is they should be cheaper than 18s.
I agree with what has been said about snow tires versus all season tires. Rubber compound, tire sipes and tread design are all important to winter snow performance. As other have said when the temperature drop below a certain amount it can impact a tires performance.
Having an all wheel drive car with all season tires is not fair comparison to all season tires on an M5. All wheel drive can make up for shortcomings in the grip of all season tires. If you lived in an area where you got a lot of snow though putting true winter tires on an AWD car would improve it capabilities even more. As I said earlier based on your climate you can probably get away with running all seasons though.
I'm running 245/40/18 Dunlop M3 winter tires on all 4 corners on the stock wheels (staggered and the wheels were in horrible shape when I got them). The rears look a bit odd (stretched) on the rim, but I haven't had any issues after 2 seasons.
The handling is a bit off with these "skinny" tires but acceleration definitely feels faster.
Thanks guys. Thanks to Sailor especially, and my apologies to Mikey if I repeated an old wives tale - I thought I had read on tirerack that RECENT all season tires outperformed snow tires by a good margin on surfaces like I described - but I can't find the article and other articles seem to indicate that's wrong. So I take it back - my apologies.
I'm inclined right now to go with a performance winter tire like the michelin pilot alpin 3 or something similar, in as wide a tire I can get on a ~17x8 or 17x8.5 rim (I know that's not the usual thinking with snows - I'm thinking that for my situation in particular). Probably 245/45/17, which is about as wide as tires get in that sizing.
I'll aim to put them on Mid-Novemberish and run them till at least Mid March. If I hate them and can't wait to wear them out, I'll eat the cost and switch to something like the Nokian WRG2 - which I can't order straight from tirerack but once I have the wheels will be easy to handle.
I've been running LM-60s on 4 OEM fronts (8x18s) all winter here in DC, and obviously there hasn't been much snow but day to day they've solid with the cold temps. The combo of performance winters and narrower rims on the rear clearly hurts performance but I wanted to be prepared in case it snowed midday, with the goal being able to get home in 3-5 inches of snow in a pinch. If you're talking about a dedicated set of "winter" rims or tires I can't see the point in all-seasons. When I bought my beast it had staggered 18" all-seasons on it and let's just say a surprise snow dusting was enough to bring in some traction challenges. Just my 2-cents, if you're going with a second set of rims and tires at least go performance winter if not stud-less snow.
I am on my 4th winter with Michelin PSA's on an all around 17' set of cheap wheels thru tire rack. They are softer, the ride is mushier(?), but they work well in the winter temps. I suspect that the type of winter conditions I encounter are very similar to Joe's in PA..If I run them out of tread, I would replace them with the same set-up, no question..I have tried all seasons, and trust me, they won't make you feel comfortable..
Since you say you don't get much snow where you are, get performance winter tires as opposed to All seasons and stay away from the winter studless tires which are way too mushy (but won't let you down on ice or deeper snow!).
The tires aren't just for snow. The WINTER tires, not snow tires are engineered to perform much better in cold weather compared to all seasons which will turn to hard rubber=useless and dangerous.
You can then get dedicated Max/UHP Summer tires so you can actually enjoy driving an M5 the way it was meant to be. Don't cheap out on tires.
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To fully enjoy this car you really do need two sets of wheels and tires. This "winter" has been nuts. Its 80 today in Charleston, SC and I haven't needed to put on my winter shoes this year. But I do have family up north and travel there frequently. Winter tires are a definite necessity, NOT just all seasons. I had Ultra High Performance All Seasons on mine when I bought it and thought that they would be fine for light snow and slush and what not. Um I was more than a little bit wrong...
Anyone remember the DC blizzard of December 09? That was a lesson learned while being stuck in a motel 6 for the better part of 3 days.
For wheels - I just assume go with BMW's recommended setup of 17X8 all around on Type 66 wheels. That's my opinion I think they look good, they are OEM quality, and they fit over the front brakes. Yes I get all the jeers from my friends "Nice 540 you got there" But seriously if you need to plow through snow you want smaller and narrower.
As for tires - That one is a much harder question to answer. I bought Pilot Alpin PA3 because my driving up north is on the coast where mostly slush and occasional snow comes down. Studless Snow/Ice are much better for inland storms.
Bottom line though - This is a fine car in the winter time with the right tires. Any dedicated winter tire will be much better than All Seasons in the snow and ice.
I did make the mistake of blizzaks on the M5, and it kills some of the handling. Next year I will go for the high performance winters. That said, make sure to get a set of blizzaks for the wife's subaru. We have them on my wife's WRX and I swear the thing is unstoppable in the snow (ok, until the frame hangs up on drifts). That also allows me to get slightly less grip in the really bad weather, 'cause we can take her car.