Winter has officially arrived in East Tennessee, and that means I have had plenty of chances to put our new set of Continental WinterContact SI tires to the test. I already talked about how winter tires are great for any conditions when the temperatures are low, purely based on how the rubber compound behaves when the mercury falls, but thanks to two substantial snowfalls, I managed to get ample testing time in some of the grossest weather most people will ever encounter during a traditional winter in most of the country.

The first trip into the white stuff came with an early storm that covered most of the roads with a thin sheet of ice followed by a small thin layer of snow. To call the conditions “slick and slippery” would be a laughable understatement. But that was only a small test for the new tires. The real weather arrived a few weeks later when my end of the state got pounded by the southern edge of the blizzard that attacked the eastern coast.

Continental tire long term test

Here at my little farm on the hill, we saw more than six inches, and it essentially shut most of Knoxville down. With the exception of some misguided fools in overly large pickup trucks and Jeeps, there was no one else to be found on the road with the exception of one unstoppable Volkswagen Golf.

And unstoppable is the perfect word to describe the performance I experienced in the storm. Regardless of where I was trying to drive, and regardless of how much slush and snow was present, my little Golf chugged on with nary an issue or problem. In fact, the only time I had any time trying to get down the road was when the snow got deep enough my front bumper turned into a plow.

Continental tire long term test

The tires performed incredibly, and the grip levels in the snow where phenomenal. Between my house and the local grocery store is more than 300 feet in elevation change, most of it in a single climb of nearly 200 feet. There was no slipping, no sliding, and the traction control light never even turned on. This despite seeing full size trucks and AWD SUVs careening around the highways and back roads like drunken frat boy trying to sprint across an ice-skating rink.

Braking was better than expected, with very minimal sliding in all but the most aggressive of stops, handling feel was barely impacted compared to dry conditions and it was easy to tell how the car was responding to the changing surface conditions. In fact, my biggest complaint with these tires is that they provide a bit too much traction, control and confidence. I found myself heading down a mostly empty interstate covered in slush, snow, ice and other various muck when I looked down and realized I was doing more than 70 mph. At that sort of speed, one large slab of ice will end any hopes I have of getting home in one piece.

Continental tire long term test

When I tested the Cooper WM-SA2 last year, I thought they were great in snowy conditions, but they were lacking in refinement and feel. The new Continental WinterContact SI tires not only provide better grip and performance than the Coopers, they are quitter and ride a little better as well. It seems like most things in life, paying premium money for a premium product delivers a premium experience.