Buick Encore: My Ice Storm Sleigh

Buick Encore: My Ice Storm SleighLittle did I know last Friday, when I picked up a 2014 Buick Encore for a test drive, that it would be my ice storm sleigh. Appropriate for the season, it was red, and in some ultra slippery conditions, it got us where we needed to be without a problem.


Nature gave us ice which gave me a chance to test Buick's StabiliTrak® stability control system. It totally rocked, but with 10 airbags, I felt safe enough even if something did go wrong. 10 airbags is a lot.


I'll write more about this Buick Encore before I return it next week, but here's a fun shot of the rearview camera following the ice storm.


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As much as you likely enjoyed the Buick, you probably would have appreciated it much more if it had proper winter tires on it (educated guess that it was equipped with tires meant for temperatures above 7°C). If it did, though, you likely would not have had an experience with Stabilitrak.

December 28, 2013 @ 12:13 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


These are on the Buick:

December 28, 2013 @ 1:06 PM


That pic only shows the tire width, size, ratio of wall height to width and speed rating. I also see where and date it was it was manufactured as well as MS for mud and snow, so not a "snow" tire per se.

December 28, 2013 @ 1:11 PM


Not a snow tire. For one, there are not enough sipes on the tread blocks to deal with snow and ice. Despite meeting the ultra-low standard to earn the "M+S" rating, those are tires optimized for use at temperatures above 7°C.

ContiProContact tires are "Grand Touring All-Season(sic)" tires. Decent, entry-level (read "generally inexpensive") tires that car buyers won't freak out over the price when it comes time to replace them. Mind you, with a treadwear rating of 500, that's a harder rubber, longer-lasting tire. That last characteristic is something that a lot of car buyers seek out. That characteristic also tends to mean more compromised performance in nearly all conditions, but particularly as temperatures get lower.

Selecting an ideal tire for all buyers is virtually impossible for any car manufacturer and model, even when the model is a specialized vehicle. Any tire is a compromise, because the laws of physics and chemistry, relating mostly to rubber, are unchangeable. Even taking that into account, you are far safer driving on winter tires in warmer temperatures than you are on non-winter tires in colder temperatures.

British car magazine AutoExpress did a really good video demonstration in controlled conditions recently (the Ford Kuga is the Escape here): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfuE00qdhLA

Depending on what YouTube gives for recommendations down the right-hand side of the page, check out their winter braking test video, too.

Continental has put out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clSC7APitaQ

Note that, until right now, the word "snow" has not been used, because "snow" is irrelevant. To quote the guys on TSN's "Motoring", "It's really very simple. If it never gets below 7° Celsius where you live, you do not need winter tires." Yeah, this is Canada. Maybe a few blocks of central Vancouver are "safe". But if you live there, you probably don't drive anyways, you take public transit, cycle and walk. Unless it's raining, maybe...

Over the time most people own a car, they will replace at least one set of tires. There is value in having alternating full sets that are matched to the weather conditions during the year, and a lot more safety. How many people were walking around Toronto this past week wearing their summer shoes? None. They were wearing their winter boots. Your car should, too.

When I first picked up my full-time all-wheel drive Subaru eight years ago this coming January, it came with expensive Bridgestone "ultra-high performance all-season" tires. I hung on to my previous car until late spring, and drove it most of the winter. Why? Appropriate rubber. The front-wheel drive car on the right rubber left the Subie behind in nearly all winter driving conditions - and stopped way sooner. There were winter tires on the Subie for every winter that followed. Driving a Subaru in the winter - on winter tires - can be a lot of fun.

December 28, 2013 @ 11:44 PM



tl;dr - ha!

Bottom line - get winter tires. You'll be shocked at how well they work compared to "all season" tires. Regardless of the up front cost, they'll save you thousand(s) in repair costs as well as lower insurance premiums.

December 29, 2013 @ 9:04 AM


Hey Mike,
For fun and the sake of comparison, see if Mazda can give you a CX-5 to check out. The two are in the same category and have a similar target market. The Buick is GM's "entry-level luxury" brand and is probably a bit more expensive, but I'll bet that the Mazda can be equivalently equipped. You've been able to do short tests of many other brands of vehicles. As a Mazda owner, perhaps it's time to check out a modern Mazda.

December 30, 2013 @ 12:12 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike


It's funny, but I have no relationship with the Mazda PR or marketing folks at all, and I've been driving a Mazda for 14.5 years now...

December 30, 2013 @ 12:22 PM


@Mike. That figures, doesn't it. Go poke them somehow. Tell them one of your readers suggested you check out the CX-5... They probably just don't know about you yet. One of my neighbours used to be with Mazda Canada. Loved the company and the people. He hated the commute as it got worse and worse, though, so now he has a ten minute drive to Volkswagen Canada instead.

December 31, 2013 @ 8:20 PM

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