Having performed flawlessly throughout the rest of the summer and fall, the grim reality of winter roads begin to set in come mid-November. Those living in wintry areas know that even the vaunted quattro all-wheel drive system can be marginalized on wet and slick roads if high performance rubber is still installed on the car.
Although the original tires on Project B6 S4 had been replaced with Bridgestone Potenza S-03 Pole Position's shortly after delivery, the S0-3's were simply not designed to perform in cold and slick conditions. Snow tires, and particularly today's technologically advanced snow tires, become requisite for a high performance car such as the S4.
Readers will note in this Project Car series some very strong relationships with the various vendors. We sing Laurel Audi's praises and are lucky enough to have somebody we consider a true friend who is in the wheel and tire business. Param Johl, owner of Mississauga, Ontario based MegaWheelz Inc., is a true professional both from a personal knowledge base perspective and from a shop capabilities perspective. Param is a veteran in all things related to wheels and tires and in the fall of 2004 decided to open his own shop in order provide an even higher level of service to his customers and the Southern Ontario market in general.
MegaWheelz specializes in performance wheel and tire packages be it for summer or winter, car or truck and import or domestic. The shop can provide everything from an inexpensive replacement tire to ultra high end wheel and tire packages. Customers have the peace of mind of knowing that all the work is done on brand new, latest and greatest machinery by clean, dedicated service staff. Based on MegaWheelz' association with Tirecraft they are able to provide extremely competitive pricing, and additionally Megawheelz in the sole distributor of OZ wheels in Ontario and Advanti wheels in all of Canada. They also stock a number of OEM replicas such as the A8-style wheel and RS 6-style wheel.
Project B6 S4 needed a simple set of 18" snow tires to be mounted on the original Avus rims. We did not consider an additional set of winter wheels, choosing instead to mount snow tires on the Avus wheels and run separate 19" summer wheels. This not only keeps the S4 looking sharp in its OEM wheels during the winter months, but also allows us to keep two different sets of wheels mounted and balanced with corresponding rubber so that summer/winter changes do not require dismounting and mounting.
Happy in all respects with the Bridgestone S0-3's on both our B5 and B6 S4's, we chose to stay in the Bridgestone family and use their Blizzak LM-25 which is specially designed for high performance sports car applications. The LM-25 is not a studless ice and snow tire, nor is it studdable. If we were located only in the mountains and expected to be on snow and ice all winter long then we would have looked at one of those options.
As it is, Project B6 S4 will spend as much time on dry or mostly-dry highways as it will in gnarly winter storm conditions which is where the LM-25 tire really shines. Bridgestone employs a high silica content winter tread compound to combine winter traction with high-speed durability. This of course means that while the LM-25 will never perform like summer rubber, it also will not render the high performance aspects of the car completely useless when not in wet or slick conditions (the V-rating isn't too shabby, really). Unfortunately winter tires don't actually wear much in the snow, but rather when not in the snow. This is a trade-off we are willing to live with though.
Real life experience on dry roads with the LM-25's during a recent owner's outing proved that they are in fact quite capable. Through a series of twisting back country roads we did not experience the dreaded "squishy" snow tire effect in any way, shape or form. Although clearly not as sure footed as the S0-3's that came off the car, they never felt dangerous during technical driving. Similarly, we were bailed out by the LM-25's and the ABS braking system during an overly aggressive left turn during a recent freezing rain storm. We have little doubt that on high performance tires we would have curbed the right side wheels.
While there are competing high performance snow tires from the likes of Dunlop, Michelin and Pirelli, we were advised that the Dunlop Winter Sport M3s would transmit more road noise, the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA2s were more expensive for no increase in performance over the Bridgestones (and also a bit tough to source) and the technology lifecycle of the Pirelli Winter 210/240 Snowsports is probably not up to date with the competitors. Tirerack has also had very good things to say about the LM-25.
With Project B6 S4 thoroughly broken-in and shod in appropriate winter snow tires, the question still remains as to what the underlying goals will be for the project. Whereas our previous S4 was designed to reap performance and cosmetic upgrade benefits while retaining its everyday driveability, our mandate for this S4 is still fuzzy.
Clearly there will a summer wheel/tire switch and extensive audio system upgrades have already been performed. The rest is very much a work in progress.
Laurel Audi of Westmont
Pages: