A five minute test drive isn’t going to tell you much about a car. Likewise, a quick spin through a snow-covered slalom course isn’t going to reveal all the advantages (or disadvantages) of a winter tire.
To discover their true potential, it took a healthy dump of powder. After three inches of the white stuff dropped in what seemed like minutes, pulling out of the driveway was like driving on asphalt.
SEE ALSO: Winter Driving Safety Tips
A studdable winter tire, our test rubber didn’t have the little metal cheater-spikes fitted… and by all accounts we didn’t need them.
Under modest acceleration, grip proved sufficient. In more significant braking there was plenty of ABS, but stopping distances were surprisingly good, providing plenty of safety and confidence.
Cooper credits its “Snow groove design” which helps snow stick to the tires, using the snow-on-snow friction principle.
Testing more thoroughly for cornering grip on a closed course the tires understeer far less that one would expect in quick cornering maneuvers. On-snow grip allows for exceptional car control, easily recovering from sideways slides.
Testing in the melt after a storm the Weather-Master tires lived up to their name, evacuating slush from the car’s path with ease, as though it almost wasn’t there. Even changing lanes at highway speeds and crossing over the mounds of slop in between proved uneventful.
1. The Cooper Weather/Master S/T 2 tires are available in a long list of sizes from 13 to 18-inch diameters.
2. Widths range from 155 to 235.
Cooper credits this to the ‘D Squared” (Density x Depth) sipes used on the tires, with a zig-zag pattern for wet weather traction. Whatever they call it, the Weather/Master ST proved as impressive in wet wintry conditions as it did in the deep snow.
SEE ALSO: Why You Need Winter Tires
In less dramatic weather, grip on icy roads proved sure-footed. While Cooper ranks the tires less for ice than for snow, we found that even when accelerating from a stop with one tire resting on ice, normal throttle pressure was met with quick grip to move the car forward. The same could be said when cornering.
Where the Weather-Master S/T 2 tires do show a flaw is in dry conditions. The softer compound makes for a tire that’s less responsive to turn-in commands, while perhaps the biggest drawback is in heavy high-speed braking on dry asphalt where it feels as though the tread blocks flex significantly, giving somewhat of a ‘locked-up’ feeling during more forceful braking.
That sensation can, however, be misleading as winter tires deliver superior braking distances not just in freezing conditions, but anything below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius).
Yet another factor is how quiet the tires are. Winter rubber is notorious for being loud and often producing a hum inside the cabin. That wasn’t the case here. Plus, we appreciated the softer ride – another common side effect of tossing on the winters.
We’re strong believers that even the worst winter tires are better than the best all-seasons. That said, are the Cooper Weather-Master S/T 2s the winter tires to buy?
In short, you certainly couldn’t go wrong, though for many it will come down to a decision based on price and availability.
We most strongly recommend the Weather-Master S/T 2 if you live somewhere where you drive regularly on snow covered roads or a place that gets frequent snowfalls in the winter months.
GALLERY: Cooper Tires Weather-Master S/T 2 Tire Test