Story: Alex Bernstein
You know, there’s a few common misconceptions when it comes to inclement, snowy weather and your rubber running gear.
You’ve got the guys in trucks or all wheel-drive sedans that believe their automobile was meant to perform well in all conditions, no matter what is actually connecting the car to the road. (Wrong).
You’ve also got guys that say, “I’ve got an all-season tire, I can do anything.” But really, all-season tires are only okay in all seasons. The problem with them, though, is they’re a tire with no specific area of expertise.
Which kind of guy am I? Neither. I drive a 2006 Saab 9-2x Aero—for those that don’t know, the car is identical, mechanically, to an ’06 Subaru WRX, with the addition of an STI steering rack and the pile of aftermarket parts I threw on. During the warm months I run tires in the Extreme Summer Performance category. Why? Because I want the absolute best performance when the tarmac is dry and warm. And the same applies for the winter months.
General Tires sent over a set of their Altimax Arcitcs for me to test out on the ratty roads of New York City, as well as the powder-covered twisties of Vermont where I spend as many weekends as possible snowboarding. Unfortunately, us East Coasters have been handed the short end of the stick when it comes to winter weather. Recently though, we were lucky enough to get some fluffy white stuff and I drove straight up to Vermont, seven hours through a storm in the middle of the night.
On the highway, you’d expect these tires to be a bit noisy due to their tread design and rubber compound, but as far as winter tires go, they’re definitely on the quiet side.
The only drawback on a sports car, or with a more aggressive driver, is that these tires are strictly meant for snow and casual driving. There is a noticeable decrease is road feel and feedback. At speeds above 60 mph, there is a bit of a floating feeling and numbness, but this shouldn’t concern most drivers, and if anything, it’s just something to adapt to. In the last two dry months, I’ve grown used to it and have driven over 100 mph with all the confidence I needed.
In the snow, though, I was surprised. I’ve owned a ton of cars. All had winter tires on them at one point. Most were all wheel-drive equipped. A Volkswagen R32, Audi A4, two Mitsubishi Evos and now my Saab. Not a single one was so easy to drive in snow, not to mention a foot of it. The Altimax Artics simply shine on terrible road conditions.
The trek from New York to Vermont is usually pretty easy, but on the night I chose to go I hit every kind of weather. It started out as a relatively cool and overcast night, but getting into Connecticut I hit some heavy rain. These tires simply evacuate water, and hydroplaning becomes a fear of the past.
Slowly, the rain turned to snow, until finally crossing from Massachusetts to Vermont the highway was completely unplowed. There were about seven inches of snow on top of packed powder and ice. Passing accidents left and right, I was a bit weary of going any faster than 40, but with these tires and the stout Subaru all wheel-drive system, my only real worry were other drivers. I chose to veer into the left lane which was completely untouched. I accelerated to around 65 mph and passed everyone, even the 18-wheelers. There is really nothing the Altimax Artics can’t do. Whether I was on fresh snow or old ice, tight turns or long uphill sections, I ran into absolutely no problems.
Having driven in mostly dry conditions due to the terrible winter here, I’d expect tire-wear to be significant, but the Generals still look brand new, and I wasn’t easy on them. From cost to performance, I’d say the General Altimax Artic is easily one of the best winter tires available today.
Size Tested: 225/45/17
Tread Depth: 12/32”